Saturday, May 14, 2011

J.K. Rowling And Failure

We’re into the second week of Savvy’s Author boot camp. Every step along the way has been challenging. I haven’t thought of quitting, but I have wondered if I’ll make my goal of a first draft by the end of the month. Whether, I finish the first draft or not, I am learning about myself, writing and about the journey, which to me is as valuable in the end. I’ve also learned never to give up the dream that burns inside you even when things look their blackest.

I thought I’d share this video of one of my favorite authors, J.K. Rowling. It’s a commencement address she gave a couple years ago at Harvard. I found her funny, candid, vulnerable and above all inspirational.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

Here is a fragment of her speech about failure:
“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. 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. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

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.”

Hope this has inspired you to keep going. It has for me. How do you motivate or inspire yourself to keep going?

Till next time,

PS: I will be interviewing author Mary Buckham about her book "Break Into Fiction" next month in June. Do you have a question you'd like to ask about her book? Tell me and that will be one of the question I will ask her.


Carissa Elg said...

I absolutely adored this speech when she first gave it! Jo is simply amazing. I'm in the same boat at you are, trying to have my first draft finished by the end of the month. I'm fairly certain it will happen, but there's always that fear-ish thing in the back of my mind that I might not. ;) Good luck with your deadline! Thanks for sharing this wonderful video and reminding me of such an awesome speech. :D

EW Gibson said...


May we both have luck with our deadlines!!! I keep remembering this quote to help me through each day. "It doesn't have to be right. You just have to get it going." And I might add, and "keep it going. LOL!!

Let's sharpen our swords (oops pens, oops again, keyboards)and fight till the end! hehehe!

Lyndsey Davis said...

The profound insight and humble humor of J. K. Rowling's speech inspires at so many levels.

If all I knew of her emanated from this speech, I would that I could call her friend. Allies such as this equip us to every good thing.

Thank you for sharing.


EW Gibson said...


Yes, she is an amazing individual. When I first saw this speech, I was struck with her humility before she even began. As they applauded her, she seemed almost in tears. There were no 'airs' about her just simple honesty and humbleness. It was a beautiful moment.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Alice said...

Thanks for giving us such an insightful speech.
As for your questions for Mary Buckman, I have one. I checked out the book at B & N as I have a nook. My question is: The description says there are templates to guide the writer through building a novel. Are these templates available online to download? Or can I scan them from the "real" book into my printer? I guess I want to know how difficult the templates would be for me to create? Or should I purchase the "real" book instead of the nook book because of the templates?

EW Gibson said...


Thanks for posting.

In response to your question about the Kindle version of the book vs. the hard copy; You can scan the templates from the hard copy to your printer. There are no templates of "Break into Fiction" to download. Which is a shame, certainly would make things easier. However, there are templates on her site covering other aspects of writing your book.

I will ask her about future downloads for the book. Very good question.

Till next time,

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