TIME Careers & Workplace

9 Ways to Become More Creative in the Next 10 Minutes

Creativity is developed; it's not a birthright

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published atInc.com.

By Larry Kim

Modern culture often labels creativity as natural gift. Artists get showered with praise and proclamations of “you’re so talented,” but truthfully, talent has little to do with it.

Creativity is a skill to be learned, practiced, and developed, just like any other. Juggling takes practice, as does surfing, coding, and driving a car. Creativity is no different. The more you make creativity part of your daily life, the more it will grow.

So how do you make creativity part of your daily life? Here are 9 suggestions–and guess what? You can get started on them all in the next 10 minutes.

1. Doodle Something

Although we may have been reprimanded in school to “stop doodling and pay attention,” it’s time to bring back the doodle. Doodling, contrary to popular opinion, does not demonstrate a lack of focus. In fact, doodling can help you stay present and engaged during an activity in which you might otherwise find your mind drifting.

Suni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution, notes that some of the greatest thinkers–from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs–used doodling to jump-start creativity. Doodling can enhance recall and activate unique neurological pathways, leading to new insights and cognitive breakthroughs. Some companies even encourage doodling during meetings!

9 Ways to Become More Creative in the Next 10 Minutes

2. Sign Up for a Class in Something You’ve Never Done Before

Creativity flourishes when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone and learn something new. Many communities offer evening adult education classes. These classes are often very casual, with plenty of beginner offerings. Try painting, pottery, or woodworking. How about learning a new language, picking up a new instrument, or taking a cooking class?

3. Create the Right Environment

The truth is that every single individual (yes, even you) can be creative. You simply require the right environment, stimulus, and support. Kids are awash with creative energy in part because they have not yet learned to fear the criticism of their peers or experienced embarrassment from failure. This is now why failure is lauded in adults–it reflects creative, risk-taking endeavors. Though not all creative ventures will work out, ultimately some will (and be very, very successful).

This is why Google goes to great lengths to provide employees with fun perks such as beach volleyball courts and free beer, a setup almost resembling an adult playground. The goal is to create an environment that lets employees feel relaxed and comfortable with vocalizing creative, even wacky, ideas. Businesses that value creativity need to do their best to foster a creative, safe space where unusual ideas are celebrated and where creativity is nurtured.

4. Pause the Brainstorming and Move Your Body

Though old-school business practice dictates group brainstorming as a powerful way to generate creativity, modern research has found that the group collective isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

Instead, try new approaches to creative problem solving. Go for a walk. Physically move your body and consider your project problem from different locations. Physical movement has been shown to have a positive affect on creative thinking, just as theater pros suggest practicing lines in different poses and positions to generate new character approaches.

5. Start a Sketchbook

Sketching is a great way to preserve memories and make constructive use of time that might otherwise be spent fiddling on a phone. Buy a small, lightweight sketchbook that can easily fit in your bag. Start sketching whenever you have even a few spare minutes–draw the salt and pepper shaker on your table while waiting for your coffee, or the crumpled pile of newspaper on the subway.

Though you may be disappointed in your sketches at first, the more you draw, the better you’ll get. Don’t overanalyze your results–simply draw for the enjoyment of the process, not the end piece. Creativity seeps across activities, so sketching just a few minutes a day can result in a major boost of workplace creativity.

6. Keep Toys on Your Desk

Many creative design companies encourage employees to keep toys on their desks–from Legos and Lincoln Logs to Play-Doh and origami paper. Building something physically with your hands, as opposed to typing on a keyboard, can be just the creative jolt you need.

7. Engage in Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is a form of writing consisting of extremely short pieces. There are many flash fiction writing groups online in which members write 100-word stories based on a provided prompt. That’s right, just 100 words. No one can say that’s out of their league.

Have your own try at flash fiction writing. Join a community online, or start your own at work. No pressure, no need to share; it’s just a chance to get those creative juices flowing!

8. Try the 30 Circles Test

This great creative exercise comes from researcher Bob McKim, and is featured in Tim Brown’s TED talk Creativity and Play.

