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J.K. Rowling: Overcoming Struggle

I don’t know J.K. Rowling. I’ve never read the numerous Harry Potter books or seen the films, yet I feel like I know things about her that I don’t know about my closest friends.

I know that she gets very annoyed when people pronounce her last name as “Rawling,” and not the correct pronunciation of “Rolling.”

In her early years, she taught English in Oporto, Portugal, and worked for Amnesty International, doing research into human rights abuses in Africa. She won a grant from the Scottish Arts Council, which she used to buy a computer, but she writes all of her books by hand.

She got the idea for Harry Potter on a train from Manchester to London, and wrote the first book in a café in Edinburgh, Scotland while living on the dole. She now shares a birthday with Harry.

Through the years, she has gained many successes, honorary degrees and the like, but they don’t erase what it took to get there. Even though she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II and she is listed as being richer than the Queen of England, money and success did not come overnight.

She married her first husband, had a child and divorced, all within eleven months. She was diagnosed with clinical depression and even contemplated suicide. Somewhere in all of the turmoil, writing is what helped her turn it all around - and that is what saved her.

"There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place," J.K. Rowling says.

Some people think that a writer is not worth his/her salt until they are published - and that still doesn’t guarantee a spot on the various best seller lists. J.K. didn’t write with this in mind, she wrote to survive. People don’t understand why writers write and what goes through our minds at any given moment.

They don’t understand that if we have nothing to eat, writing provides food for the Soul. We are always thinking. Thinking about characters. Narration, plotting - structure comes later, after we talk to and talk through our characters.

There is always a conversation going on in our heads between people we may not fully know yet. Our characters help us survive like we help them come alive.

As writers, we hope that our words reach as many people as possible and that our words are within reach of everyone. We make the intangible tangible. We show you the world through our eyes. Our pain is not always palatable, our struggle is not silver-lined, but our happiness is in reaching you. By the time our words get to you, they have been seen by a million different eyes.

So in my summation of J.K. Rowling, I see a lady who survived struggle. A lady who in her darkest hour, saw the light. I see a lady who in her superhero dreams would love to fly - and is effectively doing it for millions of fans. I see a writer who has created a whole new world of survival; a new world of living and a new world of dreaming.

The pen is mightier than the sword, but in J.K. Rowling’s case, the pen is as mighty as the sword - they both leave an indelible mark that leaves us feeling the pulse of life.

How do you overcome struggle? Share your story.


Theresa 8/04/2008 7:54 PM  

I've read the Harry Potter books countless times. I start at book one and go all the way through. How she spins this amazing, magical world takes you as out and away from troubled reality as you say she does herself when writing.

I hope that she decides to go on with the Harry Potter series, just because no one else but she can do it.

Amber 8/04/2008 11:33 PM  

Hi Alexys!

Wow, finally! I thought I was the only one who haven't read Harry Potter or any of Rowling's work or seen the film versions. Someone told me I'm so stuck in my era - as a child of the 80's and as a teen in the 90's. Well, I would rather watch than read fantasy pieces. Besides there are numerous books to read. Self-help books, inspirational, classic literature and a whole lot more.

It is so very you Alexys to have noticed or have the insight that "Some people think that a writer is not worth his/her salt until they are published - and that still doesn’t guarantee a spot on the various best seller lists. J.K. didn’t write with this in mind, she wrote to survive. People don’t understand why writers write and what goes through our minds at any given moment." This is such an inspiration for writers. I agree that writing provides food for the Soul. (just like the bible and other inspirational books) I would also have to agree with the lines, "There is always a conversation going on in our heads between people we may not fully know yet. Our characters help us survive like we help them come alive." (Pertaining to real-life and while on the writing process).
Writers are great observationists just like scientists and they can invent and transform a new world or create a new being through characters.

Overcoming struggles in life through blogging, writing, reading good books and just living within the moment.

Loving Annie 8/05/2008 6:35 AM  

Good Tuesday morning Alexys. How are you ?

She is a superb example of overcoming struggle. And her explanation makes sense.

I've overcome it sometimes simply by closing my eyes and going numb, blotting out all the pain and the mechanics of my body breathe and I live through to the next few minutes, or hour, or morning...

