Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Magical Creativity of J.K. Rowling

After reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as a child, I was hooked. I knew I would always be a massive fan of J.K. Rowling and the magical world she created. I have reread the whole series countless times over the years, and every time I read the series, I am left with one question. How did J.K. Rowling come up with such an incredible story? Her story and creativity never cease to amaze me.

            As a child, J.K. Rowling always wanted to be a writer. She attended Exeter University and studied languages to please her parents who thought studying English was useless. However, she eventually switched to studying classics. In 1990, she came up with the idea for the book series while on a train from Manchester to London, for four hours without a pen to write anything down. Prior to publishing the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling was a single mother in Scotland living on welfare. She spent her days caring for her daughter and writing her first book. After being rejected by 12 publishers, Bloomsbury agreed to publish Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1996. The first novel was published as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by Scholastic in America in 1997. Her name is Joanne Rowling, but she writes under the name J.K. Rowling to attract a male audience as well as female. She went on to write six more novels for the series, and the seventh and final book was released in July 2007. All seven novels were adapted in to films, and J.K. Rowling’s success with the series made her Britain’s 13th wealthiest woman. Most recently, she was a screenwriter for the 2016 movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The film is not a sequel or prequel to the Harry Potter series but an extension of it. Even an eighth story was released in the form of a play entitled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This shows the long lasting legacy of J.K. Rowling’s creativity.

Plot Outline for Order of the Phoenix
           Looking at Rowling’s creative writing process, she wrote plot outlines for all the chapters of Harry Potter on paper.  While writing the first book, she wrote the rules of the magical world she was creating and what the characters can and cannot do. J.K. Rowling did not write with an audience in mind; she wrote the story she wanted to tell.  She drew much of her inspiration from her childhood, family, and experiences. She wrote a series of rabbit stories when she was six years old and she knew she wanted to be a writer. Shortly after she began writing Harry Potter, her mother passed away from multiple sclerosis. When speaking about the effect her death had on Rowling’s new novel she said, “Her death is on virtually every other page of the Harry Potter books. At least half of Harry’s journey is a journey to deal with death in its many forms, what it does to the living and what it means to die. What survives death? Its there on every single page” (1). The emotions she portrays in her characters come from her own experience; she creates new ideas for this imaginary world from “existing categories and concepts” (Ward, 157). Another influence in her creative process was her failures. While writing Harry Potter, JK Rowling was dealing with her failed marriage and depression. In her Harvard Commencement speech in 2008, she discussed the benefits of failure and how she never would have achieved such great success without all the failures in her life. This thought is similar to the reading by Lehrer, which discusses the importance of failure in science and learning from it. Without her failures and rejection, the world may never have come to know the magical world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts.   

1. http://www.oprahmag.co.za/live-your-best-life/self-development/oprah-talks-to-jk-rowling
2. http://www.biography.com/people/jk-rowling-40998
3. http://www.biographyonline.net/writers/j_k_rowling.html
4. Ward, Thomas B. "What's Old About New Ideas?" 157-78. Print.


  1. I grew up reading Harry Potter, and it became an integral part of my childhood. J.K. Rowling is undoubtedly creative, and in my mind, she stands with those other well-loved authors who created universes that enthralled generations, such as J.R.R. Tolkein, author of the Lord of the Rings series, C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia, and, most recently, George R.R. Martin with Game of Thrones. To be able to create not only compelling characters and an interesting plotline, but an entire world for these things to exist in is to go above and beyond the creativity most authors have and take these works to the next level.

  2. Like you, I have read every Harry Potter book a few times and they never seem to grow old to me. To create timeless pieces such as these books is a true feat by JK Rowling. Although I knew about her struggles to publish Harry Potter in the beginning, I did not know that most of the characters and events were based upon her life experiences. I have found that the most creative people I know or have seen are masters at integrating their lives into their creative products without being too obvious. I also found it interesting that she knew she wanted to write since she was younger. In this sense JK Rowling reminds me of Picasso, who began painting when we was very young. Although his parents encouraged him to continue to paint, JK Rowling's parents did not think studying English was worthwhile, but she followed her dreams anyways!

  3. Harry Potter was such a huge part of my childhood and I will always be thankful for J.K. Rowling for creating it. I too have wondered about how she managed to create a whole new reality and what her process was to maintain its integrity. Seeing the actual plot outline she used for one of the books shows how much attention she paid to every detail throughout. Death is one of the overarching themes in the series and I did not know that was influenced by her own mother's passing. In this way she reminds me of Picasso, using art (in this case writing) to work through her emotions.

  4. This is a perfect example of the creation being consumed on a massive scale without knowledge of the creator. I had no clue that J.K. Rowling was influenced by the loss of her mother, nor did I know that she mapped the plots on paper! It would require some inhuman genius to map them without a tangible outline, I now realize. These books have not only exemplified creativity, but also inspired creativity all over the world. It would be interesting to study the creative legacy she has left in her fans.

  5. I think that how JK Rowling came up with Harry Potter is a great example of mental imagery. To just sit there and wander off into a fictional world (and remember all the details later since she didn't even have a pen) is quite the accomplishment and shows just how prominent mental imagery probably is to her creative process. The outline of the Order of the Phoenix is also a really interesting example because the she seems to organize her ideas according to how the characters and storylines coincide at different times of the year, which might be different from how other authors or creatives map out there ideas. It definitely takes a lot of creativity and organization to come up with a world as engaging and successful as in Harry Potter.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.