Boost your creativity using nostalgia

​I’m curious. How is your creative life? 

​It has been ​polarising time​ of late, hasn't it? Some have thrived while others have slumped. Perhaps you’ve done both.

As someone who pays the bills by being creative every day, ​recent years have presented me with some intense challenges. So I’ve been hitting them head-on to learn as much as possible from the experience.

One of my most intriguing discoveries has been the power of nostalgia to unlock creativity. Meditating on some of my best artistic experiences has got me out of a rut repeatedly in recent months. And this idea is backed by solid research, too. Psychologists at Southampton University have proven that reflecting on wistful memories before starting work tangibly improves creativity. 

Go beyond time and space

You can use this technique whenever you’re feeling claustrophobic or restricted – a condition the pandemic has imposed on most of us for long periods. This works because whenever we engage in nostalgic thought, our minds step outside of time and space, and we experience our creative world from an eternal rather than temporal viewpoint. This sense of spaciousness encourages us to widen our thoughts and explore with a more expansive outlook.

Reflective nostalgia implies a distance across time between our present situation and our sepia-tinged memories. These memories are often from our childhood or youth when there was less pressure attached to us being creative. They assure us of our lives’ continued significance and that we belong, in both a physical and chronological sense.

When we notice how much time has stretched out behind us, it reveals just how narrow our current timeline position is. It’s more fleeting than we think. Recalibrating with this perspective is vital for letting ourselves off the hook whenever it seems like we must produce perfect work and do it now.

End the struggle

So, if you’re stagnating or feeling under pressure, you have my permission to end the struggle today. It’s wearing you down.

Instead, retreat to a quiet place and bring to mind work you’re proud of, or a creative experience that brought you joy. Recall those times. Relax into the memory. Remember what it felt like when you were alive and artistically fulfilled. Be aware of the sensations in your body as they change to echo the memory. Then let the familiar, affirming emotions that arise ease you away from anxiety, and into a state of flow.

This is who you are.

Then, when you are ready –

Go create.