Free Play Productions   Stephen Nachmanovitch
Free Play     

Free Play:
in Life and Art


Buy it here

An international bestseller and beloved classic, Free Play is an inspiring and provocative book, directed toward people in any field who want to contact, honor, and strengthen their own creative powers. It reveals how inspiration arises within us, how that inspiration may be blocked, derailed or obscured, 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. 

“I absolutely love this book. What a blissful, friendly, fiercely intelligent thing; it expresses truths that I am groping toward 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, author of Write It All Down

“I am grateful to Stephen Nachmanovitch for sharing his wisdom in these pages. I expect—I hope—to be rereading his book and practicing with it for the rest of my life.”

— Ruth Ozeki, author of The Book Of Form And Emptiness

“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 vitalizing. The remedy for creative block and existential stuckness.”

— Maria Popova

“The mother of all improvisation books”

— Jeffrey Agrell, University of Iowa

“You are called to an important meeting, the subject of which you are not told. It is of utmost importance that you ‘Be Yourself.’ The meeting starts immediately and your clothes are in the laundry and you have no time to wash up or shave. Is this a ‘serious’ situation? Then so is improvisation. Nachmanovitch tells it like it is in the most important book on improvisation I’ve yet seen.”

— Keith Jarrett, pianist

“This is an unusually intense, packed, thought-through book on the most difficult subject in the world: mystic creativity. If you want to be intellectually informed about how people actually create things, then you should read it at least once.”

— Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

“When I first heard Stephen Nachmanovitch in San Francisco and when he later visited my school in England, I was captivated by his being, as were all others. Now having read Free Play, I understand his approach more deeply. Would that Free Play found its way into every school, office, hospital, and factory. It is a most exciting book and a most important one.”

— Yehudi Menuhin, violinist

“Stephen Nachmanovitch has produced a celebration of human uniqueness. In so doing, he helps us to make better use of our resources of playfulness, ingenuity, and creativity in general. What it amounts to is a guide for getting the most out of whatever is possible.”

— Norman Cousins, author of The Anatomy of an Illness

“Stephen Nachmanovitch’s prose is really poetry. Every page has a fresh thought, a bracing new way of looking at the familiar, a penetrating insight or a wise bit of advice. And reading it is so thoroughly enjoyable!”

— Willis Harman, regent, University of California

“This book is important not only because it delves into the creative process, but also because Nachmanovitch creates the opportunity for the reader to get in touch with his/her own creative possibilities and abilities. This is an essential book for everyone.”

Harvard Educational Review

“The kit of tools Nachmanovitch lays before us are high-level generalizations, and could be applied equally well to just about any discipline from cooking to stand-up comedy. His intent is clearly unitary. He circles like a falcon around the inexpressible. His text is the finger in the haiku, pointing at the moon.”

— Keyboard Magazine

“Free Play is a superb guide for anyone who aspires to create, whatever the medium.”

New Woman


Free Play is about the inner sources of spontaneous creation. 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.

Stephen Nachmanovitch, a pioneer in free improvisation, integrates material from a wide variety of sources among the arts, sciences, and spiritual traditions of humanity, drawing on unusual quotes, amusing and illuminating anecdotes, and original metaphors. 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. Free Play brings us into direct, active contact with boundless creative energies that we may not even know we had.

$17.00 paper, Published by Penguin / Jeremy P. Tarcher -
Order from your favorite independent bookstore today: ISBN number 0-87477-631-7 
If you wish to order the book directly from the Web, you can get it here - and in translations in Spanish, Japanese, Greek, German, Swedish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, and Korean. New translations in 2024 in Russian, Arabic, and Dutch.


Here’s an excerpt . . . Oxherding picture: flute

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