Persistence: the Key to Creativity


It’s taken two hours, but you’ve finally come up with a creative solution to your problem. It’s probably the best you can do and pushing yourself for something better probably won’t do any good, right?


Wrong. According to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, you absolutely should keep pushing yourself for new and better ideas.


In one test, researchers recruited forty-five professional comedy performers from SketchFest, the “largest sketch comedy festival in the US”. The performers were given a comic set-up and asked to create as many endings as they could. The performers worked ideas for four minutes. Then, during a short break, they had to predict how many ideas they would come up with after four more minutes of work. Keep in mind: coming up with creative scenes is basically these people’s jobs. After the break, they tried to come up with more ideas for four more minutes.


The performers underestimated how many ideas they could come up with given four more minutes. They tended to think that they’d come up with all the best ideas during their initial four minutes of brainstorming and expected that there wouldn’t be many more with one more session—but they all came up with plenty of ideas the second time around.

The Takeaway

The researchers write, “People consistently underestimate the value of persisting on creative tasks. Adjusting beliefs about the value of persistence may promote creativity by reducing the possibility that people quit too early, leaving their best ideas undiscovered.”

And that’s basically it right there.



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