Take a piece of paper and draw 30 circles on the paper. Now, in one minute, adapt as many circles as you can into objects. For example, one circle could become a sun. Another could become a globe. How many can you do in a minute? (Take quantity over quality into consideration.)

The result: Most people have a hard time getting to 30, largely because we have a tendency as adults to self-edit. Kids are great at simply exploring possibilities without being self-critical, whereas adults have a harder time. Sometimes, even the desire to be original can be a form of self-editing. Don’t forget–good artists copy, great artists steal.

9. Role-play Away

Role-playing isn’t just for the geeks at Comic-Con (no judgment; we love you guys). Role-playing can help you develop new solutions to existing problems by putting yourself in the shoes of a client or customer.

Even if you’ve already made efforts to enter the client’s mindset, physically role-playing situations with co-workers can generate powerful revelations and project solutions. As children, role-playing is how our imaginations thrived, from baking mud pies and playing house to fighting off baddies and exploring the jungles in our own backyards. It’s time to bring back the power of play.

TIME psychology

Creative Thinking Exercises: 8 Steps to Workplace Creativity

A while back I rounded up a lot of the research and posted my four fundamental rules for increasing creativity.

But those aren’t all easy to do at the office.

The list includes getting drunk, taking naps and showers, and other stuff that could lead to a visit from the HR Hitman.

What are some research-backed creative thinking exercises that address the challenges of the modern workplace?

Here are 8. They’re unconventional, but they work.

 

#1) Hide From The Boss

Yeah, you heard me. Creative thinking exercise #1 is run and hide from your boss.

Not 24/7, mind you, but definitely when you’re trying to knock out something new and original.

As Stanford MBA school professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton point out,bosses can hurt creativity.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-based Management:

…when a group does creative work, a large body of research shows that the more that authority figures hang around, the more questions they ask, and especially the more feedback they give their people, the less creative the work will be. Why? Because doing creative work entails constant setbacks and failure, and people want to succeed when the boss is watching–which means doing proven, less creative things that are sure to work.

 

#2) Actually, Hide from EVERYBODY

Research shows that individuals who generate ideas on their own and then meet with a group afterward come up with more (and better) ideas.

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

Not only did the solo students come up with twice as many solutions as the brainstorming groups but their solutions were deemed more “feasible” and “effective” by a panel of judges. In other words, brainstorming didn’t unleash the potential of the group. Instead, the technique suppressed it, making each individual less creative.

As group size goes up, creativity and effectiveness goes down.

Via Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking:

The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” writes the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

 

#3) Be Creative At The Office By Not Being At The Office

You’re more creative when you work from home.

If you can do creative projects there, you might be up to 20% more productive:

On the uncreative tasks, people were 6% to 10% less productive outside the lab. The fall-off was steepest among the least productive third of workers. (People who reported procrastinating on their homework were also, unsurprisingly, poor telecommuters—as were men.) On the creative tasks, by contrast, people were 11% to 20% more productive outside the lab.

 

#4) Mess Up Your Desk

Research shows an organized office might make you behave better but a messy office can lead to more creative breakthroughs:

Experiment 2 showed that participants in a disorderly room were more creative than participants in an orderly room.

 

#5) Do Not Procrastinate

What’s that you’re saying? You work better with that last minute time pressure?

Harvard’s Teresa Amabile says no, you don’t:

We found that on days of the most extreme time pressure, the professionals in our study were 45 percent less likely to come up with a new idea or solve a complex problem. Even worse, there’s a kind of “pressure hangover,” with lower creativity persisting for two days or more.

(Here are more tips on beating procrastination.)

 

#6) Relax, Get Happy, And Daydream

Watch comedy videos on YouTube. Seriously, it works.

(Tell people it’s another one of your “very serious creative thinking exercises.”)

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

After watching a short, humorous video— Beeman uses a clip of Robin Williams doing standup— subjects have significantly more epiphanies, at least when compared with those who were shown scary or boring videos.

More happy = More creative.

