Inspiring JK Rowling quote and how it resonates with me


I read it today. It’s from a Harvard commencement speech JK Rowling gave in 2008.

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 realised, 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.

I read all the Harry Potter books. I think they are really good, entertainment books, but JK Rowling was never a role model figure to me like Steve Jobs (on life in general) or Dan Brown and RL Stine (on writing) or Hitchcock (on building suspense). After reading this quote, I felt an instance connection with her.

The reason I started writing my novel Florid Eyes was because I was basically unemployed and had nothing else better to do then watching TV at home every day last year. I watched so many shows, some good, some bad. I was always amazed at how some TV writers could deliver twists and turns on a weekly basis. I was also at awe at how some good shows could be so good in season 1 and turn so shitty by season 3.

I remember one day in November, after watching an episode of The Vampire Diaries, a show which I once loved so much but has gotten so bad, I just said, “Screw it. I can do better.” Next thing I need was to flip open my Macbook and open a new Pages document, with no outline whatsoever.

When I first started, I didn’t think of the ramification of writing a novel. I didn’t even think I would finish it, let alone getting published, but once I finished writing chapter one, I just got hooked. It’s like watching a TV drama unfolding before my eyes, but this time I’m the one controlling the outcome. I just kept on writing and writing. I stopped for a month or so when I was preparing for my GRE and PhD application, but after that I picked up where it was left off. I just had so much fun creating a story that I had no intention of getting published.

Self-publishing didn’t dawn on me until a friend of mine suggested me put it up on iBooks store. At that time I was still only half way into the story with no idea how to end it. I didn’t even know if i have the will power to finish it. I was writing perhaps 3 chapters a week and spent the rest of my time freelancing and obsessing with my grad school applications.

It wasn’t until I got my first rejection from a school that I thought was a right fit that I went all in. I was super upset for being rejected because I thought school was my last resort. There was nothing else to take my mind of my sorrow other than writing this novel. I told myself there are many things out of my control in life, like my career, my love life, whether a school wants me, but there is one thing for sure I have control over — my novel. I have started so many unfinished projects in the past. I have set so many goals I couldn’t reach. I don’t care if no one will ever buy my book on Amazon or iBook stores, I need to finish it for myself. This is the goal — to finish it, not to be famous or the Stephanie Meyers, just to finish it.

All my life, I have always tried to get approvals from people, my parents, my friends, or anyone who had been mean to me. I’ve always wanted to show them I’m not just anyone. I’m special, and my time will be. I’ve always done things for them and I was desperate for success for the wrong reason. This is the first time I truly feel like I’m doing something for myself, not for prestige or anything. This is the first time when I truly enjoy the process of working on something, not the result.

I’m not trying to compare myself to Ms Rowling, but I feel her.

This is what I’ve commit myself — I will finish revising the story. I will pay a professional copyeditor  to edit it. I will put it up on Amazon and iBooks store. I don’t care if I’m gonna make money or if no one will ever read it. I just need to do this for myself, to know that I’m capable of completing something is big.


About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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