I come from a generation half-raised by J.K. Rowling. Midnight releases, donning black robes on July 31st, and sorting people into houses was the bread and butter of my youth. Yes, I cried looking up at the castle at Universal Studios, and I traveled to Scotland to write my name on the “Dumbledore’s Army” list in the bathroom at The Elephant House. Yes, I destroyed my parents’ kitchen attempting to brew butterbeer, and in college I wrote at least one paper a year about The Chosen One. And yes, I anticipate walking down the aisle to ‘Hedwig’s Theme’…
I know I’m not the only one who bore an obsession with that story. But what evolved from my obsession, more than anything else, was my desire to write.
On January 6th, 2019, J.K. Rowling released a post: “On Writing” on her website. She claims that with all the expectations she broke, she can’t say that there are “rules” to writing. However, she says to, “concentrate on the ‘you probably won’t get far withouts’, which are: Reading… Discipline… Resilience and Humility… Courage… [and] Independence.”
These aims manifest within my writing life.
I read a book a week. On top of YA fantasy titles (as that is what I write), I often foray into historical fiction, the classics, self-improvement, comedy, mystery, and anything written by Bill Bryson. I can’t imagine what my view on life would be without stories. “You are what you read” I used to say… before I opened THE SHINING (okay, maybe I look a little like something out of a Stephen King novel after a really intense workout).
Discipline comes in many forms: forming healthy habits, sticking to self-imposed schedules, and continuing to make progress despite lack of energy. I am a long distance runner, and every time I come to my breaking point, I compare running to writing. Just edit one more chapter. Just two miles left to go. Just 500 more words. As Rowling says, “Sometimes you have to write even when the muse isn’t cooperating.”
No writer can prosper without resilience and humility. It’s a struggle to keep going when you get feedback from a beta-reader telling you the preface you spent hours honing is boring. It’s hard to get rejection after rejection, not knowing where your story turns people off. When the cheers your optimistic friends and family gave you when you started writing begin to subside into questions about what you really intend to do with your future, you just want to give up on the world you’ve spent years creating. It’s a constant battle to improve, hone your skills, and hold onto your dreams. Take a step, and keep going because “…rejection and criticism are part of a writer’s life.”
When Rowling writes about courage, neon red and gold signs start flashing in my brain. I remember looking out of an open plane door, and leaping with the thought “I am a Gryffindor.” Every time I surf in areas where sharks have bitten unlucky swimmers, I reflect that if I avoided everything that scared me, I would do nothing at all. When I purposefully stand up to someone because I think it’s the right thing to do, despite hating confrontation, I give a nod to Neville in Sorcerer’s Stone. Rowling says, “Fear of failure is the saddest reason on earth not to do what you were meant to do.” I still hold my breath when I press the “submit” button to agents, but I do it.
On independence, I agree wholeheartedly: “Your job is to do the best you can, improving your own inherent limitations where possible, learning as much as you can and accepting that perfect works of art are only slightly less rare than perfect human beings.”
I often think, while drowning in red pen marks, that if I can influence just one person the way J.K. Rowling influenced me, it’ll all be worth it.