Via The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work:

Our diary study revealed a definitive connection between positive emotion and creativity. We looked at specific emotions as well as overall mood (the aggregate of a person’s positive and negative emotions during the day). Overall, the more positive a person’s mood on a given day, the more creative thinking he did that day. Across all study participants, there was a 50 percent increase in the odds of having a creative idea on days when people reported positive moods, compared with days when they reported negative moods.

People whose minds frequently wander are more creative and better problem solvers.

Via 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People:

Mind-wandering allows one part of the brain to focus on the task at hand, and another part of the brain to keep a higher goal in mind. Christoff (2009) at the University of California, Santa Barbara has evidence that people whose minds wander a lot are more creative and better problem solvers. Their brains have them working on the task at hand but simultaneously processing other information and making connections.

 

#7) Record Good Ideas In A Notebook

“Eureka!” moments are bunk.

Research shows strokes of genius emerge over time, and the greats often kept track of them in notebooks.

Via Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity:

Creativity started with the notebooks’ sketches and jottings, and only later resulted in a pure, powerful idea…Instead of arriving in one giant leap, great creations emerged by zigs and zags as their creators engaged over and over again with these externalized images.

And don’t write down every idea “no matter how crazy.” Rules help.

Focusing your efforts on being as creative as possible reduces the number of ideas but increases the number of good ideas.

Via Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration:

Researchers next looked for idea-generating rules that would work even better than Osborn’s. They told their subjects: “The more imaginative or creative your ideas, the higher your score will be. Each idea will be scored in terms of (1) how unique or different it is— how much it differs from the common use and (2) how valuable it is— either socially, artistically, economically, etc.” These instructions are very different from those given for classic brainstorming because people are being told to use specific directions in judging which ideas they come up with. Groups working with these instructions have fewer ideas than brainstorming groups, but they have more good ideas.

 

#8) Present Your Ideas To Colleagues — and FIGHT

This might be the shift from “creative thinking exercises” to “creative shoutingexercises.”

Don’t be open and accepting. When people debate, they’re more creative.

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

Which teams did the best? The results weren’t even close: while the brainstorming groups slightly outperformed the groups given no instructions, people in the debate condition were far more creative. On average, they generated nearly 25 percent more ideas.

(Here’s more on why everything you know about brainstorming is wrong.)

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TIME psychology

Creativity at Work: 6 Ways to Encourage Innovative Ideas

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Harvard’s Teresa Amabile, author of The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, says there are three components to creativity at work:

  • Expertise (People who aren’t any good at physics rarely come up with relativity theory.)
  • Creative thinking skills (Are you even trying to think outside the box?)
  • Motivation (Personal interest like curiosity beats monetary bonuses.)

Her research produced 6 things that companies and managers can do to support and inspire creative work:

 

1) Challenge

It’s all about assigning the right person to the right project — but most companies don’t bother to get to know their employees well enough to do that.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Of all the things managers can do to stimulate creativity, perhaps the most efficacious is the deceptively simple task of matching people with the right assignments. Managers can match people with jobs that play to their expertise and their skills in creative thinking, and ignite intrinsic motivation. Perfect matches stretch employees’ abilities. The amount of stretch, however, is crucial: not so little that they feel bored but not so much that they feel overwhelmed and threatened by a loss of control.

That final sentence, I think, is key. Amabile doesn’t reference the word, but it sounds like what this does is help engineer “flow“.

creativity-at-work

 

2) Freedom

Companies should define goals but let workers have some autonomy in how to get there.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

When it comes to granting freedom, the key to creativity is giving people autonomy concerning the means–that is, concerning process–but not necessarily the ends. People will be more creative, in other words, if you give them freedom to decide how to climb a particular mountain. You needn’t let them choose which mountain to climb. In fact, clearly specified strategic goals often enhance people’s creativity.

 

3) Resources

Too little time or money can both dampen creativity at work.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Organizations routinely kill creativity with fake deadlines or impossibly tight ones. The former create distrust and the latter cause burnout. In either case, people feel overcontrolled and unfulfilled–which invariably damages motivation. Moreover, creativity often takes time…They keep resources tight, which pushes people to channel their creativity into finding additional resources, not in actually developing new products or services.

