J.K. Rowling: Harvard Commencement Speech

I didn’t know about this. I’m surprised I haven’t heard of it until now. I found it via Pasta&Vinegar.

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination

There’s a video (22 minutes) and the text. The text doesn’t have the ad-libs, however, so watch the video first.

Some excerpts I like:

I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that could never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension.

Emphasis added by me.

She had The Calling.

What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.

Emphasis added by me.

Damn straight. It reminds me of that little bit of dialog from the classic movie Sullivan’s Travels:

You see, sir, rich people and theorists — who are usually rich people — think of poverty in the negative, as the lack of riches — as disease might be called the lack of health. But it isn’t, sir. Poverty is not the lack of anything, but a positive plague, virulent in itself, contagious as cholera, with filth, criminality, vice and despair as only a few of its symptoms. It is to be stayed away from, even for purposes of study. It is to be shunned.

More from J.K.:

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.

And:

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Emphasis added by me.

I must reference:

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.

Job 3:25

Back to J.K.:

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? 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 already 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.

Emphasis added by me.

That “stripping away” is coming to many, many people, by the way.

J.K. worked in the research department of Amnesty International in London:

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Emphasis added by me.

There is much more. But these are the parts that I chose to highlight.

Go see the video.

Previously here:

J.K. Rowling Wins Lawsuit Against Fan
Orson Scott Card Rips J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling Trial Ends
J.K. Rowling Is In NYC For Her Silly Lawsuit
More About That J.K. Rowling Lawsuit
J.K. Rowling Is Wrong
Quote: J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling: A Year In The Life

Explore posts in the same categories: Books - Other, Reference - Life, Reference - Writing, Uncategorized, Video - Online, Writers - Living, Writing

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