I’ve heard the story of how J.K. Rowling came up with Harry Potter about a dozen times, and every time it changes. In some versions, the boy wizard comes to her while sitting in a cafe, and she jots down the essentials on a napkin. Other times, she’s waiting for a train, and she muses over plot for the rest of the rid.
What never changes is the drama of the eureka moment. Rowling recognizes immediately the value of the idea and the direction in which she’ll take it. That moment takes on a mythic quality, a moment that changes the world of literature forever. And like most good myths, I’m confident it has a small germ of truth surrounded by a whole bunch of window dressing.
I’m sure there are some who want to protect the genius of Rowling and sanctity of the myth of Harry Potter’s divine inspiration. They probably take my skepticism as snark. We all like to believe that inspiration might strike at any moment and an idea that will make us richer than the Queen of England will materialize from the ether.
Looking at the history of good ideas tells us a different story though. Behind every good idea is a story that looks quite different from the one where a genius plucks inspiration out of thin air. Instead, good ideas usually come from a combination of musing over a topic and exchanging ideas with other thinkers. That’s good news because it presents a process writers can follow for smarter brainstorming sessions. Continue reading ‘Hurrying the eureka moment: smarter brainstorming’