Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art
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Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  850 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Discusses the inner sources of spontaneous creation, explains how to learn the skills of improvisation, and suggests ways to overcome common obstacles to creativity.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 1st 1991 by Tarcher (first published January 11th 1990)
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I took a few things away from this book:

1. The creative process in and of itself is important and playful.
2. Practice is an important part of getting good at your particular creative skill.
3. Procrastination and perfectionism are hindrances to the creative process.
4. Supportive communities are important to the creative process.
5. Everyday life doesn't necessarily support creativity. The artist, musician, poet, and writer has to be intentional about carving out time to create.

My only reservation...more
In the fall, I discovered this book in my boyfriend's apartment.

As I was falling in love, this excerpt resonated deeply with me:

"Though love is a material act (whether sexual love, friendship, parenting, or any other kind of devotion, love is always an act), it lifts us out of the ordinary world into a kind of mystic participation with one another. We tune, more and more finely, our capacity to sense the other person's subtleties. We are willing to be infinitely patient and persevering. In a se...more
This book really bothered me. I started out just disagreeing with the way things were worded. But by 3/4ths of the way through, I couldn't take it any more, and stopped reading. The book is poorly organized. It was missing structural guidelines such as transition paragraphs, or a general outline in the beginning. I didn't know where it was going. Many of the chapters seemed incomplete. But this was not the main thing that bothered me. I could have dealt with that. What pissed me off the most was...more
Apr 13, 2009 Flissy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
A lot of things rang true with what I have come to believe about creativity and my own process. My number one creative mantra lately has been "All creative acts have value." Knitting, baking, drawing, dancing, doing yoga, making up silly songs to the cats... they all are equal in getting juice flowing, removing blocks, and revealing new things to incorporate in my art/dance/yoga. Another thing I found really interesting is that he stresses the importance of allowing your internal muse and intern...more
Did not get interesting until the middle, where there were some concrete suggestions on how to play around with limits, the interplay between creativity and judgement.

The beginning and the end of the book are weakest, in my opinion. They are filled with too much pseudo-spiritual riffs, or get off track with rants against mainstream society, neither of which did much for me.

All that said, I still think it was a worthwhile read for what was there regarding improvisation.
Sep 09, 2007 Maria rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: To all artist, and anyone who loves to play!
Shelves: spiritual
This is one of my favorit books! I go back to it often when I need a reminder about the role of play and creativity in life. This book is filled with stories, and lessons about the bigs and smalls of life. The take home message is: Relax, and bring play and into all aspects of life!
Man do I love this book. No really. I've read it four times at different points in my life and each time I find something new and awesome. If, for some reason, you want to know my philosophy on creativity and the purpose of art, this is the book to start with.
If you are an artist of any sort, read this book.
I have several guidebooks for living and this is one of my most precious. I've shared it, relied upon it, and re-read it. Interestingly, though it is by a musician, it is very apt and helpful in any field of endeavor. When I first read it I was working in a law office and had to design little interactive macros for legal documents so that attorneys could use their computers more easily and this book helped me do that. It has also helped me design my garden, decorate my house, find my way through...more
May 14, 2013 Tine! rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tine! by: Christov Churchward
Another book representative of my recently-favourite genre: "genre-less". Yes, it's sold as an improv skill-booster, but Nachmanovitch dips into every circle of the human hell and ties the ends together neatly with a taut viola string. When I mentioned to the friend who let me borrow this book ("it's meant to be passed around") that this was the author's only published book, he shrugged and riffed, "he said it all". Truth. Unfortunately, as the author is wailing away with his handsaw of personal...more
"A poetic embrace for the role that muse plays...beyond art. A refreshing balance to reductionist efforts to simply map our way into uncovering the mystery of creativity.

People interested in "the five steps to improving your creativity" will find this book highly unsatisfying. People who are intimately familiar with the angst of bringing the new into the world will recognize the undercurrents of brilliance and frustration that coexist with any true new undertaking or inspirational voyage.

