A Round of Eureka’s on the House!

I sometimes get some pretty strange ideas.  Sometimes I get amazing ideas.  Sometimes some of my ideas just don’t pan out.  The thing is that I have ideas, get ideas, and do things because of ideas.

Have you ever asked, sarcastically or otherwise, “Who’s idea was this?”  And no one was willing to claim it.  Even if it was a good idea, people just stand around with glazed looks in their eyes.  I am known to react, as one would, by asking “Well, someone must of thought this was a good idea at one time?” or “Seriously.  This is a great idea and none of you are willing to say it is mine?”

Then there are the occasions when you would give anything to have an idea.  A way to solve a problem, fix an error, help others or just something new and interesting.  Where is the idea when you really need it?

So I had this idea…. what if you could order ideas… for everyone?  Like ordering a round of drinks at a bar and these ideas would be free or on the house, so to speak.  One could just stand up and shout to the idea keeper, “A round of Eureka’s on the house!”

According to Wikipedia a “round of drinks” is a set of beverages, generally alcoholic, that is purchased by one person of a group for a group.  It is generally purchased as a single order and it is often customary for the people of the group to take turns buying the group rounds.

The phrase “on the house” simply means that something is paid for by or courtesy of the owner or the establishment.  Usually this is done if you are unhappy with your service.  For example, while eating in a restaurant the order has been messed up, you never received your order or something disgusting was found in your mashed potatoes.  The owner or manager of said restaurant could say that they are sorry and your meal is “on the house.”

Ever wonder why we say “Eureka!” when we get an idea or solve a problem?  No, the answer is not the amazing (in my humble opinion) television show by the name of “Eureka” that aired on the Syfy Channel from July 2006 to July 2012.   The answer is tied to a Greek scholar, inventor and mathematician by the name of  Archimedes.

So the story of Archimedes and the Eureka Effect goes like this…. Archimedes had been hired by a guy named Hiero of Syracuse to assess the purity of an irregularly shaped golden crown.  You see, Hiero had given his goldsmith pure gold to be used to fashion the crown; but he wasn’t sure that his blacksmith had been honest.  So Heiro takes the crown to Archimedes and asks him to determine if the crown is pure gold.  Archimedes is a really smart guy and if anyone could find a solution, it would be him.

At this time in history, Archimedes has the equipment for weighing objects with a fair amount of precision but he couldn’t verify volume which is important in determining density.  Why is density so important you ask?  Pay attention because this fact will be important later in our story…. gold is twice as dense as silver.

Archimedes has been struggling trying to find the answer for Heiro.  I can’t remember how long he had been working on the problem.  Finally, he decides he needs a break and he goes to the bath house.  He gets undressed and sits down into the water.  He notices that the water level rose after he got in.  He sees the solution to his problem.  Archimedes jumps up and shouts “Eureka!  Eureka!” and runs back to his study, through the streets of Syracuse, completely naked.  The Eureka effect.

Archimedes understood that the amount of water displaced must equal the volume of the part of his body that he had submerged.  He realized that the volume of irregularly shaped objects, like Hiero’s crown, could be measured by their volume, thus indicating density.  Archimedes measured the crown using volume and found that the blacksmith had cheated Hiero by removing some of the gold and adding the same amount by weight of silver in place of the gold.

How do we hold onto these ideas once we get them?  There are many ways of capturing ideas.  I know artists who carry small sketchbooks with them everywhere to capture moments, do a quick sketch, capture a color scheme or take notes.  Another friend of mine, who is an author, carries a small lined notebook where he jots down notes about character development or a description that he can use in a story later.  A filmmaker friend of mine carries around a mini tape recorder in his car.  He says that he always gets the best ideas while driving.  When the idea comes, he is prepared.  He records it and reviews it later.

Another friend of mine who is a poet, says that it doesn’t matter where he is or what he is doing, when he gets an idea for a poem, he stops what he is doing and quick writes it down.  He told me that he has had to get out of the shower to write down a poems and decided to keep a notebook in the bathroom just for this purpose.  He also said that he has many bits of napkin and envelopes with poems on them.

When I am doing my creative work and I am really in the moment, I can feel the ideas coming to me.  It is like each step is perfectly laid out, one right after the other.  It is in these times that I know I am doing the creative work that I am meant to do.  My own personal Eureka Effect.

I wish that everyone could have the Eureka Effect.  That people would feel like they could admit to their ideas, good or the ones that don’t work out.  That in those occasions when an idea is desperately needed and would make a huge difference, we would have one.  That everyone would have ideas that would help them grow.  We would have ideas that helped make daily lives easier for ourselves, the people we love or just people in general.  That these ideas would inspire us to be kinder and make the world a better place.

Keeper of Ideas lets have a round of Eureka’s on the house!!!!

Curiosity Fuels Creativity

I found this picture on my phone the other day when looking for a different photo.  It’s not a great photo but you get an idea of how cool the door is.  I enjoy photos of doors.  I even have a coffee table book of photos of doors from around the world.  I am sure that you are thinking, what is it about doors?  A brief answer is that it is a curiosity thing.  What is on the other side?

I’m not the only person who is attracted to images of doors.  A friend of mine I went to college with told me that once he took an entire roll of film of doors and door knobs.  One of the photo blogs that I follow the photographer confessed that he loves taking photos of  windows and doors.  Notice how the curiosity around capturing photographic images of doors causes creativity to happen.

