J K Rowling, the creative genius behind the Harry Potter series, overcame great adversity to become the esteemed writer she is today. ELANA SISSISON explores Rowling’s journey and advice for writers.

“You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity.”

These are the words of J K Rowling, who understands adversity in its many forms.

A storyteller extraordinaire, Rowling has experienced personal hardships, from financial struggles to depression, on her road to literary success.

J K Rowling’s Harvard speech 

At her lowest ebb, she was unemployed, a single mother and in a depression so severe that at times she contemplated suicide. Coupled with her dire financial situation, Rowling had to rely on welfare benefits to survive.

During a 2008 Harvard University commencement speech, Rowling spoke with candour about these challenging times. “I was the biggest failure I knew and as poor as one can be in England without having to be homeless.” 

However, it was in this hopeless space that Rowling began writing her first novel.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The magical story of Harry Potter and his cohorts came to Rowling’s mind while on a delayed train journey from Manchester to King’s Cross station in London.  

 “Coincidentally, I didn’t have a pen and was too shy to ask anyone for one on the train, which frustrated me at the time, but when I look back it was the best thing for me.  It gave me the full four hours on the train to think up all the ideas for the book.”

As the narrative unfolded, Rowling had a dream. The dream was to share this story with readers, both young and old.  

With steely determination, Rowling spent hours in nearby cafés enthusiastically plotting her story – her daughter in her pram nearby. 

Writing became a diversion. A creative detour from her misfortunes. 

And it worked.

Harry Potter series gets published

Once the first three chapters were completed, Rowling enthusiastically submitted it to several publishers. Twelve rejected it. The thirteenth gave her the thumbs up – providing she assume the pen name J.K. Rowling. 

In 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit the shelves and within weeks exploded into a global sensation. This heralded the beginning of the Potter Era. 

J K Rowling’s writing success 

Seven sequels later, the Harry Potter series had sold 450 million copies in 78 languages worldwide and had generated eight blockbuster film adaptations. 

In less than ten years from the publishing of her first novel, Rowling had amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune and had become the most successful literary author of all time. 

Notably too, she had inspired a generation of young readers who had clearly fallen under Harry Potter’s spell. Even the daunting length of the books could not deter these young Potter fans who immersed themselves in every novel, yearning for more of Rowling’s wizardry.

It took many years of determination, resilience and grit for Rowling’s creative genius to shine. But once unleashed, her life was transformed from the mundane to the magical.

J K Rowling’s tips to improve your writing 

So, if you are an aspiring writer aiming for blockbuster success, read Rowling’s tips to improve your writing. Let them guide and inspire you. Perhaps you will become the next storytelling wizard who will proudly exclaim, “I did it too!”

About Elana Sissison 

I am a freelance writer in Johannesburg, South Africa. From a young age, I felt drawn to understand the various holistic perspectives on healthcare.

I am deeply challenged and stimulated by literature that promotes holistic wellbeing, such as complementary healing, psychology, self-development, the mind/body connection and spirituality. I believe that true healing should encompass all aspects of being human.

Writing enables me to share my knowledge with others and I have several published articles in Quality Life, Rolling Inspiration and Your Baby magazines. As of 2019, I have been a holistic health contributor to the parenting website babyyumyum.co.za.

Another passion of mine is BodyTalk – a powerful healing modality that aims to get to the ‘story’ behind a person’s symptoms or illness. I am a certified BodyTalk practitioner and have witnessed many healing shifts in my clients.

For my creative inspiration, I turn to dance, travel and music. Nature’s open spaces are my ‘go to’ place when needing time for reflection and contemplation.