Philosophy of improvisation--cool. The author is an expert in about 85 million different fields, and it helps him write a truly interdisciplinary book that will have some relevance to just about anyone. I only got half-way through this before returning it to the library. I plan to buy it; it's way too dense to read through quickly. The writing is clear, there are just too many ideas in this little book.
I read this book at least twice. It worked. I was trying to be a serious musician and artist; I'd just discovered that I loved writing. I wish I could remember more, but there was something about the description of the human need to create though improvisation (play) that resonated with me.

I might just have to read it again.
Marilyn Mcentyre
One of my favorite books. I've reread it several times, and referred to it often. An inspiring reminder of what it means to be awake to the moment and to receive its possibilities with gratitude and imagination.
Josh Montez
a very moving book that i will treasure for awhile. he sprinkles a bit of the spirituality but knows how to tie it altogether in terms of talking about creativity. i really enjoy his attitude towards limits in terms of the realms we operate in and his discussion of bricolage and being a bricoleur, and also infusing our mistakes as part of the creative process. this book definitely has a feeling to it, and is not at all what i would consider an intellectual book at all, although he does lay some...more
Terri R
Love the book. The book has taught me to turn discipline and learning into an adventure--- and in fact helped me become a better chef and hostess by preparing and the being playful.
Dec 25, 2008 Paul added it
The most comprehensive book on creativity and improvisation. This will truly unlock the child-like creativity in all of us :)
a must read for anyone who wants to develop their creativity. i read this book in college and have revisited it multiple times.
Rachel Rizzo
I refer back to the concepts in this book again and again.
Dennis Baker
One of the best books I read on creativity.
Very, very cool. So many rich things in this book, and I know I'll have to read it again some day. What was really fun was taking creative notes on it as I went, jotting down whatever struck my fancy or sketching little pictures. It's definitely a good source of inspiration for artists of all kinds: dancers, musicians, writers, painters, whatever your poison is.

Some of the advice though, I think must be taken with a grain of salt. There's lots of weird free-spirited stuff in there, which I under...more
Beth Bacon
This book ruminates on the nature of creative genius and proposes that we all have genius in us, if we just transcend rational selfhood, express that unbounded expression, and translate it back out through practiced craft. He doesn't tell us exactly how to "transfer this receptivity, compassion, and free flow of mind to everyone and everything we touch" (p. 169) but it's inspiring to know that free flow is possible for all of us.
Either this book has improved significantly since the first time I read it in undergrad over a decade ago, or I have become a more well-rounded person in the interim. This book is a good example of all the things I treasure as an artist... And most of the things I aim to achieve as a citizen of the world. A must read for those willing to open their minds - in admittedly unnatural directions - to the world around them.
I liked this book. The timing was perfect - in the midst of my writing month - to read words of encouragement for just writing, just working to create and trusting what will arise, are good words to hear. This is an older book, the pianist Carol Rankin recommended it to me. I’m glad she did. Perhaps it is because of my state of mind and what I’m working on right now - but it seems like a very good book for encouraging people to pay attention to our lives and surroundings and what is being said i...more
Erika Barrington
In this book, Nachmanovitch, (a violinist and poet by trade?) details his thoughts and experiences with improvisation in all mediums and also talks about how to be an artist at life. I read each section slowly and took some notes.
Some big points: Improvisation doesn't mean "just anything". Its structured by what comes before it, what is inside each of us waiting to come out, the form we're using. Creativity and the drive to create are different. What is the distinction between practice and addi...more
a must read in place of any "self help" book you ever pick up. truly inspiring.
I loved this book. A re-read is in order soon because the topics are so common sense and intuition driven that they are often forgotten or overlooked. I use this book as a constant reminder to, "Be Here Now," and when being creative not letting my over-analyzing hinder me.

This book is not just for musicians, it is for anyone wanting to enjoy life more, be more creative, and understand the journey to mastery takes more than a lifetime and happens in an instant. The law of reversed effort and many...more
Excellent read on creativity!
Steve Pancoski
Excellent and beyond.
Victoria marked it as to-read
Sep 15, 2014
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