 

4) Work-Group Features

Companies kill creativity by encouraging homogenous teams.

These groups do find solutions more quickly and have high morale–but their lack of diversity doesn’t lead to much creativity.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

If you want to build teams that comes up with creative ideas, you must pay careful attention to the design of such teams. That is, you must create mutually supportive groups with a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds. Why? Because when teams comprise people with various intellectual foundations and approaches to work–that is, different expertise and creative thinking styles–ideas often combine and combust in exciting and useful ways.

 

5) Supervisory Encouragement

Support and recognition by bosses isn’t just nice, it’s essential to creativity at work.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Certainly, people can find their work interesting or exciting without a cheering section–for some period of time. But to sustain such passion, most people need to feel as if their work matters to the organization or to some important group of people.

 

6) Organizational Support

Companies that mandate information sharing and collaboration while discouraging politics will see creativity thrive.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Most important, an organization’s leaders can support creativity by mandating information sharing and collaboration and by ensuring that political problems do not fester. Information sharing and collaboration support all three components of creativity… That sense of mutual purpose and excitement so central to intrinsic motivation invariably lessens when people are cliquish or at war with one another. Indeed, our research suggests that intrinsic motivation increases when people are aware that those around them are excited by their jobs.

 

Final Note

Of the three big factors in creativity that Amabile calls out, where most companies go wrong is motivation.

They either ignore it or try to achieve it by money — a very inefficient mechanism at best.

The best employees are motivated from inside and companies that nurture that passion see the best results.

Amabile calls upon Michael Jordan as a perfect example.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

And Michael Jordan, perhaps the most creative basketball player ever, had “a love of the game” clause inserted into his contract; he insisted that he be free to play pickup basketball games anytime he wished.

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TIME Arts

Here’s How the World’s Most Creative People Organize Their Daily Routines

From Maya Angelou to Beethoven to Picasso

Never sure how to budget your time each day to maximize your productivity and enhance your creativity? Well, perhaps you should take a cue from some of history’s most successful and prolific artists, writers, musicians and thinkers. This interactive tool created by Podio compares the daily schedules of some of history’s most famous creative types.

(View full-size. via Podio).

So if you’re looking to create some new daily habits, allow these folks to be your inspiration.

TIME psychology

Strokes of Genius: Here’s How the Most Creative People Get Their Ideas

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Where do strokes of genius come from?

Keith Sawyer tells an interesting story about breakthrough ideas in his book, Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity.

Researcher Vera John-Steiner wanted to know What nourishes sustained productivity in the lives of creative individuals?

She interviewed over 70 living creative geniuses and analyzed the notebooks of 50 dead ones (including Tolstoy, Einstein, etc.) to look at their work habits.

She assumed this was going to end up as a review of Eureka! moments in the greatest creative minds.

She even planned to title her book “The Leap” because it would be about those giant flashes of inspiration that led to breakthrough ideas.

But she was completely wrong.

Eureka! moments turned out to be a myth.

There was no inspiration moment where a fully formed answer arrived.

Strokes of genius happened over time.

A great idea comes into the world by drips and drabs, false starts, and rough sketches.

Via Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity:

Creativity started with the notebooks’ sketches and jottings, and only later resulted in a pure, powerful idea. The one characteristic that all of these creatives shared— whether they were painters, actors, or scientists— was how often they put their early thoughts and inklings out into the world, in sketches, dashed-off phrases and observations, bits of dialogue, and quick prototypes. Instead of arriving in one giant leap, great creations emerged by zigs and zags as their creators engaged over and over again with these externalized images.

She heard it over and over again in the interviews and read it in different forms in every notebook.

Via Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity:

    • Albert Einstein always said he thought in pictures: “Words do not play any role in my thought; instead, I think in signs and images which I can copy and combine.
    • English writer Jessica Mitford engaged in a constant dialogue with her unfolding drafts: “The first thing to do is read over what you have done the day before and rewrite it. And then that gives you a lead into the next thing to do.”
    • The painter Ben Shahn described creativity as “the long artistic tug-of-war between idea and image.
    • Poet May Sarton wrote, “The poem teaches us something while we make it; there is nothing dull about revision.

