Stephen Nachmanovitch Free Play Quotes In Essay

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.

The following are some of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books – Free Play:  Improvisation in Life and Art, by Stephen Nachmanovich:

“The ego wants to be right, but in the dynamics of life and art we are never right, we are always changing and cycling.”

“It is when we are trying to sound brilliant that we stumble, and when we stay within ourselves, we sound better.”

“Effort gets in the way of great playing.”

“You must surrender the need to sound good.  Otherwise, you can’t really let go!”

“Analysis should not come during the playing [or singing], but well after the whole experience is over.”

“The goal is to appreciate what’s coming out as if you’re the listener, not the player.”

“The easiest way to do art is to dispense with success and failure altogether and just get on with it.”

“When it all slides into place, at those moments when the tears come, what I sense is […] a direct realization that the world is one and I’ve connected with the world.  A shock of recognition:  I’ve been carrying around for my whole life a feeling, a form I always knew was there – recognizing something very old in myself.”

 “If we self-consciously try to be original, we can wander in the opposite direction, going for a distinctive voice that confuses originality with newness.  Originality does not mean being unlike the past or present; it means being the origin, acting out of your own center.  Out of your spontaneous heart you may do something reminiscent of the very old, and it will be original because it will be yours.  Because you are the unique product of evolution, culture, environment, fate, and your own quirky history, what is obvious and humdrum to you is guaranteed to be thoroughly original. 

Paradoxically, the more you are yourself, the more universal your message.  As you develop and individuate more deeply, you break through into deeper layers of the collective consciousness and the collective unconsciousness.”


(c) 2009 Adrienne Osborn

Adrienne Osborn is a vocalist and performance coach based in Colorado.   For more free articles and tips, visit


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *