Lesson #1: Slay the Dragons Standing In Your Way

Today, there are hundreds of millions of Harry Potter books in print around the world. Each book in Rowling’s series has also been on The New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. But when Rowling first began to seriously pursue her writing career, the story was a much different one than that.

Rowling could not believe the number of different stories publishing houses gave her as to why they did not want to print her manuscript. Her story was either too long, or too fantastical, and the list goes on. Nobody thought it would do very well at all, so one by one, they all passed. Rowling had to keep moving on.

She remained patient and had faith in her product. She continued to send it out to publishing houses until she found one who saw in her story what she did: a success. It was one year from the time Rowling finished the very first Harry Potter book to the time that a publisher finally agreed to buy and publish it

Once she found a publisher who agreed to help her take her story to the masses, Rowling’s difficulties were far from over. Her novel was not an instant success. In fact, at the very first book reading that Rowling did for her first Harry Pottery novel, only four people showed up to hear her. The staff at the book store felt so sorry for her that they stood around and listened too.

Bloomsbury, the small publishing company that finally agreed to take a chance on Rowling’s novel, was also rethinking its move. Rowling’s editor says he “advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books.”

Her book was also criticized by some religious groups who disliked her use of witchcraft and wizardry. Their pressure was so strong in regions like Bridgeport Township, Michigan, that the local government agreed to remove all Harry Potter books from the public schools.

Still, Rowling knew that success was often about rough beginnings and she stayed her course. “It is our choices,” she says, “that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Rowling chose to stay strong, to persevere, and to conquer the dragons standing in her way. Unlike her protagonist, Rowling could fall back on no magic formula to take her to the top. She had to rely on herself, in whom she had unwavering faith.

In 1993, Rowling got divorced. Her mother had died a few years earlier. She was unemployed and living on welfare in Scotland. She had no means of taking care of her infant daughter. And yet, she continued to frequent coffee shops and type out her story on an old manual typewriter. “Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve,” she says. “I was determined to try. I was determined to try because, frankly, my life was such a mess at this point, what – what was the worst that could happen? Everyone turn me down? Big deal.”

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