Free Play

Improvisation in Life and Art

Stephen Nachmanovitch

Free Play by Stephen Nachmanovitch (Paperback ISBN 9781805301929) book cover

Available as Paperback, eBook

A foundational text since 1990 and translated into twelve languages, Free Play is a masterful and joyful meditation on how improvisation can be applied to not just art but the art of living - and in doing so unlock boundless creativity

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 while doing so. It is about the flow of unhindered creative energy: the joy of making art in all its varied forms.

Free Play is directed towards people in any field who want to contact, honour and strengthen their own creative powers. It reveals how inspiration arises within us, how that inspiration may be blocked, derailed or obscured by certain unavoidable facts of life. How it can finally be liberated – how we can be liberated – to speak or sing, write or paint, dance or play, with our own authentic voice.

Wise, generous and timeless, it has been a touchstone for creativity since 1990 and it is a book that you will find yourself reaching for again and again in times of need. This 2024 edition includes a new afterword by the author and a foreword by Women’s Prize for Fiction-winner Ruth Ozeki.

“Almost 35 years [after first publication], Free Play feels wise, relevant and very Zen. In a new foreword, Ruth Ozeki marvels at the freeing notion that every conversation is a form of improvisation. But it’s Nachmanovitch’s updated afterword that really hits home; in an increasingly unstable world, just to say an honest, authentic word can be utterly transformative”

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“A classic. Nachmanovitch examines the prerequisites of creation, offers concrete strategies for active surrender [and] considers the ultimate impetus of why we are called to create at all … altogether vitalising. The remedy for creative block and existential stuckness”
Maria Popova

“Nachmanovitch tells it like it is in the most important book on improvisation I’ve yet seen”
Keith Jarrett

“I absolutely love this book. What a blissful, friendly, fiercely intelligent thing; it expresses truths that I am groping towards in a way that is emboldening and clarifying. I don’t think I have ever felt so happy to shout about or recommend a book and I know I will read it again and again”
Cathy Rentzenbrink

“This is the book I’ve been missing my whole life … I am grateful to Stephen Nachmanovitch for sharing his wisdom in these pages. I expect — I hope — to be rereading [Free Play] and practicing with it for the rest of my life”
Ruth Ozeki

Stephen Nachmanovitch

Stephen Nachmanovitch performs and teaches internationally as an improvisational violinist, and at the intersections of performing and multimedia arts, philosophy and ecology. In the 1970s he was a pioneer in free improvisation on violin, viola and electric violin. He has presented masterclasses and workshops at many conservatoires and universities, and has had numerous appearances on radio, television and festivals. He is the author of two books on the creative process: Free Play and The Art of Is. He lives with his family in Virginia.