The reality of the creative process is that it often requires persistence, the ability to stare at a problem until it makes sense. It’s forcing oneself to pay attention, to write all night and then fix those words in the morning. It’s sticking with a poem until it’s perfect; refusing to quit on a math question; working until the cut of a dress is just right. The answer won’t arrive suddenly, in a flash of insight. Instead, it will be revealed slowly, gradually emerging after great effort.
What is the purpose of . . . pleasure? It turns out that the real benefit of delight . . . is its powerful effect on attention. The same neurons that generate happiness . . . also play a crucial role in determining which thoughts enter conscious awareness. A sense of pleasure is the brain’s way of telling itself to look over there, or there, or there. The result is that dopamine acts like a neural currency—a price tag for information—allowing us to quickly appraise the outside world. The chemical tells us what we should notice, which things and thoughts are worth the cost of awareness.