Spotlight On: Daniel J. Nickolas

Daniel is in his last year at PSU, duel majoring in English and German. “Dies ist mein letztes Jahr an PSU. I habe zwei Hauptfächer, Englisch und Deutsch.”

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: It changes over time, and there is never only one. I have a strong affinity for John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row (John Steinbeck in general is a favorite of mine), the historical biographies of Doris Kearns Goodwin are incredible, and Toni Morrison’s Paradise was an experience like no other. Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung is a current favorite.

Q: Who or what influences and inspires your art the most?

A: Reading is essential to writing. It’s always inspiring to see what others have done / are doing with language and storytelling. I’m especially lucky in this regard, because my sister is also a writer; we use each other as editors and beta-readers for our work, and the differences in our styles of writing always makes me think more critically about the way I use (or could be using) language. Also, the world, despite all its problems, is an awesome place; like a lot of writers, I find nature to be a consistent source of inspiration—have you ever thought about trees, I mean really thought about them? Wow.

Q: What are your favorite art mediums to work with?

A: Since I’m a writer, I’ll take this question to mean what forms I like writing in. The answer is all of them. I love the whole spectrum of writing, from highly metaphorical poetry to checking the comma usage of technical reports. Currently, I am very intrigued by odes and internal rhyme as far as poetry goes, am trying to find my footing in the novel as a form, and am heavily exploring journalism (I’m currently the opinions editor at the PSU magazine, The Pacific Sentinel).

Q: What do you do about creative blocks?

A: Ignore them. Creative blocks usually just mean that you need to step away from a particular piece for a little while, and that’s a great opportunity to work on something else. I’ve learned not to buy into the mentality of “I don’t know what to write about”; because there is always something to be found. As I’m writing this, I’m looking through a window of the PSU library, watching a woman in black dance in the rain. The dance is improv but has a fluid energy, like the way Nymphs must dance. What a stimulus for writing! And all I had to do was look up. The world is bursting at its seams with inspiration.

Q: Do you have a favorite time of day to make art?

A: I prefer to write in the mornings, though I often feel like revising goes better in the evenings. However, being a student usually means my favorite time to write is during those periods of the day when I have time do something other than work, be in class, or do homework. Student life means I have a lot of scraps of writing, written on a lot of scraps of paper.