The Power of Nostalgia for Creativity

The following is a guest post courtesy of Stephen C. Barns

Nostalgia can be comforting. It can also make a person sad or full of depression, I have experienced both from nostalgia. For a long time after high school, up until 2020-2021, I was angry, depressed, and full of anxiety.

I couldn’t deal with the way society sees/treats people with disabilities. This combined with family struggles, an arts group I was a part of disbanded, led to a long identity crisis.

I hit my bottom then went to treatment. The climb from the darkness began and it has not been easy at all for me or my supporters, with recovery there is no finish line.

When I was in treatment, I often fell back on that nostalgia to help me think about the bigger questions in life. It brought me much comfort and helped me find answers.

Let me get this out of the way, there is no 100% foolproof method for recovery. It is extremely subjective depending on the person and their background.

The journey, even when I came home, didn’t go the way I planned. In hindsight, it helped me reconnect with my passions and purpose in life and now I want to pay it forward.

The general consensus is that recovery is for yourself and I do agree but in my case, it was also for others. I never saw the blessings I had before, but recovery allowed me to see them.

I listened to a friend and participated in an advocacy course. I heard an inner voice saying you have to talk about institutionalization, it’s not about you, so I shared my story/the truth.

From there I grew in terms of advocacy and healing, I have had a great chance to reflect on my life artistically and beyond. I struggled with advocacy and losing time for artistic therapy but when the pandemic hit as my head got more clear after getting away from an institutional abusive relationship, I found artistic educational and advocacy opportunities.

When I used to get nostalgic it would bring sorrow and regret. As I grew and connected with my artistic side I started to see the good. I would go back and watch old movies and learn about how they were made and that inspired me to forge my own creative path, not worrying about what others would think.

Creative walls began to come down as I began to connect with other artists, I watched and read things that feed my creative energies both old and new. Older is anything from the early 2000s or decades before that i.e. Spielberg

I started to see stories everywhere I listened to D.V.D and Blu-Ray commentaries, and many artists have shared pieces of their life or creative/nostalgic energies and how or why they did something.

Creators will share inspirations from their childhood or homages from T. V, shows/movies, books, and references to their other interests. For one example, seasons 7-8 showrunners on The Simpsons Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein who also created the sitcom Mission Hill, put a lot of old-timey and some historical references such as the prohibition episode.

Once I started the good side, the positive energy from nostalgia started with my inner-child. The child that wouldn’t be jaded and wouldn’t overthink things. I relearned how to suspend disbelief and fight back against my inner critic.

I have built a cocoon of movies, shows, and even books that I’ve always been either curious about or inspired by, things I loved before my struggles started. It is

such a wonderful feeling to re-discover this art and be able to finally understand the content and its meaning in the larger world.

There is a danger in dismissing arts, whether it be gaming, science fiction, etc. These are the builders of our future and are steeped deep in our collective history.

Artists figure out, are we reflecting the world we see around us or are we shaping the world? Or maybe both.

My Cocoon (in no particular order)

  • Simpsons seasons 1-10, 19
  • The Critic ( Cartoon)
  • Three’s Company except Season 6
  • All in the Family ( I have various seasons and would like all)
  • The original Twilight Zone
  • Various older Steven King movies – The Shining TV mini-series and the movie.
  • The Flintstones – Complete series
  • Terminator 1 and 2
  • The Flintstones – I Yabba dabba do
  • ET
  • Never-ending Story 1 and 2
  • The Flintstones – I rocka bye baby
  • Taxi Driver
  • Explorers
  • Gremlins
  • Rosanne – All seasons
  • The Pebbles and Bam Bam show
  • The Fablemens
  • Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Three plays by Shakespeare
  • A script writing book by Syd field
  • Writing Television Comedy
  • AA read along
  • Alan On Courage to Change one day at a Time
  • New Politics of Disablement

If I was to summarize why I chose these movies it is because when I was a kid some of these movies would play as reruns. Then as I was watching documentaries like “E True Hollywood Story” they would talk about these classic films and shows. These brought me back to the time of dreaming and drawing.

These creators have taught me how you can create subtext and stories with purpose. I picked the Fablemens as a newer one because that one movie shows the passion of creativity and its therapeutic properties.

Quite a few of my books I have the movie of as I like to compare what was left out or how things were tackled.

Why were these books bought growing up? I heard about these classic books but being in special needs classes we never read them and I always wanted to read them. I just like a good friend of mine who said “You only learn more from writing by listening or looking at how other writers write”.

Thank you so much.