The importance of persistence to creativity

© Leslie Owen Wilson

On the importance of persistence and reflection to creative thinking and successful living: 

SisyphusOne more thing I would like to add to the aspect of practical thinking in creativity — the necessary component of persistence. In fact I wish every parent and teacher would have a deep discussion about this topic very early in children’s lives as I think it is one of the paramount components between success at any level.

As far as creativity is concerned, in my mind it is not enough to just have ideas, or to be able to appraise them critically, or to sell, translate, or market them. What separates truly creative greats from those who are less creative is the aspect of persistence. It is through dogged determination that highly creative persons take their energies and translate their dreams into realities. Sometimes this means that they literally breathe life into mere wisps of visions and then work tirelessly until these threads are completed as something that can be viewed, felt, or understood by others. While full appreciation and acceptance of a painting, a poem, a theory, a cantata, or a dance may sometimes take lifetimes, or even eons, for others to value or appreciate, truly creative giants lives’ are marked by their perseverance and the sustained belief they have in the power of their dreams.

We are part of a hyperturbulent, fast-paced, disposable culture – cell phones, break-down furniture, break-down marriages, cross-country migrations, sound bits, video clips, fast food, eat-and-run — types of living and interactions that lead to an incessant, pervasive need for instant gratification. In this state our cultural milieu does not readily lend itself to either fostering reflective action. Nor does our disposable culture offer readily accessible models or opportunities to enhance the natural development of tenacity in our children. And yet we know from numerous investigations into the lives of creative individuals that reflective action is necessary for the incubation periods so crucial to true creative production. We also know that persistence and tenacity are essential elements that distinguish highly creative people from someone with just another good idea.

In order to be recognized, the processes which form creation demand that unique ideas find inviting homes. Ideas must seek development, production, refinement before they reach fruition in order for others to see their beauty or their worth. This process takes time and energy and tenacity as creators become consumed with the tasks of taking ideas and making them visible, audible, palpable, or usable.

Therefore, if we say that we value creativity and its many processes and products, we must ultimately be willing to teach the art of reflective behavior and foster persistence in our young. However, developing these attributes in children needs the gift of time, and our children must be given that gift if they are ever to become truly creative.

Children need time to discover, to explore, to experiment, to learn from mistakes, to adjust and realign their ideas, time to make corrections, time to dream, and to wonder “what if?” These are lifetime skills far beyond the measurement of common academic standards, well into and beyond our tomorrows.

Ultimately we must decide if creativity is really important to the maintenance and continuum of our culture. If our answer is “yes” then we must be willing to allocate the time necessary for the true development of creative spirits in our young people. We must be sure to teach our children the art of reflective and persistent behavior, and as adults be must model those behaviors and be willing to allocate enough time for those attributes to grow and flourish in our young.

Original materials on this site are copyrighted to Leslie Owen Wilson – E-mail