Careers

J.K. Rowling's best advice for anyone determined to succeed

JK Rowling attends the 70th EE British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) at Royal Albert Hall.
Rune Hellestad | Corbis | Getty Images
JK Rowling attends the 70th EE British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) at Royal Albert Hall.

J.K. Rowling, the best-selling author behind the "Harry Potter" series, has sold over 450 million books and is worth more than $1 billion.

But she wasn't always a runaway success. Before publishing "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," the author was a struggling single mother, surviving on state benefits.

On Monday, she reflected on that part of her life, sharing the advice she wish she'd gotten in her early days and offering her own wisdom for other aspiring writers via Twitter.

It started when Rowling replied to a Tweet from fellow writer Melanie Dione, who said: "HEY! YOU! You're working on something and you're thinking 'Nobody's gonna watch, read, listen.' Finish it anyway."

Rowling quotes the Tweet, adding: "There were so many times in the early 90s when I needed somebody to say this to me. It's great advice for many reasons."

She goes on to encourage writers to see their projects through to the end, saying, "Even if it isn't the piece of work that finds an audience, it will teach you things you could have learned no other way."

"And by the way," she adds, "just because it didn't find an audience, that doesn't mean it's bad work."

Rowling points out that the act of seeing a creative work through to completion is a feat in and of itself, and one that should make you proud. She also explains that finishing something big can generate the momentum you need to persevere through the next project.

"Maybe your third, fourth, fiftieth song/novel/painting will be the one that 'makes it,' that wins the plaudits," she says. "But you'd never have got there without finishing the others (all of which will now be of more interest to your audience)."

Though Rowling is specifically speaking to creative pursuits, her underlying advice can be applied to anyone determined to succeed: Never give up.

"Do not ever quit out of fear of rejection." -J.K. Rowling, author of the "Harry Potter" series

Rowling's not alone in this mindset. Psychologist and MacArthur "Genius" fellow Angela Duckworth spent years researching achievement, and found that talent by itself is only one factor. Success also requires determined effort, and lots of it.

"Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential," Duckworth writes in her book, "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance."

Whether you're writing a novel, building a company, or reaching for a promotion, take a page out of Rowling's book and don't let yourself give up.

Here's the full set of Rowling's Tweets, in chronological order: