Little Idea Elves
In the story of the Elves and the Shoemaker, a tired old shoemaker lays out pieces of shoe leather on his workbench and then goes to sleep.
In the middle of the night, elves appear out of nowhere (as elves do) and use the shoe leather to create fine-quality shoes.
I like this story because it reminds me of a kind of “magical help” that I get when I work on creative problems.
During the day, I will mull over a design or coding problem and eventually get stuck, going around in circles. When I realize that I'm not getting anywhere, I'll set the problem aside for the rest of the day.
The next morning, I'll get my coffee and sit down in front of the laptop to revisit the problem. Then, like magic, a solution will often appear.
Sometimes the solution is a totally new idea, but often it’s something that I had already thought about. Maybe I had dismissed it for some reason, but now a new detail jumps out as if it should have been obvious all along.
Some might call this divine inspiration. But it’s more likely the result of my subconscious mind working away at the problem as a “background task”.
Our brains have 100 billion neurons, so it’s reasonable to think our minds are capable of that, and the science is beginning to support the idea.
Either way, I’m fine with not knowing exactly how it works.
I’m just happy knowing I can go to sleep and let my Little Idea Elves solve things for me.
(And I don’t have to pay them for it!)