Inspirational J.K. Rowling Quotes That Struggling Muggles Need to Read

No Magic Required When You've Got Smart Insights and Common Sense

J.K. Rowling - Photo of Harry Potter Author
J.K. Rowling, Author of the Harry Potter Series. Scholastic

There are few "rags to riches" stories more satisfying than that of British author J.K. Rowling. Back in 1990 J.K. was working as researcher and secretary when she got the idea for Harry Potter while stuck on a stalled train. Over the next seven years she plugged away at her debut novel while enduring setback after setback, starting with the death of her mother. After divorcing her first husband and trying to subsist on state welfare benefits, Rowling was so clinically depressed that she actually contemplated suicide.

Just seven years later, after countless rejections from publishers all over Europe, Rowling's novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was finally accepted by Bloomsbury, and the rest is history. To date, the Harry Potter series has sold over 450 million copies in 78 languages worldwide, not to mention eight blockbuster film adaptations. Soon she became the world's first billionaire author, but she never forgot the struggle she endured to get to that point. Here are a few of her insights gained from a lifetime of epic highs and terrible lows.

On Failure

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default."

"As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters."

"You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity."

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” 

"Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes."

"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."

On Success

J.K. Rowling
Awakening / Getty Images

"The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive."

"Whatever money you might have, self-worth really lies in finding out what you do best."

"You’ve got to work. It’s about structure. It’s about discipline. It’s all these deadly things that your schoolteacher told you you needed… You need it.”

On Being a Good Person

Rowling was the first author to become a billionaire, but she was also the first person to ever lose their billionaire status by giving away so much of her earnings to charity.

"Are you the sort of person who gloats when they see a woman fall, or the kind that celebrates a magnificent recovery?"

"It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

"Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive,’ ‘jealous,’ ‘shallow,’ ‘vain,’ ‘boring,’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me."

"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

"I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. Never. What’s to be ashamed of? I went through a really rough time and I am quite proud that I got out of that."

“We have to choose between what is right, and what is easy.”

On Writing

“Sometimes, you have to stop trying to force it, walk away and let your subconscious show you the way. Fill up on life for a while.”

“I’ve been writing since I was six. It is a compulsion, so I can’t really say where the desire came from; I’ve always had it. My breakthrough with the first book came through persistence because a lot of publishers turned it down!”

“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have 'essential' and 'long overdue' meetings on those days."

On Changing the World

J.K. Rowling
Danny E. Martindale / Getty Images

"We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better."

"I believe in free will. Of those that, like us, are in a privileged situation at least. For you, for me: people who are living in western society, people who are not repressed, who are free. We can choose. The things go largely like you want them to go. You control your own life. Your own will is extremely powerful."