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See Inside April 2005

Tapping the Muse

For me, the secret is always the lead—that's journalist jargon for the opening of a story, the one provocative idea that will capture a reader's interest. Once I’ve found that gem, the rest of the narrative seems to flow easily from the gray matter in my head down to my fingers pounding on the keyboard.

Where do such creative sparks come from? How can we conjure them whenever we want? And why can that be so infernally difficult to do, anyway? A complete understanding isn’t here yet, but neuroscientists are already on the trail of where and how creativity arises. They also have some good news for each of us who has ever struggled to ignite those inventive fires. As it turns out, tapping our own muse may be easier than we think, especially if we learn to make a habit of it. For more, turn to “Unleashing Creativity,” by Ulrich Kraft.

Renaissance artist-engineer Leonardo da Vinci, renowned for such paintings as the Mona Lisa, seemed to suffer no lack of novel thoughts. In addition to artistic masterpieces, he designed flying machines, canals, a variety of buildings, and tanks. His successes make it clear, however, that imaginative genius isn’t enough to advance a brainchild. In “Leonardo da Vinci, Neuroscientist,” by Jonathan Pevsner, you’ll see that another critical ingredient is the application of logic and systematic study to a fanciful notion. Leonardo—who lived in an era more comfortable with acceptance of prevailing wisdom than with experimentation—had the then unusual idea of examining and recording human anatomy for himself. As a result, he leaped beyond his contemporaries in developing a truer understanding of the brain.

We hope you find these and other articles in this issue of Scientific American Mind thought-provoking. And if the articles inspire you to write, please do.

This article was originally published with the title "From the Editor."

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