Monday 27 May 2013

How J K Rowling Helped Me Through My Darkest Days as a Writer

I started writing books during a very difficult time in my life.

My marriage had come to a painful and traumatic end and I was single mum to a young son.

It was a very fearful time - I can remember many sleepless nights spent wondering how I was going to make ends meet and keep a roof over our heads.

I also felt like a total failure. Coming from a 'broken home' I had always vowed that I would never put any child of mine through that trauma.

Apart from my son, the only light in the darkness of those days was my writing. 

When I began working on my first novel, Sweet FA, it provided a welcome escape from the harsh realities of my life at the time.

But my writing itself was not without fear.

I had no previous experience of writing fiction.

I hadn't done any courses in creative writing.

I didn't have any contacts in the publishing world.

I wasn't a member of any writing group.

I had no idea if what I was creating was any good at all - let alone publishable.

I wrote mainly when my son was asleep and there were some nights when I would be slumped over my typewriter (I couldn't even afford a computer!) crying with exhaustion and wondering why the hell I was even bothering.

It was on those nights that one person helped urge me on and gave me just enough hope to keep me typing. 

That person was J K Rowling.

Like the rest of the world, I'd read all the stories about how Rowling had penned the first Harry Potter novel in a cafe in Edinburgh as a penniless single mum.

But, rather than merely being a heart-warming anecdote, this story became a life-line for me.

When Rowling talked about her feelings of despair as a single mum I could so relate to her experience.

And the fact that she had kept on working through her dark times; had kept the faith in her creative dream and gone on to achieve such remarkable success, formed a beacon, guiding me through my own fear and doubt.

Last week, I went up to Edinburgh and visited the cafe where J K Rowling had written that first Harry Potter book.

Having played such an important part in my own vision of hope for the future, it was extremely moving to finally actually be there.

And, in a really magical way, it proved to be a gift that kept on giving.

The past couple of months have been a bit of a tough time for me, in that I've suffered some personal loss and felt a bit demotivated work-wise.

But sitting at a table in the corner of the cafe, picturing J K Rowling writing away and conjuring up such a magical future for herself and so many readers, I felt a wave of optimism and hope wash over me.

Remembering how far I'd come since my own dark days made me feel humbled and excited. It reminded me that anything is possible if you are prepared to work hard and simply believe.

Before leaving the cafe I went into the toilets. They were covered from floor to ceiling in graffiti dedicated to J K Rowling from grateful readers.

Once again, I felt a wave of happiness and excitement. It reminded me what a privilege it is to be a writer - and how thrilling it is to be able to affect people's lives for the better with your words.

Once again, I felt J K Rowling inspiring and motivating me - and urging me on.

A bit later, I was walking past Waterstones in Edinburgh. I popped inside and headed for the Young Adult section.

When I saw my books there on the shelves it brought tears to my eyes.

All those years ago, when I'd sat hunched over my typewriter, with just my love of writing and J K Rowling's example to keep me going, I never would have dreamed that I would go on to achieve all that I have done.

And, if I can share anything at all with you to help you through your own doubt and fear, it would be this:

Sometimes, in our darkest times, we need a light to guide us. So, rather than cower in the shadows, seek out your light - whether it be in the form of another person, some words of wisdom, or God / the Universe. Let them lead you on, into your own brighter, happier future . . . 


You can find the new site here.

Fresh new posts include:

15 Things I've Learnt From 15 Years as a Writer

Dear Dare to Dream: How can I overcome my illness and become a speaker

An Exciting New Chapter for Dare to Dream


  1. Thank you for being so honest. I can relate to so much of what you have said. This is a great post

  2. Beautifully honest, thank you

  3. this was wonderful. thank you.

  4. You are so inspiring!

  5. Isn't she an inspiration for us all? I would love to visit that cafe someday.