Aha! A light bulb moment.

In Donald Duck magazines, a light bulb flashes up above a character’s head when they get a brilliant idea. Theorists define an aha moment as “an instant at which the solution to a problem becomes clear.” Others of us simply say, “It just popped into my head.”

Aha moments come in all sizes. There are mind-changing moments, for instance when authoritarian leaders reveal their true nature and are stripped naked in front of the TV cameras of the world as people stop cheering them and start wondering, “Whatever did we see in them?”

There are other defining moments that bring people together during natural disasters, or during rescue missions to bring astronauts safely back to Earth or trapped miners back to the surface. These are moments that touch us and show us what we can be.

Most of all, there are people like Mandela and Tutu and King who have educated us with their words and made us better citizens.

Although not close to these proportions, I do have my moments. Take my writing, for example. When an article or a story suddenly falls into place as the last unexpected line leaps out of my fingertips and I know that the story is complete, there is a near-aha-experience. Maybe not of a light bulb magnitude, but I’m delighted and astonished every time it happens, and I can’t stop smiling.

What was your most recent aha moment? What sparked it?

WordPress Daily Prompt: Glimmer

Glockenspiel and Beethoven at noon

I hate glockenspiel and I love Beethoven and it was like beast meets beauty when the glockenspiel in the town hall bell tower started to play “Ode to Joy” to mark noon. In that precise moment, I slipped on the icy sidewalk.

Just another everyday moment to put in the writer’s notebook, maybe to be worked into a short story that begins with “It all started at noon on Monday, January…” Then follows a chain of events that leads from the glockenspiel to B to M or Z, maybe culminating with another glockenspiel at noon. Beethoven, too, in all his brilliance is somewhere in the mix.

Or maybe our character falls on the ice and blacks out to the tones of “Ode of Joy” and in her head, the glockenspiel turns into the mighty choir singing “Ode to Joy” at the very first performance of Beethoven’s 9th, with the deaf Maestro himself on the stage, a singer turns him towards the audience for him to receive the standing ovation. When our faller comes to, the glockenspiel is still playing and she sings at the top of her voice.

The options are endless. I like the title “Glockenspiel and Beethoven at noon.”

WordPress Daily Prompts: Brilliant

Snippets of everyday moments

On the bridge over the highway, some preschool children were waving at the cars passing by underneath. A truck driver spotted them and honked his horn, and the children jumped up and down in delight. I jotted down the story in my notebook.

At the grocery store, my eyes caught a young woman with a long shopping list and a story started to spin in my head on my way to the milk shelves. Notebook time.

From snippets of everyday moments like these, great stories can be born. Maybe the truck driver is transporting red apples from Italy, and maybe the young woman with the long shopping list will buy some for her apple pie. There’s a line running from a family’s apple farm in the south of Europe to a truck driver spending endless hours behind the wheel, honking his horn at a group of children while missing his own, to a woman with a desperate look in her eyes at a Nordic grocery store shopping for a family dinner she’s not capable of making.

Of course, the beauty would be to write the actual stories of the people we meet. Like the one of the man who stood bent in a 45-degree angle over a garbage bin he used as a stand for his beer cans, hacking and hawking and coughing up a slimy glob that landed a couple of feet away from him. He gave me a friendly “Hello” as I walked by. I waved back. I wonder what his story is. He’s in the notebook, too.


Great ideas thrive in a great notebook. I have checked out five: Hunting for the perfect notebook

WordPress Daily Prompts: Snippet

Waiting for inspiration

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” Painter Chuck Close said that. Writing breeds inspiration. So when we run out of inspiration or motivation or maybe just procrastinate, we should hit the keyboard and compose one word at a time to get the engine going. Because writing is our job. Pilots fly their planes from here to there, surgeons operate one patient at a time. It’s their job. We don’t see doctors just standing there waiting for inspiration, or a plane stuck on the runway because of a pilot’s block. Although there is no “one right way” to write, some goals and regularity benefit the creative flow. Write from here to there, be it half an hour or 2 hours or 500 words a day — or a blog post of 149 words about waiting for inspiration, while amateurishly waiting for inspiration.

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.
— Chuck Close, from “Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give To Another” by Andrew Zuckerman

WordPress Daily Prompts: One-way