J K Rowling (How To Have A Writing Career That Looks Like A Miracle)

J. K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter Series, a book that was almost not published but turned out into an eight-book series with more than 600 million copies sold over the decades, a book franchise, a movie franchise, and tons of merchandise sold, putting the author as one of the billionaire authors to ever exist. 

If you are reading this blog for the first time, this post is one where I look into one of the talented people’s lives and glean the lessons you can take from their work and life. This post is about the renowned author, J. K. Rowling. You can find the other profiles here. They are mostly about authors and creative people. 

So, J. K. Rowling? 

The initials stand for Joanne Kathleen Rowling. Using initials in her author’s name was what her publisher suggested when the first edition of Harry Potter was to be published. At the time,  it was uncommon to see female authors writing fantasy. So, they suggested to her a gender-neutral name, and she chose J. K. Rowling. 

How Did She Become An Author

It’s a typical story. Most authors are initially fascinated with writing, and then they become obsessed. You just like it and want to do it for a living. Then, you keep at it because people like what you do and because you also enjoy doing it, even if you can’t figure out how to make a living out of writing yet.

In a commencement speech at Havard in 2008, she said she always wanted to become an author. She always loved to write stories even if her parents didn’t see how that could make her live or give her a life of comfort. How wrong of them! But they could have been right. 

J. K. Rowling’s book was rejected many times. I’ve written about it before: Finding the right audience. Harry Potter might not have been published if a certain publisher hadn’t given a copy to his daughter, who couldn’t sleep until she finished it. 

So, the first book was published, and it got some positives, though it was just some local sales, but enough to encourage more productions. What they didn’t know was that the book would become a huge part of history, literature, and movies from 1997 till date. 

These are Lessons From J. K. Rowling 

If you’re looking for a place to listen to her talk about her life story, I highly recommend her commencement speech at Harvard.

These are the things I learned from her. 

Failure leaves you with a few important options 

If you have many options, it probably means you haven’t really failed in a grand style. A horrible failure will give you one option alone: surviving. 

J. K. Rowling said she failed on a grand scale, and the humility that followed made her focus on what she knows how to do best: writing. 

Think about it this way: When you’re really down, what do you grab onto? It’s usually something within your reach or anything at all. For most people, we look around and within and do what’s best we can do. Use our skills or think of ways to make things less difficult. Many of the things you used to wish for will be forgotten. When it gets tough, you think of essentials like water, a place to sleep, and good health. You realize humans don’t need so much to survive. All those aspirations of tremendous fortune take a backseat for some time, and when you get comfortable again, you realize it’s a privilege to have big ambitions. 

Try your best to get the right result 

At the beginning of her education, she had an argument with her parents about what to study, and she had to do what they wanted even though she wanted something else: literature. She still did her best to pass her examinations.

You can take this lesson to your work. Maybe you’re working at a job you don’t like or struggling financially. You should have some kind of qualities or results you strive to get right. Those might not help you directly, but they can lead to dignity and pride or connect you to someone interested in other things you do. 

A preacher of resilience and humility 

Her life inspires many people, especially if you are an author, especially if you have thought about writing so much that it consumes you every day and when you close your eyes to sleep. 

J. K. Rowling preaches about resilience and humility regularly. Why? Life is good at many things; one is testing your patience. If that has never happened to you, you’re among the few. 

“(Resilience and humility) go hand-in-hand, because rejection and criticism are part of a writer’s life. Informed feedback is useful and necessary, but some of the greatest writers were rejected multiple times. Being able to pick yourself up and keep going is invaluable if you’re to survive your work being publicly assessed. The harshest critic is often inside your own head.”

J K Rowling On Writing 

Failure has some benefits 

I have practically listened to her speech more than a hundred times since 2013, the first time I saw it online. The title is “The fringe benefits of failure.” I was still a teenager. Before then, I didn’t accept that failure has any usefulness.  

Failure teaches you humility. No one is more humble and broken than someone who has failed in a grand style. 

Failure is an extreme test of strength. When you fail, you either try to stand or remain down forever. 

And one of the things failure never fails to remind you is that there is a place you don’t want to be again — the ground where all you have is shame or depressing thoughts. 

“Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies. The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.”

Stand for something  

J. K. Rowling has been contributing to charities for a long time. From her speech and stance, an important aspect of her life mission is advocating for fairness. Even her books have the themes of the powerless or underdogs standing together to fight the powerful evil.

Harry supports or protects the last species of the dragon before anyone gets hold of it. In the series, modesty was a topic. Harry Potter wears the simplest things: shoes, shirts, and glasses, but that’s not as important in life. What’s important is the things he stands for and fights for. 

These are the things I am learning as I grow as a writer. You, too, can do the same. What’s one thing that disgusts you in society, and you can’t stand seeing it continue? Stand for something. Write characters that stand for that. Embody it. 

She sees the ability to speak freely as a privilege. 

“If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

J. K. Rowling

Do your best

It’s improper to say you have failed when you haven’t given your best effort to something. This is similar to hunting in the forest and blowing a trumpet. You’re sabotaging your success before you have a chance. If you want to do something, do it in grand style. Put your best shot. Have a knack for diligent work. When you finish, you will have so much faith in your work. When people say no, you will still have pride in what you have created.

“Never wait in expectation of perfection or you’ll wait forever. Do the best you can with what you’ve got, and be one of those who dared rather than those who merely dream.”

J K Rowling

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child

“I’m going to keep going until I succeed — or die. Don’t think I don’t know how this might end. I’ve known it for years.”

Harry Potter

You can listen to her old interviews

Watch her commencement speech 

Read the Harry Potter Series 

If you like to read other authors I have written about, check the menu at the top for WHO IS YOUR TEACHER.

I have covered Zadie Smith and Teju Cole.

You can also check my books if you love suspense, mystery, and romance.