Simply Waking Up With the Answer

Easiest methods for solving problems, and for ingeniously creating

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
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Photograph courtesy of Elan Sun Star

One traditional method of problem-solving, used by a various few individuals scattered throughout most of recorded history, was to work on a problem until exhausted, fall asleep on it, and wake up with the solution. However, this method worked for only a few people, and only some of the time. It also had two other disadvantages:

  • The time it took to sleep before getting the answer; if you happened to need the answer before then, tough.
  • Having to work so hard before getting into the sleep which led to the productive solution or answer.

“Early Bird Gets That….Wriggle of Creativity”

A number of individual writers, artists and other high-level creators have found their best time for creative work to be first thing in the morning, before the distractions of the day set in to disturb the order and arrangements their mind had settled into through sleep and dreaming. This still remains very much the case, though some of us aren’t “morning people.” Those of us who can somehow function before normal people start putting in their work hours, continue to find and will always find this first-thing-of-the-day approach to be an easy, productive strategy and practice.

Silva Drink-of-Water Method

Jose Silva used to teach his “Drink-of-Water” technique for solving problems. It, too, was pretty simple, and it does apparently work pretty well for a fair number of people who have tried it. In that technique, one fills a glass of water while thinking on the problem he is trying to solve. He then drinks half of that glass of water, then goes to sleep with the intention of waking up with the solution. Come morning, he drinks the other half of the glass of water. The water sitting there has acted as a reminder of his intention; that and the drinking of that water re-establish context with the problem. Chances are that the intention, plus the refreshed order of mind brought about by sleep and dreaming, will clue in the “a-ha!” answer and solution.

Drawbacks — Of course, not everyone is willing and able to function outside of routine first thing in the morning, and there is still the matter of the time you have to wait before coming up with your ingenious answer or solution:  the need to sleep through the night first. These objections are easily overcome:  simply make into the start of your diurnal routine the drinking of that second half of the glass of water — and with it, always, the writing pad or audio recorder into which you express that idea for answer or solution as it comes. And, every night preceding, include the first half of that glass of water, together with a determination of which question or problem you are going to find answer to overnight.

A third disadvantage with the Silva drink-of-water method, which also can be a disadvantage with our own, Project Renaissance’s “first-in-the-morning” general creativity method below, when used as a problem-solver, is that this often leads to waking in the middle of the night with the answer. Many of us prefer our sleep to be undisturbed rather than solve our problems or figure things out.

Breathing for Clarity

One Project Renaissance way to solve problems, still using the “drowse factor” but not requiring a night’s sleep to get to the answer or solution, builds around the “Calm-Breathing Patterns,” especially the pattern known as “Noise-Removal Breathing.” These patterns are self-taught in a two-part article, at Winsights No. 28 and No. 29. Once you’ve learned and practiced the basic patterns, this will work pretty well and very easily as a problem-solver:

  1. Orient on the problem. Write it, or the question you want to find answer to, at the top of a notepad right next to you.
  2. Find a comfortable, uninterrupted position that you can sustain easily for a while. Lay either that notepad and a pen, or an audio recorder, or the keyboard to your computer in word-processor mode, on either your lap, your chest, or your hand as a reminder. Once in that position…
  3. Begin noise-removal breathing “up and away whatever had been between you and full clarity as to what the best answer or solution is to (that question or problem).” Build into each breath as much as you can your perceiving that breath finding, and sweeping up and carrying away, whatever had been between you and that perception. (I underscore “whatever had been” because using that conditional term in your verbal instruction and intention for this gives the cleanest and clearest instruction to your system to, indeed, get to and find that answer for you.)
  4. Oftentimes, while you are doing that process, the solution or answer will consciously emerge in your mind — especially if you aren’t looking for that to happen. Just go with the intention of noticing when it does happen, and if it does happen that way, you can put aside the breathing and just start recording your answer.
  5. As often, you can simply pursue that noise-removal breathing beyond each of the points where your mind would ordinarily tend to wander from what you were doing and you’d need to remind it back, to a point where you actually drowse off or come very close to it. Waking or reorienting from such a point, start writing or recording immediately, before anything else. You might find you’ve started right in on that best idea or solution, or just write or record several sentences of nonsense or triviality — in other words, with judgment totally suspended, get the flow of writing or speaking going regardless of content — and find an interesting notion or so somehow starting to filter in. Catch what’s filtering in, and chances are you’ve got a wonderfully ingenious and probably effective answer bubbling forth.

