The Artist’s Way, Nostalgia & Inspiration

Nostalgia

Nostalgia as a Source of Inspiration

I’ve been thinking lately a lot about nostalgia. Probably because of the holidays, and I’ve been back to my parents’ house a few times since Thanksgiving, Christmas and a couple of weekends spent visiting my grandmas. I go home and my old room is totally full of photographs and memorabilia. Old clothes I can’t bear to part with. Trinkets and objects collected as gifts on birthdays, books I read in college, funny notes passed to friends during class. I even have a box full of gifts and letters from my first boyfriend, although that recently made its way to the basement (unless one of my parents smartly tossed it instead.) But what do I do with the rest of all that painfully meaningful…stuff?

The Artist’s Way

Last week I started reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s sort of a self-help book (keep reading) that guides you through a 12-week course of exercises designed to tap into and re-awaken the creative self. Reciting daily affirmations is one of the exercises. I’ve never done affirmations before, but one of them resonated with me strongly: I will let myself learn how to create. It’s not that I don’t know how to technically or physically create; it’s that I have this problem where I look at creative expression as an unproductive waste of time, unless I’m already creating something totally inspiring, magical, beautiful, complicated, deep and representative of something totally important and transcendent. Which is a great way to guarantee you won’t sit down to create.

Blogging as Creative Expression

I often ask myself What’s the point of blogging? which probably had something to do with me quitting National Blog Posting Month in the middle of the month. I hate the idea of blogging as publishing my personal diary. I don’t like how much I use the word “I” in what I write here. Yet, I feel compelled to continue writing, as a form of expression. It’s an easy, instant form of expression. I could write on my computer or in a journal (or 5), which I do. But there’s something cathartic in publishing a blog post you don’t quite get from keeping it within the confines of your apartment. Putting in on the internet means it’s officially not just yours anymore; and perhaps someone else can read it and relate. Probably the best part of participating in National Blog Posting Month was receiving comments by new readers, in the form of encouragement or support. A sign of life. Someone’s at the other end of the keyboard.

The Art of Letting Go

One of the hardest things to do is to let go, and nostalgia is basically the antithesis of moving on and putting something behind you. I want to figure out a way to turn it into an art form; some way to preserve the ticket stubs, letters from classmates, photographs of people with whom I don’t speak anymore, in a way that honors their existence yet simultaneously frees me from their clutches.

I blame my mother for a lot of this intense urge to preserve the past; she is infamous for incessantly taking photographs of family, putting the images into albums and sending copies to all those who are photographed. It’s great for everyone else who receives a printed photograph in the mail following an important event like their child’s wedding. But I’ve grown up with piles and piles of doubles of the photos I’ve already put in photo albums, stuffed into my desk and cabinets like symbols of guilt. Guilt because I can’t just throw them out, since my mom spent money getting them printed. And the longer those piles sit there, the more often I encounter them when making room for more recent “stuff” I’ve accumulated.

Nostalgia is draining. There’s a time and a place for it, and it’s not every day. I’m determined to exterminate some of the nostalgia from my life, and to use this blog as the backpack exterminators wear. Or the hose they use to spray their chemicals. Or something else that makes the metaphor work.