The “Eureka” Moment

(Cross-posted from the WriteClub blog)

All writers have that moment. I call it the “Eureka” moment. Stephen King describes it as the moment “the muse shat on my head”.

It’s that moment when you’re minding your own business, not thinking about writing, when suddenly, out of the blue, you know how to fix that plot problem. It’s like being hit by a thunderbolt. And it’s why all writers carry around a notebook and writing instrument, because when that thunderbolt hits, you want to make notes before it leaves your head as quickly as it arrived.

My latest “Eureka” moment happened the other day as I was heading home from work. I was being jostled at the top of the steps of Oxford Circus station, which is a bit of a nightmare at the moment. All entrances bar one are closed because of escalator works, so between 5pm and 6pm you have about 300 people a minute trying to get down one set of steps.

I’d been mulling over the problem of how my amateur sleuth was going to acquire a relevant mobile phone number, which was hidden away somewhere on a dead man’s mobile phone. Even if she managed to illegally acquire the phone, there was still the problem of how to get round the password – particularly since the owner of the phone is dead, and it’s unlikely a paranoid and egotistical rock star would not have his phone passworded.

I wasn’t thinking about my plot at that particular moment. I was thinking about getting home after a crap day at work, and would I get to Victoria Station in time for the 5:30pm train? But suddenly, as I was being swept along with the crowd, the solution suddenly hit me, right out of the blue.

The main problem then was, being surrounded by hundreds of people as I was, I couldn’t immediately stop and pull out my notebook. Nor could I do so on the underground, as it was nose-to-elbow full as usual.

So I had to hold onto that thunderbolt until I got onto my train on Victoria Station, where I was able to find a seat. Happily, I happened to have the NetBook with me – it was a Writing Morning Day – and able to transcribe that “Eureka!” moment straight into the notes of the WIP where it belongs. And therefore the story ends happily. Plot problem solved, my amateur sleuth is able to continue with her snooping.

My experience of “Eureka!” moments is they never hit you when you’re sitting at your computer staring at your manuscript, but at some inconvenient moment when you’re thinking about something else entirely.

Where do you get yours??

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4 comments so far

  1. sue guiney on

    I often get mine in the shower. There’s something about the water and having 1 side of my brain engaged in automatic tasks which seems to free up the other side to think creatively – but only when I’m not trying to. If I try to figure something out then, it doesn’t happen. I jhave to just let it hit me in the face… with the water.

  2. Sarah E on

    Washing up – so that’s another watery one. And another task where you’re occupied, but your mind is free to wander. I think it’s a process, though. You have to have done a fair bit of thinking about it before the not-thinking-about-it works.

  3. Carolyn Arnold on

    If you talking about those epiphany moments, normally in the wee hours. I’ll wake up with the perfect lines begging to be written down. Or when I’m trying to go to sleep at night…I’m already exhausted and I have to write them down or risk losing them forever.

    And now, when we’re talking about plot problems, well, there’s times I “talk” to my characters. With my recently completed novel, I didn’t have the MC tagged as the killer, and he wasn’t “talking” to me (I’m NOT crazy…lol). And in that moment, he “said” because I’m the killer. Once I realized he wasn’t who I had planned for him, the story came together.

  4. Carolyn Arnold on

    so another Eureka moment hit me last night! I was out to dinner with hubby and we were discussing my novels. It turned from the work he’s currently reading of mine to discussion of the next one I have planned. Then it hit with stark clarity – I know who the killer is! It was so plain I could almost see him!


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