A counselor suggested I start a blog when I was so devastated by Mike's abandonment of me a few years ago. It saved me.

It was a lifeline, a way to express, a safe place to feel and communicate - and be emotionally touched in return with kindness. It gave me a connection with the outside world that I was to fragile and wounded to do in real life.

That first month I think I never left my bedroom - but I ventured 'out' via the computer, even if initially it was only to post.

Now of course, it has grown into a lovely and fun thing, a place of creativity...

I have survived by not dying... I've tried sucicide three times, and even though I kept 'improving' my technique, it must not have been time for me to go. I think the Universe kept me here because I had something to learn, something that needed to be done...

And part of that was to learn to survive pain, and not to inflict it on others, and to make amends if and where I had.

Blessings to you, Alexys... Very thought-provoking post.

mspennylane 8/05/2008 7:10 AM  

I have never read Harry Potter either, but what a great story to read about J.K. Rowling, and written in such an inspiring way.

confused 8/05/2008 7:50 AM  

wonderful commentary..her life in a small way echoes mine..I spent years traveling aloneand the one thing that kept me sane and in touch was writing..I wrote for me in little noteboos and scraps of paper where ever I was.. I stiil write for me but now I also write for the love of my life..putting it out in public and having other people enjoy it adds another dimension which I wish I had discovered years ago..

washwords 8/05/2008 10:53 AM  

Very nicely done. So I'm like the one person in the world who HAS read Harry Potter and says... "eh?" I mean it's fine but for great kids books... not even close! (Charlotte's Web, Pippi Longstocking, the Shoe books, Roald Dahl, Alice in Wonderland... just off the top of my head)

Still her struggles and successes are fascinating and I appreciate learning about it... great blog!

Alexys Fairfield 8/05/2008 1:11 PM  

You are a writer's best ally - someone who reads their work. We all want fans like you to encourage us to continue.

Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts.

Alexys Fairfield 8/05/2008 1:15 PM  

As readers, we are spoiled for choice. There is a lot to choose. I think it depends on the mood and if we want to escape into fantasy or delve into the reality of self.

"Writers are great observationists just like scientists and they can invent and transform a new world or create a new being through characters."

That's an excellent quote. Thanks for sharing your feelings on this.

SheR. 8/05/2008 1:28 PM  

I got to know so many wonderful people through blogging. I'm not a writer myself but a chef and baker who loves to share my passion with everyone.

I think most of you bloggers are great writers that kept people like me coming back for more. More questions or answers.. that depends on which end we are coming from.

I wouldn't said I struggle to keep my dream alive. I left my secured job and flown halfway across the world to pursue my interest in baking. Through those 3 years, it was tough. All alone, working 2 jobs to feed myself, earning my position and respect as a female chef in the kitchen. I persevered.

Life is not a struggle. Go for your dreams! That includes you Alexys! I wish you all the best! The next JK Rowling perhaps? ;)

Alexys Fairfield 8/05/2008 1:29 PM  

I am so happy that you are here - right now - today. You are such a beautiful Soul that your light would have been missed. Trauma can really sideline us at times where we feel like we don't have a lifeline.

Breathing is the first step to releasing the internal pressure and slowing down feelings of anxiety.

Blogging is incredible. It's a whole new world. The whole feeling, connection and energy involved is something I would not trade for the world. Just having people out there who care and knowing that you are not alone is enough to continue.

Thank you Annie for sharing your touching story. Remember that you are not alone and you are loved. I am so glad you stayed with us. So glad.


guardian 8/05/2008 1:31 PM  

That is a beautiful read. Overcoming struggle is so fascinating to me. I do have my own struggles, but I would like to know if you have ever had any books published? If not, is it possible to read a few of your writings? Reading this post made me feel like something picked me up and sat me along side you.
Thank you,

Alexys Fairfield 8/05/2008 1:33 PM  

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and thanks for your kinds words.

Alexys Fairfield 8/05/2008 1:40 PM  

I think her life echoes many writers lives. It's just something we all understand - the struggle to get the inside out and to get it to others. Writing has always been my panacea. A writing teacher once told me that a writer can't live with tension, but they can't write without it. I often think of it when some outside force is interfering with writing. I have lots of notes in every room and in my purse.