But the key component in these creative actions is curiosity.  Curiosity keeps your mind active.  In moments when your brain is engaged in a topic or activity, you begin to notice things, actively learn and see things differently.

At about the same time I was thinking about curiosity, I came across an article called “The Power of Curiosity” from Issue 17 of “Flow” magazine.  It had a section called “Eight Ways to Stay Curious.”  I thought they were great so I have listed them below and embellished them with some of my own thoughts:

  1. “Deepen your knowledge, fifteen minutes a day – Take a topic that intrigues you, but you know little or nothing about. ”  I have a friend who does this all the time.  We will get together for dinner or drinks and I am fascinated to hear what she is learning about now.  The brain.  Mathematics.  Always something new.
  2. “Keep wondering about yourself”  Some of my friends who are therapists would call this a self check.  It’s a way to do an emotional inventory that keeps working or developing yourself.
  3. “Ask Questions”  This may seem a little obvious but the best way to learn about something is to ask.  An interesting point brought up by the article was that we should ask questions even if we think we know the answer.  “As it’s often the case that the answer is just that little different.”
  4. “Get over your fear of failure – Challenging yourself leads to great rewards when you succeed.  But not succeeding is different from failing.”  Just trying something new makes you grow.  So stop being afraid of outcomes that haven’t happened.
  5. “Try new things”  Again this might seem a little obvious but believe me, you will  never know how much fun you can have doing something until you try it.
  6. “Keep Observing”  Noticing the world around you is key to finding new material for your creative endeavors.  The overheard conversation may be the inspiration for writing a song.  The colors of the sunset against the silhouette of trees may be captured in a photo or painting.  Watching people interact on a subway car in Tokyo may be the inspiration for a short story.  When you start to look there is so much for you to notice.
  7. “Get inspired – Read about thinkers, artists and people whose work you admire.”  I got a book of quotes from Nikola Tesla.  I was so surprised and inspired by the things he would say that it led to more books and documentaries.  For my friend Jenny, it is anything to do with work and life of William Shakespeare.  She can quote whole scenes from almost every single play.  I suggest finding someone who inspires you and finding out as much as you can about them.
  8. “Fill your Head with Ideas and Facts The knowledge you have in your head – not the knowledge you can find via Google – is often a source of creativity.”  A fictional character in a murder mystery novel was advising another character that in order to be interesting you don’t learn the stuff that everyone already knows, that instead you find out some bit of obscure information about the one of the lessor known individuals involved.  When you announce your lessor known fact, everyone is in awe and you always sound terribly well read.

The point of all my ramblings, stay curious.  Take that picture of the door.  Or better yet go through the door.  Curiosity leads to creativity.


The email newsletter “Unbound Worlds” is one of my favorite sources for books relating to Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Right around the time of the release of the movie version of Annihilation, based on the book of the same name by Jeff Vandermeer, there was an article entitled “Loved Annihilation? Here’s What to Read Next.”  One of the books recommended was Jagannath a collection of thirteen short stories written by Karin Tidbeck.

I had read the story “Reindeer Mountain” by Karin Tidbeck during the “Season of Stories” event that Penguin Random House does in the fall.  This particular story had captured my imagination when I had originally read it and I decided to get the book.


The description of the short stories in Jagannath from the back of the book is as follows:

“A child is born in a tin can.  A switchboard operator connects a call to Hell.  Three corpulent women float somewhere beyond time.  Welcome to the world of visionary Swedish author Karin Tidbeck, in which fairies haunt quiet towns and an immortal being discovers the nature of time- a world in which anything is possible.  Alternately funny and frightening, moving and monstrous, Tidbeck’s dynamically diverse stories play wildly across many genres, shifting seamlessly from science fiction to magical realism to mythic fantasy.  Amidst the real and unreal, the familiar and unfamiliar, the thirteen unforgettable tales in this collection make their perilous but beguiling home in the spaces in between.”

Although the description does a good job, I personally find it hard to describe the stories in this collection.  These stories haunt your imagination, you think about them long after reading them.

Each of these stories are unique.  The story “Beatrice” definitely had a steampunk feel to it.  “Miss Nyberg and I” is a tale of an unusual biological life form.  I enjoyed this story immensely and the description of the creature and its habits.  “Brown seemed to have a personal relationship with each of the plants in your flat and on the balcony.  He made his rounds every day, patting stems and leaves, sometimes just sitting still among the roots.”

“Reindeer Mountain” the story that introduced me to Karin Tidbeck’s writing is in this collection.  This story is beautifully written.  It weaves together the story of two sisters, their family and the Vittra.  According to Wikipedia the Vittra are from Northern Sweden and are a nature spirit, a type of mythological creature very common in Scandinavian mythology.

I was talking with a friend this morning about the challenges of writing a good short story.  The characters have to engage you instantly.  The story doesn’t have the space of a novel to unfold, so it has to draw the reader in immediately.  The first sentence is very important in a short story.   Some of these stories are very short, three or four pages, but the number of pages are not important.  The story is and Karin Tidbeck does all of these things well.

I highly recommend Karin Tidbeck’s collection of stories that is Jagannath to anyone who is interested in unusual and thought-provoking literature.  You will not be disappointed.