J.K. Rowling remains one of the biggest names in modern writing long after the conclusion of the Harry Potter series. How she made it to the top is a great story in itself, a tale of persistence and struggle. And now, how she keeps her more recent works relevant and her integrity intact is also worthy of note. As we all make our way up the slippery slope of success, listening to the calming tones of the Edinburgh-based author talking about fear of failure can help inspire anyone.
The Power to Imagine Better
When she was writing Harry Potter, Rowling said she had nothing left to lose. In her twenties, as a single mother living under the threat of homelessness, the only way was up, and the strongest tool was her imagination. Her young life was going nowhere fast and as an inveterate story writer, she found strength in her skills and Harry Potter was born.
Later, living in Edinburgh with the first story, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone in the US), she received a stream of rejection letters from publisher after publisher. However, she was forthright enough to decide that she had to keep going until she had been rejected by every single publisher.
Wherever you are in your stage of life, your dreams or that grand business plan, there’s probably a lot further to fall to rock bottom, and a lot higher to climb for success, but Rowling is a perfect example of never giving up and talking positives from any situation you find yourself in.
Rowling Success by Stealth
After the Harry Potter roller coaster, what on earth does someone do for an encore? She tried to play it straight with The Casual Vacancy, which received very mixed reviews. Rowling took the sensible route by giving herself some breathing space and diving into one of literature’s safer havens by using a pseudonym for her next books. Robert Galbraith’s Cuckoo’s Calling was also turned down by publishers as she tried to produce something that didn’t involve wizards and schools.
Of course, the last laugh was on those rejecting publishers, as the book became a best seller once the true identity of the author was leaked, very much against her wishes! Galbraith continues to be an avenue in which Rowling can expand her writing and explore new avenues without any of the pressure.
Consider the number of bands and musicians who have side-projects to blow off steam, and games developers who trot out small indie projects. Perhaps this is why so many companies allow their staff “special project,” “tweak time,” or other ways to divert their energy into something that may prove beneficial, but hugely improves the workplace.
Using Her Power For Good
With celebrity and fame come endless requests for patronage, support, and donations. J.K. Rowling does her fair share of good deeds mostly away from the public eye, but will speak up for many good causes when needed. Most recently, the new London mayor is under pressure from Rowling and Potter star Emma Watson for a statue in London to represent the Suffragette movement.
With millions of still young fans, she provides advice and is a useful source of memes on Twitter, always with a positive spin and a kick in the teeth of the rude or pompous. Naturally, the continuing clamor for Harry Potter has seen spin-offs, like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, plays and theme parks, but Rowling keeps tight control over the tone of these projects.
Rowling’s Meaning of Life
A lot of this story has been brilliantly encapsulated in her commencement speech to a graduating Harvard class a few years back. To hear it from the good lady herself puts everything in perspective, it reminds us that no matter how great her success, she could just as easily be one of us, and we could also become the next great star:
In it, she highlights taking responsibility for your own life and decisions, that personal happiness doesn’t come from material possessions or wealth. That being at the bottom makes a great starting place as you have nothing left to lose and without failure, there is nothing to measure success against.
While that might be great advice for young graduates, it is information that could inform their decision making through life, helping to build a better class of artist or leader, if only a small percentage of the audience take her advice.
With ever rags to riches tale, there is an element of luck. But the overriding takeaway from those who made it to the top is persistence, fortitude, and self-reliance. Take those skills with you on your journey through life and the world could well be your magical oyster.