Saturday, August 13, 2011

Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch

Back in college I took a one-month class in improv. I wouldn't say that improv itself is something I'm especially skilled at, but the purpose of the class wasn't so much learning to perform improv as it was learning to use the concepts of improv to spark creativity in other venues, especially in writing. Some of the ideas of that class I still draw on consciously. Even more, though, I think it's been something I've absorbed into my approach to writing so that it comes through subconsciously.

One of our textbooks for the month was the book in the title of this post, Free Play. I remembered it the other day during an online conversation and decided to pull it back out. I can tell I'd actually considered rereading it more recently and had taken it up from the basement and put it on the desk up here...but hadn't gotten around to reading it. So this time I'm planning to actually reread it...

I've actually read the first few chapters, and I'm hoping to post occasional thoughts about it as I read it--I'll probably dip into it for a chapter or two at a time and then set it aside for a few days, so the posts may be scattered. For now I wanted to just put the opening quote from the book. I've said at various times that I find writing to be play...but play, to me, doesn't imply frivolous. There's something deep and deeply important about play. It's an idea that I can trace back to well before I read this book (the first poem I remember writing in high school was called "This LifeGame"), but I can tell that my thinking was definitely reinforced and likely shaped in part by the opening to this book:

There is an old Sanskrit word, lîla, which means play. Richer than our word, it means divine play, the play of creation, destruction, and re-creaction, the folding and unfolding of the cosmos.

4 comments:

Lindsey Duncan said...

Alas, my library carries this - but only in the reference section at Main. Curses.

Daniel Ausema said...

That means...you can't check it out, I assume, only read it in-library?

My edition is just a little paperback, so I imagine you could find it pretty cheap if you look around a bit. You especially would like it, I think, because the writer is a professional musician, so that forms a lot of his approach and influences his examples.

Lindsey Duncan said...

Might see if I could try to find it at Half Price Books ... definitely sounds like something I'd be interested in.

After Borders, I live in fear that Half Price is next.

Daniel Ausema said...

Amazon and Alibris both list used copies starting at $5 (then you'd pay another $4 or so for shipping). In case you need a price comparison...