What Drives Me | Jillian Sullivan

What Drives Me

What Drives You?

A student writer asked me the question “What drives me?” for an assignment he was doing. It was an interesting question to reflect on, to consciously look at what I often subconsciously create.

In my writing for young people and for adults I’m passionate about how people treat others – first, that children have the love and safety they need to thrive, and then that people show compassion towards each other.

With my first collection of short stories for teenagers, Hey Tony, there were two incidents that gave me the desire to write those stories. One was the reported death of a young boy after he had sneaked out to his school dance and was beaten by his stepfather. The other was the death from a drink driving accident of a young man, Tony, who had come to live with us after he became estranged from his family and had spent some time in prison.

I wanted to write stories that reflected the sometimes difficult, rejecting, or struggling backgrounds that teenagers had to live within. I wanted to show there was hope and that it came through caring for one another. In the story Sheba, the girl is wary of her stepfather and feels lost in her family. But when her horse Sheba dies, the girl’s stepfather digs the grave for her horse. The story captures that moment when a person does something out of compassion for another, and how that action has the possibility to transform their relationship.

The importance of compassion and empathy – the actions that reveal love- was my driver for writing Hey Tony. Having some sense of a person’s life and what made them be who they are can generate compassion and understanding.

Sometimes in my writing I want to fix things in my own life. For instance in the novel What About Bo? a boy longs for his father. He grows stronger, he grows in maturity, and at the end his father comes home and the family is reunited. I wanted that ending because I didn’t get it in my life with my own father or with my children’s father. Writing to make it right. In my new novel now I’m driven by a desire to understand love and betrayal. I think through my characters and their choices I may come to understand  betrayal more, increase my own understanding and compassion, and then that of the reader.

Sometimes I write a story because I get offered the job and I need the money. The need for money causes the story to arise, but what drives me in the writing of the story is still this compulsion to reveal compassion within the characters’ world. Even in the educational non-fiction market I will strive to portray moments of understanding and transformation in a person’s life.

What drives YOU?

Let me know in a comment :)

About Jillian

Jillian is an award-winning author for children, young adults, and adults. A mother of 5, a Grandma of 6, a teacher of the 'Hero's Journey' and a builder of straw bale houses.

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