J.K. Rowling on Failure & Imagination (And A Failure of My Own)
A note before I begin …
Dear little word studio readers,
I apologize to you for the lack of blog posts this past week. All I can really say is: things happen. Not particularly good or bad things, just things. And when they do happen, it seems a mind can shut off amid all the jarring thingyness surrounding it, unwilling to go into any sort of creative place to thread words together like it once used to so these words can produce thoughts and so those thoughts can make sense.
But now, with the steadily dissipating effects of such things, I’m back and ready to ease into the daily routine that has become little word studio. I hope not to leave you for so long again and finish this brief note by expressing the same contriteness with which it began.
Anywayyyy … Let’s start off tonight with my favorite quotes from J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Commencement speech, which for me was the catalyst to find strength in recent failures while also remembering the importance of imagination to, as if by magic, conjure from a blank page something wholly new.
J.K., you’re up …
On the downside of success come easy (and the upside of astounding failure):
Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where 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.
On the inevitability of defeat:
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.
On the hardships of every person’s (and probably every wizard’s) existence:
Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.
On defining imagination:
Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the found of all invention and innovation; in its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.
On the metamorphic power of our minds:
“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” That is an astounding statement, and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.