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Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,675 ratings  ·  125 reviews
This book is about the inner sources of spontaneous creation. It is about where art in the widest sense comes from. It is about why we create and what we learn when we do. It is about the flow of unhindered creative energy: the joy of making art in all its varied forms.

Free Play is directed toward people in any field who want to contact, honor, and strengthen their own cr

Kindle Edition, 226 pages
Published May 1st 1991 by TarcherPerigee (first published January 11th 1990)
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4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,675 ratings  ·  125 reviews

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Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The right book at the right time saves lives. Man, you can say that about Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art. The thing about play in art, is it's a sign of strength to spare, wind to spare, like someone running a marathon who breaks out into a pirouette. Sometimes working on a long project, the task just seems monstrous--like trying to build a gothic cathedral all by yourself. This book is a reminder, for a writer in long form, that it's not stone on stone, a heavy, exhausting thing. That ...more
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: creativity
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
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.
Jan 21, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Anna Granberg
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting read on creativity and improvisation to come back to. I read it with pen in hand and highlighted the parts that spoke to me. If I reread, I feel like I might find other parts that capture me next time.

Some parts of the book were too filled with spiritual flummery for my taste, and I didn't like that some is written like if it were the objective truth, even though it's the writer's opinion, theories and own experiences. The writing is also unnecessarily complicated, often I
Mar 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-craft
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.
Mar 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are an artist of any sort, read this book.
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
During the late 1980s and early 1990s I worked in a bookstore that managed to survive the mega-chain onslaught and political shifts that killed off most of the independent literary stores and others such as the local specialist feminist and the Marxist/leftist book store as well as quite a few of the second hand stores. Across the road from us was another survivor, specialising in New Age and similar publications. Like many independents, we relied on the high turnover of a few titles to allow us ...more
Apr 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
David Sasaki
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book back in 2002 when I aspired to be a roving, down-and-out, bohemian novelist. I remember staying up late into the night underlining passages that felt like a clear expression of a worldview I had never considered. Nachmanovitch asks us to treat every moment of our lives as an input to a creative project: be it a painting, a short story, a computer program, or a story to be re-told.

As I look back over my journals from that time of life, I constantly carried creative inspiration. M
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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.

Beth Bacon
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Mar 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mauricio Lopes
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
This is about creativity and improvisation in general. It is mostly about music and I am a painter, but it still managed to become the most influential book on the manner I establish project goals and strategy in my work.
Luisa Asiul
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A fine little book that I suspect I will come back to time and time again. Creation is hard work and Nachmanovitch will not do your heavy lifting for you, but he will point you to the moon (even—perhaps especially—if you have seen it before).
Jul 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theater, teaching
One of the best books I read on creativity.
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a must read for anyone who wants to develop their creativity. i read this book in college and have revisited it multiple times.
Terri R
Dec 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sheldon Russell
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a powerful book, the kind of book that requires more than a single reading. I'll be back.
Susan Richards
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, art
Free Play is wonderful to re-read, or to just revisit some of my underlinings. It continually speaks to me anew. It is always a source of inspiration.
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Jmaynard9221 by: Daphna <3 <3 !!
I need to read this again and again, with a highlighter in my pocket. It will be ragged and torn by the time I am 32. This book is wonderful.
Louie van Bommel
Whether you paint, write, or play, you'll find endless insight and motivation well worthy of multiple reads.
The most comprehensive book on creativity and improvisation. This will truly unlock the child-like creativity in all of us :)
Rachel Rizzo
May 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
I refer back to the concepts in this book again and again.
Greg Talbot
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Note - i accidentally deleted this review originally....maybe the blank screen is the most authentic review I can give you. And I stand by it as the most appropriate review.

[ ]

but if you need more, here's a review below.


Although i’ve been at a relatively exciting period in my artistic pursuit of theater, i've only grazed the surface as a beginner. As i’ve worked on more projects, improv, dramatic skits, voice recordings, movement work...there are the initial rushes of excitement, confus
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“We can depend on the world being a perpetual surprise in perpetual motion.” 5 likes
“Structure ignites spontaneity.” 2 likes
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