There are several quotes by writers that I come back to when the going gets tough. JK Rowling’s speech at Harvard in 2008 has been a go-to many times over the past 10 years. What resonates? Her acknowledgement of the length of the tunnel; her stripping away of inessentials, what some would call ‘failure’; her narrow focus on the one path that mattered. It doesn’t make the tunnel any less dark, but it does remind me there’s a possible light somewhere up ahead:

 “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 then 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 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.”

 

If you fail at basketball, you fail at basketball. If you fail at literature you risk failing as a person, because your full matrix of being is at work in it — DBC Pierre, Release the Bats