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Finding Creativity in Old Things

We tend to romanticize the past. And, as a whole, I think that’s a good thing, especially when it comes to objects (and habits and processes) that now seem like relics.

Maps. Boomboxes. Rotary phones. Cassette tapes. VCR. Floppy disks. Typewriters. Polaroids. Pen pals. Card catalogues. Trapper Keepers. Metal lunch boxes. Sticker books. Old textbooks. Negatives.

In the book I Want to Be Creative: Thinking, Living and Working More Creatively author Harriet Griffey mentions the work of London-based photographic artist Dafna Talmor: She “makes collages from hand-cut negatives, cutting out any man-made artefact from her landscapes and piecing them together before developing the photograph, producing visually interesting and beautiful effects for her Constructed Landscapes series.”

This reminds me of the power and magic of using old materials. Which can help us rediscover our creativity and breathe new life into seemingly forgotten, lost things.

Consider the different ways that you can do just that. Start by making a list of beloved old objects, whether they’re specific things you have in your home or not (or outdated ways of doing things). For instance, you might list old toys, letters, photographs, fold-out maps, postcards, cans, antique brooches.

You can even make an artist date out of it, and visit garage sales, used bookstores or antique shops, and pick up an item or two that really resonates with you. (Or just enjoy browsing. Simply noticing what catches your attention can inspire you and spark new ideas.)

Then think about how you can get creative and use these old things in interesting, innovative ways. Because the possibilities and opportunities and ideas are truly endless.

That is, how might you combine something old with something new? How might you combine a new technology with an old one?

How might you combine an old artistic process with a new process? (You could spend the day or an hour at the library reading about how artists from a certain era produced their work and what inspired them.)

How can you use a typewriter to spin a new tale? How can you use an older, lesser-known instrument to make new music? How can you create a found poem using a book from the 19th century?

How can you use old photographs to create new images? How can you use an antique tea set to kick-start your novel? Can you look into having a pen pal, and send each other weekly or monthly letters?

Looking to the past can be invaluable. It can ignite our creativity in all sorts of ways, and help us refresh our perspective. It can help us resurrect things or processes that have become relics—objects, remnants, methods, mediums and tools that we rarely think of today, and yet are important and fascinating and magical.

What old object, process, or idea can you rediscover, resurrect and even honor with your incredible imagination? 

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash

Finding Creativity in Old Things

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Finding Creativity in Old Things. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Dec 2018
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