Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Creativity Tips: Remember Your Roots

One of the strongest creative influences in my life was Sophie Eisen, my grandmother. I've spoken about her a few times on the CI blog, but there's so much more to say. Now, thanks to wonderful photographs from the amazing Leslie, I am prepared to share! Over the next week or so, I'll bring you creativity tips from Nanny (that's what we called Sophie), beautifully illustrated by Leslie's photographs.

Let's start with this shot of Nanny holding me. I was 2. She was 58. (Feel free to post comments re: how adorable I am. Thank you.)

The first lesson? Your perspective shapes how you see the world. Creative growth recognizes and embraces changing perspectives. For example, 58 doesn't sound as old to me now as it did then. I can embrace that. However, when I look at Nanny at 58, I have a hard time reconciling that with me at 56.

We all see the world through our own (distorted? You tell me.) lenses. To boost creativity, change your perspective -- consciously and deliberately. Ask yourself: How would a child view this creative challenge? What would an accountant do with this? If you had to explain it to someone who didn't speak English, could you? How?

Changing perspectives opens your eyes to new possibilities. Don't believe me? Change your physical perspective and see how different the world looks.

Back to the photo -- look at that hold she has on me. Nanny was solid. She was strong. She had the best heart ever.

But I digress. The date on the photograph reminds me of another creativity lesson Nanny embodied: If you don't like reality, change it.

Nanny, who was born on Feb. 13, 1899, was very superstitious. VERY superstitious. So having a birthday on the 13th really didn't work for her. What to do? Simple. On every form and whenever asked, Nanny claimed that her birthday was Feb. 12, 1899.

Would that have been a problem had she needed a passport? Possibly. But she didn't need a passport. She needed a birthday that wasn't on unlucky 13. When Nanny didn't like something, she didn't complain, she didn't whine, she didn't sulk. She fixed it. Now there's a concept.

We were lucky to have Nanny for 77 years; she died of cancer in 1976 and I still miss her every single day. Truly. It's not that physical pain anymore, but it's constant. I don't care what they say: There are some deaths you really never "get over."

And why would we want to?


Jan said...

It's good that I make a living with words, not numbers. The photo is from Feb. 1957, so I was not 2. I was 1.

The age factor does not change the adorableness. :-)

Leslie said...

Good lessons...and yes, you are adorable! (You need to click on the photo to see it larger to truly appreciate the cuteness.)

Vicki said...

So cute! I miss my grandmothers, too.

Angela@RecipesFromMyMom said...

The one thing I find so fun and charming about you and your Nanny is your matching headwear. I can just hear her saying," Janet, put on your scarf just like Nanny so we can go to the park." I've always loved the name Sophie.

Anonymous said...

I'm in my 40s and still cry because I miss my Grandma. I don't think I realize how much of an influence she really was. She would fry baloney in butter, put it on two slices of white bread with mayo and then wink and say, "That's what makes it taste good." And, boy, did it! She would chase us grand kids around the house trying to get "neck meat" as she called it. She'd kiss and hug us till we were worn slick. And, she would let us stick our wet fingers in the sugar bowl up to the second knuckle. I remember one time, I was carrying a blender from my aunt's house to Grandma's (they lived next door to each other) and the glass bowl part of the blender fell off and broke on the hard garage floor. I cried and cried and apologized. I'll never forget what Grandma said, "Don't you know I love you more than that old blender?"

I love you, Grandma.

Jan said...

Isn't it amazing the impact people have on us, and the memories we treasure? Grandmothers and others may not realize how, "Don't you know I love you more than that old blender" becomes part of our sense of self; those are the comments that shape people.

Thanks to all of you for posting!