IN PUBLISHING NEWS, it has been revealed that JK Rowling was writing under a pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. She said, “As for the pseudonym, I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer.”
It can be easy for pre-published authors to focus so much on the future that they miss the fun and adventure that this stage of the game affords. There’s something about the self-discovery of carving a new path that you just can’t get back once you’re accountable to agents and editors and public expectation.
There is something romantic about JK Rowling’s humble beginnings that she can never truly recapture. Back in 1995 (20 years ago!) she had the first glimpse of what eventually became Harry Potter. When she was in the most difficult time in her life, she moved to Edinburgh, rented a small flat and moved in with her infant daughter. She gave herself a year to write Harry Potter and spent her days in The Elephant House cafe, writing the novel by hand.
Rowling’s revelation made me realize something: every step of the way is special. Sometimes when we’re feeling a particular pressure, we just want things to change. Yet, often when we look back we remember those times as being very meaningful. In those times, we felt truly alive. But it may be difficult to see in the moment. It’s only in hindsight when the past rises up in our memories as more glamorous and romantic.
To give you an example… when I look at this picture of JK Rowling when she was younger, having just moved into that infamous flat in Edinbourgh, I see someone who is fresh with hope and possibilities. There is a simplicity about her, a naturalness, a casualness. There is only that fresh hopefullness because there are not expectations to live up to now. There is no one dying to get an autograph or a photograph. Although a beginning might be dreaming of those days to come, once they do come, one might then wish for anonymity and privacy! One might wish for the obscurity to walk out of the house in sweats, unwashed hair, and no makeup. Just the freedom of pure creation. That’s what I see in the picture above.
Her she is in the days when Harry Potter was flying off the shelves as fast as she could write them. Now she’s really under some pressure! Yes, it’s good to know that one’s books are going to be published… no longer writing on spec, but that also means writing on a deadline, with everyone waiting to see what happens next, both the fans and the critics. And then there are all those people who want to take a chunk of that hard-earned money. The point is that there are upsides and downsides all along the way. If we can enjoy every moment rather than think the grass is always greener somewhere else, we won’t waste any of it.