Three Tips for the 99 Percent Perspiration Part of the Process

Last Updated Dec 8, 2009 6:26 AM EST

Genius, as famously described by Thomas Edison, is one percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration. But at Mark McGuinness, author of popular blog Lateral Action, points out in a guest post on Behance's site 99% today, most of what we hear about creativity focuses on the magic of the one percent -- the fabled eureka moment. Problem is there is almost nothing you can do to bring one on (though the poet Coleridge swore by opium, that's not currently recommended). There is plenty you can do to make the other 99 percent of the creative process work better for you, McGuinness contends.

So what can creative professionals do to ensure that the time they spend sweating away on their ideas is the most productive it can be? McGuinness offers three sensible tips:

  • ROUTINES -- Many creative people lead apparently boring working lives, sticking to the same routine every day. They do this because they understand instinctively what neuroscience has now confirmed â€" routine is a key that unlocks creative inspiration. Circadian rhythms of arousal and mental alertness mean that certain times of day are especially conducive to focused creative work. The effect is magnified when familiar objects, surroundings, and other stimuli (coffee, background music) become associative triggers for creative states of mind.... Notice what time(s) of day you are most alert and creative. Dedicate that time to focused creative work. Use the same tools, in the same surroundings, even the same background music, so that they become triggers for your "creative zone."
  • SYSTEMS -- A rock-solid productivity system performs a dual function for your creativity: (1) It ensures that all ideas and action steps are captured, so that nothing slips through the cracks, in your own work and within your team, and (2) When you are confident that everything important has been captured, you are free to focus fully on the task in hand.... Take a few moments to review how you spend your time. Study productivity systems and experiment to see what works for you.
  • SPONTANEITY -- Real creativity involves spontaneity and surprise, whether a simple "Aha!" moment or the lightning bolt of inspiration. Paradoxically, the harder you work at routines and systems, the more likely you are to experience that bolt from the blue.... Take breaks from the usual routine. Be open to new people, places, and experiences. Welcome the thoughts that appear from nowhere. Have a notebook or phone handy to capture them.
For more of McGuinness's insights, check out Lateral Action.
(Sweat image by ghostdad, CC 2.0)
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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.