How do great discoveries come about? American physicist and author of the international bestseller Einstein's Dreams, and a professor of the sciences and humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studied 30 great discoveries of the 20 century.

It turns out getting stuck is a very wonderful thing. Don't think of it as a creative rut, but rather a sign that you're nearing a breakthrough.

Rejoice in Getting Stuck

"When we’re stuck the unconscious mind roams over lots of possibilities, goes outside of the box,” says Lightman. “And so when you’re stuck, instead of giving up, instead of thinking that you failed, you should rejoice. You should celebrate, because you are on the edge of making a discovery and you should honor that, that stuckness and embrace it.”

Prepare Your Mind

Discoveries depend on years of training. In the major discoveries that he studied, not one was made by an amateur. "Even though there were accidents that happened, even though scientists got stuck and then overcame their stuckness – the scientists all had prepared minds," explains Lightman. “Study the craft. Learn the tools of the trade. Then you are ready for a creative leap.”

Don't Wait for Inspiration

Work towards inspiration, and it will come, eventually. “I don’t think that you can wait for inspiration. It will happen when it happens. And it’s a wonderful experience when you do feel that inspiration, but I know that I, when I’m writing, especially when I’m writing fiction, I force myself to write every day,” he says. "I may not feel like writing some days. I may throw 90 percent into the garbage can of what I write that day. But just getting the habits, getting the juices flowing is important. And then the inspiration will come when it comes.”

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