Two Writers on Writing: J.K. Rowling vs Elizebeth Gilbert

I love reading blogs written by writers who are writing about writing. I said it like that because not all writers write about their own writing. They write about other people’s stuff. I don’t care what they’re writing about, if the title interests me and I spot it, I’ll generally pop over to read it. I don’t always leave comments; I’m a little shy about leaving comments…not much mind you, but just a little.

A couple of the blogs I’ve read this week led me to videos.

One was a commencement speech given by J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter Books. I’ve never read them so I have no opinion of them other than to say that lots of people of all ages seem to like them…hence the movies; which I also haven’t seen except in trailers and bits. She gave a lovely speech and I didn’t save the address because at the end I got booted out and had a virus to deal with. But I got to see and hear most of the speech and this is a part that I remember:

“By every usual standard I was the biggest failure that I knew…Failure meant the stripping away of the unessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into 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 arena where I believed I truly belonged.

I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized. 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…It is impossible to live without failure unless you live a life so cautiously that you may as well never have lived at all.”

“Unlike any other creature on this planet, human beings can learn and understand without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places. Of course, this is a power like my brand of fictional magic that is morally neutral.

One might use this power to manipulate or control just as much as to sympathize or understand. And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all.

They choose to remain within the bounds of their own experience. Never troubling to wonder how it would be to have been born other than how they are.”


Another site led to me to another writer who was giving a presentation. Her name was Elizabeth Gilbert. She, evidently wrote a runaway blockbuster and its sequel. I haven’t read her either. In fact, I’ve never even heard of her.

Anyways, she was talking about the way people come up to her now asking if she thinks she’ll be able to pull off another best seller. She said it’s as though she’s facing DOOM. That best seller was a fluke of some sort and what’s she going to do if it never happens again?

She said it’s far too much pressure and anxiety to deal with so she did some research and discovered that in the old days (as in Greek and Roman times) they didn’t put all the pressure on their creative people for what they produced. They believed the gods/goddesses, muses, daemons, and muses helped creative people create their glorious stuff.

That took the pressure off since it was possible to have a totally lazy ass muse who wasn’t worth a tinker’s damn. So if your stuff stunk, it wasn’t all your fault. You just had a stupid muse.

She said that when an audience recognized something as divine or great they’d shout whatever the word of their country was like Alla, God, Olé…like the bullfighters. It meant There is God! God/Divinity is leaking through you and we can see and feel it! Yay YOU!

The industrial revolution changed things. People became totally responsible for their creations. No one to blame but themselves when their creative endeavors went wrong or bad. Which led to lots of writers becoming drunks, addicts, insane, or ending their lives in suicide.

Posted by Jessica Martin


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