I think I can speak for most writers when I say that writing is a love story.

I appreciate your insightful comments and sharing your experience.

Alexys Fairfield 8/05/2008 1:48 PM  

Thank you for your kind words. Popular belief is always suspect. Did you believe the hype initially and then you read it, or are you an avid reader anyway and just read it along with other books?

Charlotte's Web and Pippi Longstocking are some of my favorites.

Perhaps I may indulge myself and read a passage of Harry Potter to understand her as a writer.

Thanks again for sharing your comments and giving me the inside scoop.

Alexys Fairfield 8/05/2008 3:24 PM  

Hi Sher,
Blogging extends around the world and touches us all differently. I love how it wraps its arms around strangers and makes them friends.

I applaud you taking your dreams in your hands and flying. That's truly inspiring. I am sure that your passion comes through your baking. It is evident even on your blog.

I agree that life is not a struggle, it's all in the way you bake it. :D

I am living my dreams as we speak. Maybe J.K Rowling will be the next Alexys Fairfield. ;D

Thanks for sharing and I wish you all the best.

Happy baking.

Alexys Fairfield 8/05/2008 3:34 PM  

Thank you for your generous words. I am working on a book, but my work has mainly been screenwriting. I think we can all relate to overcoming struggle in some way.

You are more than welcome to read through my archives and see what catches your fancy until I get the book together.

Thanks for sitting by me and sharing your story, your presence is always welcome.

Amber 8/05/2008 10:50 PM  

Oh, it's not that I don't like to read Harry Potter or Rowling's books. Maybe, I've overgrown a bit of those days of cartoons galore and childhood fantasy stories. Definitely, it all depends on our mood.

Ummm Alexys, that is not a quote. Just observed and thought about it or probably an after-effect of reading Carl Sagan's book entitled, Contact (obsessed with it eversince I saw the film way back in the mid 90's-and finally had the book now) and also after reading your post.

Looking back, I've dealt with my life's struggles and depression by often crying it all out all by myself and getting lost in self-introspection, then I would write. (I haven't been writing that much lately because I'm addicted to work). But I do have some lines or verses written in different notebooks whenever I feel like writing.

Yes, I agree with Sher. Life should not be a struggle. Let's just say that struggles and problems are merely opportunities for us to grow and learn. "Life is not a struggle, it's all in the way you bake it." Nice quote.

"A writer can't live with tension, but they can't write without it." So very true!

"Writing is a love story." I love this line, Alexys. Another perspective about writing.

Maithri 8/05/2008 11:38 PM  

"Maybe JK Rowling will be the next Alexys Fairfield"

Both strong, beautiful women... who write as lyrically as they live,

My love to you dear friend,


Alexys Fairfield 8/06/2008 10:56 AM  

I love childhood stories and films for children. They are often unspoiled by adult themes. I'll never outgrow them. We never outgrow what is pure.

Carl Sagan is an engaging storyteller. Writing in notebooks is a great way to free the cobwebs of the mind. Keep writing and keep feeling.

Alexys Fairfield 8/06/2008 10:58 AM  

Ha ha. I just threw that line in there because I thought it was funny.

Thank you my angel.

Love to you always.

Alexander M Zoltai 8/21/2008 3:08 PM  

Writing to survive...

I used to think I was going to grow up to be a novelist. Many tragedies scoured that out of me.

Yet, I write...

Blogging every day, striving to raise folks' perception of current events to a spiritual level.

Poems flutter by and I endeavor to entice them into words...

Thank you for this post, Alexys. I've never read the books but I did hear her commencement address at Harvard.

Remarkable woman!

~ Alex

Alexys Fairfield 8/22/2008 12:29 AM  

Maybe it's not to late to realize your novelist dreams? After all, one can learn many lessons in tragedy. You survived them, you have the experience to teach us what you learned.

Besides, I think bloggers are novelists - life novelists. Poets are the voice of angels. You give us life through your blog and I hope you continue to do so. Thank you.

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