That exact moment when we have an idea is arguably the most described part of the creative process. It has been given many names: The ‘A-ha!’moment. The ‘Lightbulb’ moment. The ‘Eureka!’ moment.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Archimedes in his bathtub, bursting out, “I have found (it)!” (“Heureka!” in Greek), when he solved the problem of telling whether King Hiero II’s crown was made of pure gold or whether it was just gold-plated. That second when we have a really good idea is an amazing moment. There is a reason why the words creativity and creator (as in God) have the same root. Having a good idea is divine. You could even argue that we never feel closer to God (or to being gods!) than when we have a really good idea. Time stands still. Angels sing. We feel like one with the universe and we see the light. No wonder Archimedes is said to have run around naked on the streets of Syracuse screaming with joy after his ‘Eureka!’ moment.
But I am going to argue that there is an even more magical moment in the creative process than having a great idea: I am talking about the first time another person understands how great your idea is. I call it the Videmus moment. It’s Latin for ‘We see’—as in the first time a person says ‘Oh, I see!’, and you finally feel that you are not alone with your idea anymore. You have found someone to share your joy with. You are not any longer the only person who sees the potential of the idea. And just like love, laughter and good memories, ideas become better when you have someone to share them with.
I learnt about the Videmus moment from Andi Daiszler from the Daisler Association in Romania. Andi runs a flower festival that happens once a year (in June, in Cluj-Napoca). It brings in more than 10,000 people to a short, narrow street in his city. The street, called Potaissa (which also gave the event its name), was unloved by the people and city planners of Cluj until Andi had the idea to turn it into the most beautiful street in the city once a year by dressing it up in flowers, inviting musicians to play and restaurants to set up tables where cars would normally be parked. Today it’s a huge success and the festival keeps growing.
In the beginning, it was very hard to get people excited about how this street that no one cared about had the potential to become a place of beauty and joy. But Andi persisted, and he vividly remembers exactly when he had the Videmus moment. It was the first year of the festival and they had put up a light sign above the street that said Mi-e Dor De Tine, i.e. ‘I miss you’. The sign was there to send the message that when the festival would be over in a few days and the street went back to being a normal dull and boring backstreet of the city, the people would miss what had been created there. On the first day of the festival in Year One, Andi saw a taxi driver who stopped his car, smiled a broad smile and took a picture of the street, the flowers and the light sign. He then proceeded to send the photo to someone else. A taxi driver taking a photo of his flowers and light sign—Andi knew the idea had broken through to the rest of the world.
Together with Andi Daiszler we come up with the word ‘idealing’ to describe the process. Idealing is a combination of “idea” and “seedling”. When we have an idea we see its potential but no one else does. You know the potential of a seed that is in the ground. But when the seed breaks out of the ground and others can see it too, its potential spreads to others. The seed has become a seedling. The moment when your idea becomes an idealing is the Videmus moment.
Sometimes the moment never comes. A person has what he or she thinks is a wonderful idea, but no matter how many times the idea is shared with others, or how well it is described or pitched, no other human being sees the potential of the idea. That could, of course, be because the idea is actually not very good. But the history of the world is, unfortunately, filled with great ideas that their creators took to their graves without anyone else ever recognising their greatness. When you think about how those ideas could have made the world better, had someone just seen their brilliance, you realise that that might very well be one of the saddest things we humans do to each other.
Luckily our world is also full of those wonderful moments when a creative person is able to show/convince/communicate to others what a great idea they have had.
The Videmus moment is not necessarily the first time you share your idea with someone else for the first time. Sometimes you describe your idea to many people and no one gets even as remotely excited as you about the potential of your ideas. And then suddenly you present the idea for a person and their eyes light up, they smile that silly-yet-intelligent smile of epiphany. Angels sing. They have seen the potential of your idea, and you can see that they have. And you feel great.
J.K. Rowling had to send in her manuscript to 12 publishers before Bryony Evens at Christopher Little Literary Agency fell in love with Harry, Hermione and all the other characters of Hogwarts. That moment, when Rowling got a call from Bryony Evens from Christopher Little, and Evens shared how she loved Harry and the book and wanted to publish it, is a perfect example of the Videmus moment. She saw something that 12 other publishers had not seen, but that Rowling had been living with for seven years since the idea of Harry Potter came to her in a ‘Eureka!’ moment on a train between Manchester and London.
Andi Daiszler from the Daisler Association also told me about another memorable Videmus moment. He and some friends created a light art festival called ‘Lights On Romania’. One of the artworks they brought in was a huge, inflatable balloon resembling the Moon, which they placed inside a Catholic church, the Piarist Church in Cluj, Romania. At first people were sceptical (“A moon in a church?”). But then they invited Romanian school children from working-class families to the church. The kids came from villages and had had very little exposure to art. Andi described how the children would just freeze at the entrance to the church as they saw the huge art installation. They literally froze. Other kids further back would bump into the first kids. The intense emotional reaction of experiencing art on this scale for the first time blew their minds. Andi Daiszler got confirmation on the fact that bringing in a big light artwork in the likeness of the moon into a church was a good idea. It was a beautiful Videmus moment.
Treasure your ‘Eureka!’ moments. Without them, we have no ideas. But also treasure those Videmus moments. Some day when you look back at your life, those moments when someone else, for the first time, saw the pure beauty of your best ideas will likely count among the best moments of your life. What is the most powerful Videmus moment of your life? It could be the first time someone ‘got’ one of your best ideas. But it could also be a ‘pretty good’ idea that no one believed in until suddenly, after hundreds of rejections, someone actually saw its potential. Or it could be a very special and emotional response to one of your ideas. I would love to hear your story. Please share your most beautiful Videmus moments with me at [email protected].