The summer after our first gallery show, Nicholas Collazo sent his response to Why I Write. The moment I read it, I knew I had to find funds for the next year. Nick achieved what every writer and artist dreams: a genuine expression of his commitment to valuing himself and others around him.
For Nick, it took more than one attempt to feel satisfied with his response. He needed to create a quiet place where he could listen to himself. In this interview, Nick shares some thoughts on his most generous listener: the blank page. When our conversation moved from listening to expressing confidence, fashion designer Andrea-Lijoy Shields joined the fun. What follows is a conversation with Nicholas Collazo, Andrea-Lijoy Shields, and me, Jeanette Eberhardy (faculty coordinator for Why I Write. Why I Create.)
Nick: I sent my first draft response to Why I Write and you said, “Hmmm.” You wondered whether I had something more personal to say. I thought about it. I stopped worrying about the outside—about other people judging me. I started the first sentence with a personal feeling: “I’m starting to like my nose.” Then I found I was thinking about so much more. When it is just you, your thoughts and the page—good or bad—you are your most vulnerable. That’s when it [new thinking] begins—in the silence between you and yourself. The page is open to whatever you have to say. It’s just there to listen. What surprised me in this experience with Why I Write was feeling confident enough to put myself out there with no fear of being judged.
Andrea: Confidence can be scary. When you exude confidence, you cannot waiver. It takes a lot of strength to be unapologetically yourself and not care what people have to say about that.
Jeanette: Are you speaking of the kind of confidence that comes with a genuine feeling of connection to yourself?
Andrea: Yes, my strength is in staying connected to myself.
Jeanette: How do you stay connected to yourself?
Nick: You have to surround yourself with people who want you to be your best self.
Andrea: There is a lot of adversity to confidence because a person may feel they are lacking it—which is interesting.
Nick: Everybody does have confidence. Sometimes it’s buried or locked away.
Jeanette: The poet David Whyte feels we need to “encourage the best in them [friends], not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.”
Nick: Yes, and you also need to have confidence in your awareness of your connection to everyone around you—to hold awareness of the impact you may have on others.
Jeanette: Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your practice on valuing yourself and those around you.
Faculty Response: Sarah Bapst
What Nick and Andrea write about self-connection and not being concerned with how others might judge one’s own actions is very important. What they describe takes courage and personal strength to act and not let the possible judgment of others affect one’s actions, art, writing. And I also very much value what Jeanette says about encouraging the best in others.
I am reminded of Haruki Murakami for his use of the metaphor of a ‘well’ in The Wind-up Bird Chronicle: At various points in the novel, different characters find themselves in a dry well and in very different contexts. At one point Lieutenant Mamiya is thrown into a deep dry well for what at first reading appears to be a form of punishment and mortal imprisonment. In another part of the novel, a character voluntarily retreats to a dry well as a self-imposed silent space in which to think. The ambiguity of the metaphor of the well forces the reader to search subjectively for its meaning. The metaphor could be viewed then in itself as a means by which the author encourages the reader to forge a self-connection.
Professor Sarah Bapst teaches Visual Language and TIME in the Studio Foundation Department. Bapst’s work includes sculpture, works on paper, and photography. Literature is a more recent reference. Her work has been features in regional and national group shows. In 2013, Bapst’s work was included as a nominee in the Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art Foster Prize Exhibit.
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