Drawback — you need first to learn the Calm-Breathing Patterns, and to have practiced an accumulated hour or so of these (in short, five- to fifteen-minute) segments. This way the mechanics of the process will be familiar enough for you and automatic enough that your mind will be most free to do what you want — to let settle into place the connections that will bring conscious for you the answers that you are seeking. Also, though a lot faster than a night’s sleep, it usually still takes ten to twenty minutes to find answers and solutions by this method.

First-Thing-In-the-Morning, Project Renaissance style

I do much of my best work, each morning, in the hour before waking. While going to sleep the previous night, make it your intention to do some great thinking or perceiving overnight or in the last hour before waking. Put a recorder or notepad prominently where you can use it the very first thing upon waking, prominently enough to remind you of that intention on the moment of your waking.

Sometimes that does carry over into waking consciousness in the mornings, as remembered dreams — in which case I start writing or recording my recollection of them and I’m off into answers, solutions, and new discoveries I find myself very happy indeed to be making.

But the mornings that I’ve not carried forward into wakefulness the memory of a dream, or dreams, are just as productive!!! Here is how that works:

Regardless, start writing or recording a few sentences of anything that comes to mind, triviality or even nonsense; BUT — be alert to the inkling of an idea or so starting to come to mind somewhere in a tangent from or beyond the edges of what you are currently saying. With your judgment-screen set aside as utterly and as completely as possible, just let fly and see what begins to emerge in what you are writing or saying. Whatever that is, pick up on it and continue flying, see what this becomes.

Drawback — One disadvantage of this method is that, like most of the above methods, it takes overnight sleeping to get to your great answers. With most forms of creative activity that’s not a problem, and it’s often or usually best to hit that creative activity while freshest in the morning, anyhow. If used as a problem-solving process, though, this approach has two disadvantages:

  • Some problems you need answers to sooner than a night’s sleep, and
  • Often, when using this as a problem-solving method, you may wake up in the middle of the night with your answer, and at that time rolling over and going back to sleep may be more attractive to you than getting that answer recorded. All those sleep-endorphins can be pretty compelling.

Incidentally, many of us under ordinary circumstances have had the experience of waking in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep for hours. That is usually an excellent occasion to get up and do some writing or other creative work, until what it is that your Beyond-Conscious woke you about filters into consciousness or is drawn into consciousness by the act and flow of your creative writing, sketching, problem-solving, or other such process. That also usually has the advantage of capturing some of that fresh-of-morning clarity and directness which makes some of the above methods so effective and productive.

Write-the-Question, Get-the-Answer:

Some methods literally are just about that simple and easy, and yet quite effective. Closest to that is probably DEAM.

DEAM — short for “Double-Entry A-ha! Method” is almost as simple as writing the question or problem on two sheets of paper instead of one. Discovered as recently as 2003, DEAM derives in part from an old European Renaissance method of writing out the problem, staring at what you have written, and being alert to stray side-thoughts which come to mind as you do that which might have bearing on an answer to that problem or question.

DEAM is much more powerfully and consistently effective, especially as an idea-generator, and almost as simple, and used the protracted writing-out-of-the-question as a way to hold open one’s window of perception, through which to capture and record ideas as they occur. This very simple and immediate process for solving problems and discovering answers and understandings is incorporated into the slightly more involved and in some ways even more remarkable Evoked Sidebands method.

Flash-Catching (The Portable Memory Bank):

You are getting creative ideas right now. Every day, dozens of insights and ideas come along the back edges of your mind. You know this is true. You experience it frequently, every day.

Yet let me ask you:  Where are those creative ideas and insights now? You’ve had a good many of these every day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year for however many years, so where are these ideas, understandings and observations?

The flow of these is a natural process, in every human individual, and this should make “Flash-Catching,” the method I suggest here, very easy indeed to learn and practice.

