Brenda Bickham


Insomnia and Eureka

June 14, 2010

Friday, January 30, 2009

Insomnia and Eureka

Insomnia and Eureka... these may seem like incongruous terms but I experienced them in unison last night.  I won't bore you with my recent medical ailments but, suffice it to say that, as a result of re-occurring vertigo and a recent loss of hearing in my left ear, my doctors have put me on high doses of steroids.  They warned me that I may feel jittery or tense. Surprisingly, I have felt neither.  In fact, I would have to say that I feel pretty normal and relaxed.  The problem comes at bedtime.  I cannot sleep.  My body would love to benefit from the rejuvenate powers of sleep, but my mind will have none of it.  The inability to fall asleep when everyone else in the house has long since nodded off and when television has failed to offer up any good diversions, is frustrating to say the least.  It's similar to those nights when you are completely exhausted and ready to drop off only to have your spouse turn on a really loud action movie.  You can pull the covers over your head but the sound and the images running through your head just won't quit.  

My mind was contemplating depressing topics such as the recent economic problems plaguing our country and our livelihoods and the effects on my own life as evidenced by a mounting stack of bills.  The sort of worrisome thinking that surely keeps sleep at bay.  Then, suddenly, without provocation, my mind started being creative and productive.  Like Archimedes' Eureka moment, my brain was on fire.  It had switched into its own invountary problem solving mode. I worked out a plot problem that I had been struggling with in my new novel and then came up with several new plot twists (all in my head), to boot.  It was amazing.  My body, fatigued from the obligations and emotional toils of the day, was completely at the mercy of my brain that would not stop.  As Isaac Asimov once wrote in an informative essay, thinking is similar to breathing.  It's both manual or voluntary and automatic or involuntary.  We can hold our breath but soon the demands of the body make it impossible to continue to hold.  If we pass out, involuntary breathing takes over.  Asimov theorizes that our thinking follows similar rules.  We can think long and hard on a problem, working on it for hours, days or even years.  But, when we relax and put the problem away, our brains begin working involuntarily, subconsciously, if you will.  And, this is when are brains are forced to make new pathways and connections that our conscious brains would not think to make.  This is Archimedes' Eureka moment and I had one last night.  It was great.
 

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