Don't underestimate the power of perseverance. National Ballet of Canada's Emma Hawes, photo by Daniel Neuhaus.

As a dancer, you're doing creative work every day—whether you're experimenting with your own choreography, coming up with a fresh approach to a role or troubleshooting a tricky section of a new piece. But even the most accomplished artists get stuck in a rut sometimes. There are little tricks you can try when inspiration isn't striking, but a recent study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that the best way to boost creativity is very simple: just don't give up.

In a series of seven experiments involving over 1,200 people, researchers gave participants a set amount of time to come up with as many creative solutions as they could to a problem or question (for example: how many different punch lines they could write to complete a sketch-comedy scene). After the initial brainstorm, participants were asked to estimate how many more solutions they could come up with. They then repeated the exercise.

The results showed that most people were underestimating their abilities. In the second brainstorm, they typically thought of more ideas than they had predicted. Not only that, but their ideas became increasingly more creative as they went along. This reveals not only how important persistence is to the creative process, but that many people may stop working on a problem before they get to their best ideas.

It's frustrating to feel stuck and uninspired. But sometimes you have to weed through a bunch of ideas that don't work before you find the one that does. Next time you're faced with a creative dilemma, keep at it and trust that your hard work will eventually pay off. If there's one thing dancers know all about, it's the power of perseverance.

 

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