Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

By Stephen Nachmanovitch

I’ve gotten quite interested in improvisation lately (starting when I read the amazing Impro by Keith Johnstone) and this book sounds like a great primer on the intersection of creativity and improvisation.

It’s “about the inner sources of spontaneous creation…why we create and what we learn when we do.” To be honest I have only a vague impression of the inspirational wisdom contained between these covers, but I can get an idea. Just looking at the title, I’m nodding my head in agreement: play! freedom! life! art! — yes!

There are sections on “The Sources” and “The Work” of play and improv, as well as ones about “Obstacles and Openings” and “The Fruits” of the process. It’s a short book, but looks like some very useful insights on art and life. The first chapter is on inspiration and the flow of time; that sounds like a good start to me!

The author takes a personal approach, including Zen wisdom, reflections on mind and muse; stories, and even practical techniques. He “integrates material from a wide variety of sources among the arts, sciences, and spiritual traditions of humanity.”

Robert Pirsig says this is “an unusually intense, packed, thought-through book on the most difficult subject in the world: mystic creativity.” One reviewer describes reading this book as a journey; another claims to have read it “more than 25 times in the last five years” — clearly it’s content resonates. Despite a couple complaints about confusing structure and lack of practical focus, in all it seems “a wonderful handbook for anyone trying to create art or live life creatively.”


Additional information:

  • ISBN: 978-0874776317
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons

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* Independent online book marketplaces. While these sites are often lighter on data / reviews, and thus not the first place to go to learn about a book, they're a great place to actually purchase!


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