It was never a clean, linear process.

Via Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity:

Successful creators engage in an ongoing dialogue with their work. They put what’s in their head on paper long before it’s fully formed, and they watch and listen to what they’ve recorded, zigging and zagging until the right idea emerges.

What can we take away from this?

  • Stop expecting inspiration to deliver a finished product.
  • Write all your ideas down as early as possible. (It’s no surprise so many of the geniuses kept notebooks.)
  • Stop discarding half-baked ideas. Those crappy ideas are the good ideas — they just need work.
  • Don’t think your first idea is the right one. And don’t think it’s perfect as-is.
  • Wrestle with your ideas. Dissect, combine, add, subtract, turn them upside down and shake them. Get ideas colliding.

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TIME Creativity

El Bulli Chef Ferran Adria’s Favorite Breakfast and Philosophy on Creativity

+ READ ARTICLE

Spanish chef Ferran Adrià had one of the most famous and admired restaurants in the world. He had hundreds of people wanting each set every single night. And then in 2010, he abruptly announced he was shutting up shop. Except, as he explained to TIME in a recent interview, he’s not really shutting his restaurant, El Bulli, so much as transforming it into a foundation that explores creativity. And food. He even had a show of his drawings of plates at New York City’s Drawing Center recently.

“Picture if you were a doctor, and 70% of your time was spent with patients and 30% on research,” he says in Spanish. “Well, then you suddenly decide you want to flip it around, and you want to do 70% on research and 30% of actually taking care of patients. That’s what we decided to do.” For Adrià, to be creative, you have to be really ruthless about everything, especially your time. “People are always demanding more, more, more creativity. And if you’re not organized, you don’t have systems in place, you’re not going to last.”

Elsewhere in the interview, which can be found in this week’s issue of TIME, Adrià talks about his fascination with honey, the only food animals cook for us and how he believes people’s nostalgia gets in the way of them being able to really judge food. (His mom may want to skip reading the back page of TIME this week.)

For a guy with such a dedication to pushing the boundaries of gastronomy, Adrià has pretty simple ideas about breakfast: fruit, yogurt, coffee. Perhaps he’s saving his creative energy for the other meals.

 

 

TIME TIME 100

Robert Redford Almost Gave Up Acting

+ READ ARTICLE

When considering who most influenced his life, Robert Redford, who has performed with Hollywood’s finest and mentored independent cinema’s rising stars, cites a “mixed bag” of people who helped him along the way.

“There is power in an idea that you will stay with, against the odds,” he tells TIME Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs in this short interview. Whether it’s called ego or drive or stubbornness or vision, Redford endorses the impulse to “keep pushing through” in spite of the obstacles. Even failure, he notes, can be valuable, even “fun.”

TIME career

Being Creative Outside of Work Makes You Better at Your Job

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Ronnie Kaufman/Larry Hirshowitz—Getty Images/Blend Images

Researchers at San Francisco State University surveyed 341 employees about their "creative activities," which ranged from writing to video gaming, and discovered that having an outlet connects to experiencing mastery, control and relaxation

Have a creative outlet has long been considered good for your well-being, but a new study suggests it will help you be better at your job.

Researchers from San Francisco State University surveyed 341 employees about their creative activities, including what they do during downtime, how creative they are at work and how well they supported their employer and co-workers.

The researchers let the interviewees determine for themselves what “creative activities” meant — and the results spanned from writing to video games. Originally, the researchers wanted to know if having a creative outlet impacted a worker’s performance by allowing them to detach and recover from a stressful work day. But they realized it wasn’t so simple because it’s hard draw to a line between career and hobby for some people. For example, a wedding photographer by trade may take pictures of landscapes in their free time. The work is still very similar to their day job, so “detaching” from the daily grind doesn’t fully apply.

What they discovered was that partaking in creative activities was linked to experiencing mastery, control and relaxation, as well as reported positive work performance related outcomes.Why? The researchers are not certain, but it’s likely that people learn new skills through their other activities, and these skills may be applied to their daily work.