Each time you make some concrete response to your own idea or your own perception and observation, you do these things —

  1. You reinforce that particular idea or perception, and even discover more things about it.
  2. You reinforce the BEHAVIOR of BEING aware, creative, observant. And since most of these awarenesses initially are subtle for you to notice and grasp,
  3. You reinforce your ability to handle subtle matters and issues.

Each time you let an idea slip away without making some sort of specific response to it, you reinforce your UN-creativity. You reinforce the notion that your own ideas aren’t worth dealing with. How many times have you let an idea slip away from you, or an astute observation? Per day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year for however many years?

How creative you are now is specifically a function of what portion of your own ideas you’ve made some sort of concrete response to over the past year or so.

The easiest way to make some sort of concrete response to your own ideas, awarenesses, and observations is to carry with you, at all times, a pocket notepad or an audio recorder, and to use it. And even to post a $5 bounty to your friends if they catch you without your “Portable Memory Bank” or “Flash-Catcher” on you. And make a point of using it — frequently! For the first few days, set your gates wide enough to record 50 ideas per day and/or 30 observations, even if that involves a bit of “brainstorming.” Afterward, set yourself to notice what’s coming in and figure on maybe 5-10 ideas on average each day and/or about as many observations, and the accumulated effects of this you should soon find again as totally transformative as you will those first few days of this easy process, built on the natural flow of what you already have going through you.

Working With Imagery

Things don’t get much simpler than this:  Ask your question. Close eyes and look at your answer!

That is pretty much what we have, in a number of methods based in part upon Image Streaming, including Image Streaming itself. You can make yourself into a proficient Image Streamer by means of not only the step-by-step instructions but the curriculum on Image Streaming. (That becomes an entire curriculum when you click through to each of the pieces that you find linked from the main article.)

Drawback — you need to know how to Image Stream, and to have practiced that process enough to be smooth with its use, in order to find answers via your images that quickly, easily and reliably. However, very nearly every living human being can readily learn how to Image Stream; that natural process is that easy.

Once you have become reasonably competent as an Image Streamer, you can ask yourself ANY question and immediately there is an image in your mind’s eye. Upon investigation, that image usually turns out to have some sort of bearing upon or answer for that question. The investigation itself may take several more minutes and involve further steps, but the whole process — of asking yourself a question and looking at an image answering it — can take less than a second and usually takes only as long as asking yourself the question. By the time you’ve finished asking it, the image answering it is already in your mind’s eye.

Instant Inspiration

When writing ANYthing that requires some creative effort, all of us sometimes have experienced pauses which sometimes require only seconds before your ideas have found track again and regained traction. For some people those pauses last a lifetime, however, and they still don’t have inspiration as to what to write next! But you need never ever ever ever again have to experience such writer’s block, or artist’s block, or ever have to wait for inspiration. Soul-searing exalting levels of inspiration are as near as your next blink….

In the preparation of the 2006 CoreBook I published with Mark Bossert on instant inspiration and on how to immediately and totally end writer’s block forever, that book quickly grew for us into a major self-taught course of creativity techniques for writers, with many additional methods having clicked into place around the one key method. The core, though, is simplicity itself…

If you ever reach a pause point in something you are writing, or even are wondering how to start, simply ask yourself, “What comes next?” There is ALWAYS an image in immediate answer. Whatever that image, regardless, describe it to a recorder or, in this instance, write — because writing is the medium you are already working in. Preferably write by hand as more immediately involving than a computer keyboard — a few sentences describing that image. Somewhere along the process of that description, letting it seep in to where you will notice it, will be a brilliant answer to that question of “What comes next.” Resume the main body of your writing accordingly.

As simple as that. You need never get hung up again. You need never have to wait for inspiration — it’s already there. This is just a way to let what’s already there (and it IS!) come from deeper ranges of your mind into your focus of consciousness.


Thanks to a million generations of your ancestors finding ways to survive through challenging and changing times, you have brains enough to run a galaxy. What have you done with them lately?

You also have brains enough, creativity enough, to keep a great corporation richly busy. You know this, despite all the schools, people, bosses and institutions that have instructed you at length on all your limitations. How can you stand to wait any longer to re-engage your further strengths and resources? Make a start — a nice, easy start with something like one of the above easy methods, and as you find that working, then build comfortably from there.

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