Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

Front Cover
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1990 - Psychology - 208 pages
Free Play 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 creative powers. It integrates material from a wide variety of sources among the arts, sciences, and spiritual traditions of humanity. Filled with unusual quotes, amusing and illuminating anecdotes, and original metaphors, it reveals how inspiration arises within us, how that inspiration may be blocked, derailed or obscured by certain unavoidable facts of life, and how finally it can be liberated - how we can be liberated - to speak or sing, write or paint, dance or play, with our own authentic voice.

The whole enterprise of improvisation in life and art, of recovering free play and awakening creativity, is about being true to ourselves and our visions. It brings us into direct, active contact with boundless creative energies that we may not even know we had.

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User Review  - dbsovereign - LibraryThing

Good book to read to remind yourself how 'serious' the sense of play truly is in nurturing creativity. Allowing ourselves the freedom to fail, we can become unencumbered by expectation and recreate a sense of childish abandon (and bliss). Vital reading in a world as out of touch as our's. Read full review

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User Review  - BrynDahlquis - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

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About the author (1990)

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page




The Sources

Inspiration and Time's Flow

The Vehicle

The Stream

The Muse

Mind at Play


The Work

Sex and Violins


The Power of Limits

The Power of Mistakes

Playing Together

Form Unfolding

Obstacles and Openings

Childhood's End

Vicious Circles

The Judging Spectre




The Fruits

Eros and Creation


Art for Life's Sake





About the Author

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The author thanks the following for their permission to reprint from copyrighted works.

Constance Crown, for Hands by Rico Lebrun.
Walter Gruen, for Musica Solar by Remedios Varo.
Ben Berzinsky, for his photograph of a Carlo Bergonzi violin, c. 1770.
Grateful thanks to the late Arnold Fawcus of the Trianon Press, Paris, for permission to
photograph his magnificent William Blake books.
Artist Rights Society, Inc., for Two Children Drawing and Dawn Song by Pablo Picasso. ARS
Charles E. Tuttle Co., Tokyo, Japan, for Tomikichiro Tokuriki's Riding the Bull Home.
North Point Press, for excerpt from Wendell Berry's essay, Poetry and Marriage.
For M. C. Escher's Encounter 1989 M. C. Escher Heirs/Cordon Art, Baarn, Holland.
Excerpts from "Burnt Norton" and "Little Gidding" in Four Quartets, 1943 by T. S. Eliot
and renewed 1971 by Esme Valerie Eliot, .
Excerpt from The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life. Introduction by Carl Jung,
translated and explained by Richard Wilhelm, .
Excerpt from A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf, 1929 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
Inc. and renewed 1957 by Leonard Woolf, .
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Nachmanovitch, Stephen.
Free play; improvisation in life and art / Stephen Nachmanovitch

p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.

ISBN: 9781440673085

1. Creation (Literary, artistic, etc.) 2. Improvisation (Music)
I. Title.
153.3'5-dc2O CIP

Copyright 1990 by Stephen Nachmanovitch

Paint as you like and die happy.



The following are only a few of the many friends and colleagues whose support, criticism, ideas, and other contributions were vital to the creation of this book:

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