Blog 13

Feeding the Page

Editors’ note: New Zealand author Jillian Sullivan talks about her writing in our latest post. We would like to note that Jillian just received a London Book Festival 2014 Honourable Mention for a Spiritual Book, for her ebook, A Guide to Creating. Congratulations! And thank you for telling us a bit about you and writing. Jillian’s story ‘Underneath the Motherland’ appears in Issue 1.


Lately I haven’t been writing on my big projects. I’ve been making mud and plastering mud, and this morning there was a trout to rescue in a diminishing pool in the Ida Burn on my boundary. But not writing means I’m doing things I can write about. That’s one of the best things about being a writer – everything feeds the page: remorse, trout, my middle of the night hospital job, grandchildren coming to stay, broken love, and tiling.

And the other thing about not writing is the renewed surge of longing to write. When you can’t wait to get to the page. Sitting at the computer, finally, when you’ve got a room to yourself, is like easing into a hot bath after a long day hammering. The bliss of it. Because the flipside of that bliss is doubt.

Doubt can go away at the moment. Tomorrow the latest batch of mud is four days old and needs to go onto the wall. That means lugging buckets and smoothing mud on with trowel and hand. So time becomes precious. In between night shifts and building, carrying buckets of water down to the glasshouse, and standing to watch the sunset flare on the clouds over the Raggedies in the southwest, there are lines of poems, a character waiting for a story, and two unfinished books making their presence felt.

Deadlines work well for me. March is the cut off for my code of compliance. Hence the mud and lime. I like journals with cut off dates for submissions, and competitions; they bring forth work, on time, and sometimes unexpectedly. The long haul book length projects have no deadline and have slipped behind slaking lime and nailing bracing. Poems are easier to manage. And notes jotted in a notebook and on scraps of paper, they’re the lifesavers in all of this. They keep a record, they keep slivers of inspiration alive, they keep the pen moving. My favourite hint: to grab a pen and notebook, or the laptop, and write without stopping for twenty minutes, on anything –on a character, on a poem, on a scene, on a memory. Sometimes that all it takes.

Jillian Sullivan lives and writes in the Ida Valley, Central Otago, where she is finishing her strawbale house. Her latest books are the poetry collection parallel, and the ebook A Guide to Creating, both from Steele Roberts Publishers.

Jillian Sullivan

Jillian Sullivan lives in the Ida Valley, Central Otago. Last year she received the NZSA Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship to write about place. Her published books include creative non-fiction, novels, short story collections and poetry. She teaches writing in New Zealand and America. Her awards include the Highlights Fiction Award in America, and the Kathleen Grattan Prize for poetry. Her latest book is the memoir A Way Home, on building her strawbale home.

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