“It can be rare in research to find that what we do in our personal time is related to our behaviors in the workplace, and not just how we feel,” said study author Kevin Eschleman, an organizational psychologist at San Francisco State University in a statement.

Even though what the participants defined as “creative” was different for each person, the researchers said that whatever the activity was, it provided them with some form of self-expression and ability to discover something new about themselves. This type of experience can have implications beyond just relaxation after a hard day, but can actually help people with their day-to-day duties, like problem-solving.

The study is published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.

TIME Creativity

Cheating is a Good Thing (Sometimes)

Troels Graugaard—Getty Images/Vetta

A liberated mind is a creative mind, and nothing frees you up like breaking the rules

Want to compose a great symphony, write a classic novel, come up with a brilliant new app? Cheat on your taxes first—or on your spouse, or on your poker buddies. It’s easy—and fun, too.

That’s the unsettling implication of a new study released by the Association for Psychological Science and conducted by business professors at Harvard University and the University of Southern California. The investigators recruited a sample group of volunteers and had them complete a math puzzle in which multiple columns of figures were added in multiple ways. The subjects were told they would be paid for each correct answer and, incidentally, that they’d be grading themselves. Nobody would check their work before they got their cash prize. So: free money, right?

That’s how it seemed. A dispiriting 59% of the subjects lied about how well they did and took the ill-gotten payoff. All of the subjects were then given what’s known as a remote association test in which they were asked to come up with one word that connects a group of three other words (“sore,” “shoulder” and “sweat” can all be connected by “cold,” for example). The two exercises ought to have been unconnected, but there was this revelation: The people who cheated on the math test did significantly better on the word test. The implication: Breaking the rules frees up the mind and makes it easier to be creative.

In some ways, that’s no surprise. Jazz is all about rule-breaking, tossing out the conventional structure of music and replacing it with something closer to improvisational anarchy. Picasso blew up traditional ideas of shape, perspective and proportion. And there’s not a successful novelist alive who would sell so much as a single book without making use of the artful sentence fragment, the well-deployed redundancy, even the wholly invented word.

There’s actually hard brain science supporting the proposition that the best ideas can come from breaking laws of reason. Paul McCartney, Mary Shelley and Jack Nicklaus came up with “Yesterday,” Frankenstein and the perfect golf swing—respectively, of course—in a dream. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that this is because the occipital lobe, where visual and auditory processing live, powers up when we’re asleep at the same time the prefrontal cortex—the cognitive traffic cop that keeps us thinking in an orderly way—goes off duty. When the lawman’s not looking, we can get away with all kinds of creative mayhem.

But not every dishonest person uses the spark of rule-breaking inventiveness to write a song or win the Masters. The wiseguys who dreamed up bundled mortgages or credit default swaps probably felt a delicious frisson of freedom too when they were inventing their toxic pile of economy-tanking instruments. The same is surely true of the smug political operatives who decide it’s “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” or who burgle offices or political headquarters to dig up dirt on their enemies. The more rules you break, the more imaginative you become the next time you do it.

Sometimes, the bad guys are being goaded in their creative misbehavior. “We’ve got a counter-government here and we’ve got to fight it,” Richard Nixon told Charles Colson in the run-up to the Watergate crimes. “Do whatever has to be done. … I don’t want to be told why it can’t be done.” And so he wasn’t—and so they did it.

But most of the time, the Nixon mob came up with their exceedingly unethical antics on their own—as long ago as college political campaigns, when they called their dirty tricks “rat-f–king.” And want to bet each time a rat got, well, effed, the dirty tricksters got better and better at what they were doing?

In the exquisite play Sideman, the lead character describes the way his father, a jazz trumpeter, could make things up as he went along, reacting in real time to what his bandmates were doing:

When he’s up there blowing, he’s totally in touch with everything that’s going on around him. Ziggy bends a note, he echoes it instantly. A car horn sounds outside, he puts it into his or harmonizes under it a second later.

Jazz is wondrous lawlessness; so is cubism. Credit default swaps and political break-ins are nothing of the kind. But broken rules are broken rules. What we do with the freedom that results is up to us.

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