real life

JK Rowling on failure: 'It's essential.'

If you ever feel yourself ready to give up, defeated by knock backs or convinced your goal is unattainable, ask yourself ‘What would J.K Rowling do?’

Or more accurately, what DID J.K Rowling do?

So in honour of Harry Potter’s 20th anniversary, here’s a reminder that failure doesn’t mean the end of everything. In fact, it can be the start of something great.

jk rowling robert galbraith
Image: Getty

Rewind 20 years ago and the 51 year old was an unemployed, single mum struggling to make ends meet.

"I had an old typewriter and a big idea. I had failed on an epic scale. I was jobless, a lone parent and as poor as it is possible to be in Modern Britain without being homeless," she's said.

"Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."

The story goes that the idea for the novel that started it all, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, came to Rowling during a four-hour delayed train ride while she was working at the Chamber of Commerce in Manchester. She begun writing the stories on her typewriter before moving to Portugal to become an English teacher.

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There, she met, fell in love with and married Portugese television journalist Jorge Aranted with whom she had a daughter Jessica, now 23. Four months later, the couple separated and in December 1993, Rowling moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to be near her sister.

During this period, Rowling said she regarded herself as a failure. She was also diagnosed with clinical depression, a feeling which went on to inspire the soul-sucking dementors of her novels.

"I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me," she said in a 2008 address to Harvard University.

Image: Getty

"Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena in which I believed I truly belonged."

After completing the manuscript in 1995, Rowling was initially rejected by 12 publishing hours, before finally being picked up by Bloomsbury largely due to the house's chairman's eight year-old daughter who loved the first chapter she was given to review. Initially 1,000 copies were published in 2997, with 500 given to libraries.

All her novels since have smashed sales records, with millions of copies sold. The last four Harry Potter books have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history and have been translated into 65 languages. It's led to a billion-dollar film franchise, spin off books, merchandise, a play and even theme parks.

She now has a positive view on failure, claiming in life, it's inevitable.

"It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you've lived so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all in which case you have failed by default," she said.

"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 expected."

And the power to transform that failure into success? It's all down to you.

"As is a tale, so is life. Not how long it is, but how good it is is what matters. We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better."

You got this.