For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with the idea of living in a different time period. It’s why old movies are the soundtrack to my life, and I’m a complete and utter sucker for anything classic or timeless. Give me a tune by Django Reinhardt or an Ingrid Bergman movie, and I will sit silently and contently for as long as you’d like.
I seem to always be nostalgic for people, places and things that I was never even alive for: Which is why this month’s cover illustration on The New Potato is a throwback to the old Hollywood studio lots, and its quote “You have to live spherically, in many directions,” is from one of my all-time favorite directors – Federico Fellini.
Sure, it’s easy to be nostalgic in the day and age that we’re in, but just as the Woody Allen movie Midnight in Paris hits home: Most people have always believed a different time period than the one they’re living in was better. So, where does that leave me? It doesn’t seem like my nostalgia is anything out of the ordinary.
There was a recent realization I came to after watching the newest season of Stranger Things last week. For those who haven’t seen it: It’s set in the quintessential 1980’s. Think E.T. The Extra Terrestrial or The Breakfast Club. The show’s creators – The Duffer Brothers – really took things one-step further this season by truly placing us in the 80’s. Rather than last season, which evoked the feeling of the decade but still had the show in its own sort of vacuum in a sense, this season really placed the audience directly into that decade through incredible details in production design and historic nuances as small as a Walter Mondale sign (the man who ran against Ronald Reagan) outside middle-class suburban homes.
As I watched, I became more and more convinced of this one important fact: Nostalgia, and that deep-seated (and sometimes painful) desire to be in a different time and place, is essential in kick-starting creativity. No matter what your profession is.
Matthew Weiner’s creative masterpiece Mad Men was a perfect example of this: He obsessed over every detail that came with accurately placing his audience in a certain time and place. And I think that the deeper the dedication to the time capsule, or the more nagging the nostalgia is, the more creative one can get. Whether that means drawing influence from a bunch of different time periods or throwing yourself into just one like a method actor would.
This “creative nostalgia” can come in so many forms besides entertainment, whether it’s a journalist drawing from history to make a point about the present, a scientist taking a tip from what Newton did when approaching a new experiment, or a Valedictorian quoting a speech from a former president.
The moment I stick myself in “today’s reality,” and no other place, is the moment I suddenly feel devoid of inspiration and creativity. I personally hope that’s what Fellini meant by living spherically; that if we’re not all constantly time traveling in our heads, and drawing conclusions and inspirations from that, then we’re not fully living. That’s just a guess, though.
The next line of Fellini’s quote, which sadly couldn’t fit at the top of the site, is “Never lose your childish enthusiasm – and things will come your way.”
I think nostalgia is most definitely a childish kind of enthusiasm: It’s a little bit like playing make-believe. And perhaps if we all did more of it, we’d find ourselves more and more inspired and creative; or at least we’d all just have more fun.
Is there a time period you’re nostalgic for? I’d love to hear from you!