Scheherazade in the Thousand and One Nights puts off her execution by enchanting the king with a different tale every night. She does not reveal how she keeps going, but her inventiveness makes her indispensable to the king’s happiness.
Actors, comedians, and other performers fascinate us with their quick-witted talent for invention. In Chicago, where I live, there is Second City, a theatre school for would-be comedians. They practice until they can make up scenes on the spot. From any chance combination of situations and identities yelled out by the audience, they create something meaningful—and have enormous fun doing it. Some alumni have become very famous.1
We call this a talent, but anybody ...