“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 to 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 area where 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 a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
It’s hard to think of J.K. Rowling as a failure with 400 million of her books in print and vast legions of adoring readers who even now visit her Pottermore site because they just can’t get enough of all things Harry. And yet, it’s clear that at one point in time — and probably for quite a while — she thought of herself as a failure and thought that other people viewed her that way as well. But here’s what matters: she kept on doing what mattered to her — she kept on writing.
When J.K. Rowling hit rock bottom, she found herself there waiting, ready to write. She had no control over what people thought of her, no control over whether a publisher would want to buy what she wrote or whether readers would want to read it. But she did have control over how much effort she put into her work and whether or not she would choose to keep going or quit. And she chose to keep going. Instead of being concerned about whether other people to choose or reject her, she choose herself. She gave herself permission to create. And that gave her power.
All around us there are people choosing the people they’ll publish in their magazines or publishing houses, the people they’ll invite to their writing residencies, the people they’ll invite to their book clubs. When they pass us by, it can be tough to handle. We’ve worked hard, but for some reason, often unfathomable, we’re not one of the “chosen ones.” But here’s a great headline I read recently that I want to pass on for your reflection: “The ‘Chosen Ones’ Choose Themselves.”
To me, this means that in order to become someone who’s work is valued in one form or another by the outside world — we first have to value that work ourselves. We have to choose to make it important in our life. We have to choose to make sacrifices so we can write. We have to choose to set aside time to plan and think and create. We have to choose to keep writing and give it our best even when we’re not chosen by the gatekeepers waiting outside our door. We have to choose to hit rock bottom and find ourselves there, just as J.K. Rowling did. So, forget about the choices other people are making about you — they’re not who counts: You are. You can become one of the chosen ones right now, this second. Choose yourself — and write on!