Last week I turned over the final page of The Deathly Hallows, thus reluctantly bringing to an end a most magical journey, upon which I ventured beyond the furthest reaches of my imagination. I arrived pretty late to the party- too late to be fashionable perhaps- but after finally deciding to act on my curiosity with the help of some enticing words from friends, I leapt aboard the Hogwarts Express with Harry and Co.
My knowledge of the wizarding world was minimal, having not seen any of the movies; I flicked on The Philosopher’s Stone one Christmas a few years back, but seeing Emma Watson as an 11-year-old girl really freaked me out, so I turned it off after 20 minutes. Anyway, the point is I had a vague idea of what the story was about, but truth be told, I really didn’t know what to expect from the books, and certainly could never have imagined the depths to which I would drawn by the beautifully constructed narrative.
I mean it when I say that I, quite literally, could not put the things down; with every instalment I found myself voyaging deeper and deeper, forging strong emotional bonds with the characters and becoming invested to the point of being obsessed, as if I myself were a part of the story.
Each book left me completely and utterly astounded, not just by the magic of the story itself, but by the woman who wielded the pen; a question I was left pondering over… and over… and over again, was how.
How on earth did she conceive this world from absolutely nothing?
Of course it is happening inside your head Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it’s not real?
– Albus Dumbledore
It blew my mind, and I’m just going to come out and say it, that as an aspiring writer myself, it did make me wonder about my own journey; with each wonderfully composed sentence, she would send me over and back between feeling grossly inadequate and incompetent, to feeling inspired and motivated to continue along the path.
After recalling snippets of her Harvard commencement speech of which I stumbled upon a couple of years ago, it re-occurred to me that Joanne Rowling endured quite the rags to riches story in her quest to get published; upon finishing the books, I felt compelled to find out more about this literary genius and her intriguing background.
Thank you, Wikipedia.
Here are a couple of points of note:
- After graduating from university, and dragging her feet through the less than abundant job market in Britain at the time, she boarded a plane for Portugal to pursue a job as an English language teacher; she taught at night time and wrote during the day.
- It was while on a four hour delayed train journey in 1990, that the story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry “completely formed in her mind”. By 1993 she was living with her sister in Edinburgh, and had written 3 chapters.
- 7 years after graduating, she described herself as a complete and utter failure, and was diagnosed with clinical depression. (The soul-sucking guards of Azkaban prison- The Dementors- are said to be a portrayal of her illness). A single mother on benefits, she was “as poor as poor could be without being homeless”.
- By 1995 she had finished her manuscript, and after being rejected by no less than 12 publishing houses, was picked up by Bloomsbury, after the company’s chairman apparently gave his 8-year-old daughter the first chapter to review, and she demanded the next.
The rest as they say, is history.
I will be eternally grateful that- at long last- I was able to discover these truly magical books; I’ve written many times before that every book crosses the palm of the reader at the right time, and I certainly feel as though this was the right time for me and my journey. Not only are the stories intertwined with deep and insightful life lessons, of which I will continue to dip back into again and again I’m sure, but through their prodigious conception, they impart wisdom, ignite passion, and illuminate the path within.