It’s something spoken of by philosophers, scientists, and artists alike. There seems to be some force or process that occurs when the brain isn’t “trying.” Answers that proved impossible to come by when we were focused on them suddenly present themselves while we’re washing dishes or on the toilet, after we’ve completely abandoned the problem.
This phenomenon has proved itself to me over and over, not only in writing but in everything life dishes out. The conclusion I draw, as much as I’m inclined against it, is to relax and let the work take care of itself. When you’re searching for an idea, lay out the parameters in your head and then forget about it. Allow that answer-providing mechanism to do its work unimpeded.
What makes this process difficult is that it seems to defy rationality, or at least what most of us are trained to think is rational. We’re led to believe that everything requires deliberate, focused energy to produce results. This is true for the groundwork but once that is laid out, the best way to proceed is to stop analyzing and calculating, the way a brick-layer doesn’t consciously focus on every aspect of laying every single brick. At some point the process becomes automatic and the fundamentals that once helped guide the process start getting in the way.
The trick lies in accepting this phenomenon as true and gradually learning not to resist it. The upside is, it’s one of those rare things in life from which you reap the maximum reward for quite literally the least amount of effort. All that’s required is to let go.