Letting Go

I’m about to hand off a manuscript to my agent—my novel Tui, set in New Zealand. It took me a long time to get to this story, as I sorted through and made some sort of peace—a poignant truce—with my time in Aotearoa. And yet the more I wrote, the more any of the “I” that may have been present in the story dissolved and became something utterly distinct from me and my experiences. That’s the magic of writing for me. That I, as the storyteller, really have no idea where a narrative road will lead, no matter my intended destination at the beginning.


A sense of melancholy accompanies the completion of a novel, that point when it’s time to set your story free from the shelter of your imagination and open it to the eyes and feedback of others. You’ll never again encounter these characters with the same sense of wonder and discovery. But this time, the wistfulness is paired with disquietude. When I press send and release these few hundred pages into the ether, I will be without a new novel to work on.


Oh, the ideas are there; the stories stand half-slumped against the wall, whistling softly, waiting for me to crook my finger and call them forth. But now is not the time.


The preliminary planning and first draft work are, for me, an all-encompassing commitment of energy and emotion. When I begin, it’s like being inside an empty dance studio: there’s some structure—four walls, a ceiling—but the room is vast-white-bright, filled with the natural light of possibility, creativity, echoing with the happy shouts of ideas. I can whirl and leap on the pages for hours a day, weeks or months on end as the work expands and grows, breath filling my lungs, blood filling my heart. It demands everything and I acquiesce with joy.

Kaikoura, New Zealand © 2015 Julie Christine Johnson

Kaikoura, New Zealand © 2015 Julie Christine Johnson


But for the immediate future, that dance studio has become a recital hall, crowded with chairs, noisy with clinking glasses, tapping feet, voices rising and falling; a cacophonous celebration of the performance I’m preparing for: the launch of In Another Life. And in the quiet moments, my editor and I will put our heads together over revisions of The Crows of Beara. 


Three novels in three years. It’s time to channel all my energy into sending one off into the world and reshaping another, while letting the third go, for now. It’s time to sit with my disquietude and wistfulness, as the well I have emptied these past three years refills, until the moment comes when I can dance again in that great, empty, silent room.


There is writing when you are intending to, and this other, less frequent, sometimes more beautiful writing that just comes. ~ James Salter

20 thoughts on “Letting Go

    • Hah! I love that you asked, Cinda! It’s now tentatively titled ‘Upside-Down Girl’, has been edited by my agent and a publishing editor, and now awaits my revisions before my agent sends it out on submissions. I’ve got to get through my copyedits for The Crows of Beara this month- early December deadline, then I turn my attention to Upside-Down Girl. Can’t wait. So ready to pick it up again after months and months of percolating… ❤


  1. Lovely, poetic, velvety images you always create with your words, Julie. Your writing soothes. It’s stunning and powerful and so are you. I’m thrilled for the world to be introduced to more of your brilliance next month. I wish I could come support you in Seattle, but know I’m sending you much love as you step into that recital hall. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Girl – you’re an inspiration! Three books in Three Years! You kicked butt!
    Sending good vibes for Tui. (My favourite bird and one if the joys of living in NZ.)
    Pirouetting with joy for you for the imminent book launch/debut! 🙂
    Mwah x


  3. Well done Julie. Three novels in three years. Wow! Let’s crack open the bubbly! Time to celebrate and enjoy the holidays! I love the way you describe your ideas – leaning up against the wall – this hits the nail on the head for me on the essence of writer spirit where every thought plays out as a character, a story without trying. It can be hard to write these thoughts down and do them justice, sure! It can also be hard to press pause and just live – good luck with that! I’m desperate to read your work – once I get to the end of my current pile of books in the new year, I
    hope! Merry Christmas etc! X


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