The Creative Genesis of Harry Potter

On a recent airing of “The Writer’s Almanac,” Garrison Keillor quoted an interview with J.K. Rowling on how she got the idea of writing a novel about Harry Potter:

She was on a train coming home to London from a weekend looking at flats in Manchester in 1990, when she suddenly got the idea for a novel. “I was looking out of the window at some cows, I believe and I just thought: ‘Boy doesn’t know he’s a wizard — goes off to wizard school.’ . . . I have no idea where it came from. I think the idea was floating along the train and looking for someone, and my mind was vacant enough, so it decided to zoom in there.”

Wow! That idea, which has led her to a fortune estimated at $1 billion, “just came to her”!

She’s partial to magic, so she says the idea was floating around, looking for someone. My take on it is that this was her idea alone to grasp.  She probably had wizard ideas and boy-who-doesn’t-know-he’s-adopted ideas, and suddenly — those two ideas met and the creative leap was made!

The important part of this anecdote for me is the phrase “my mind was vacant enough.”  Riding on the train and looking at nature passing by attracted her attention just enough to get her out of focusing on whatever normally would have occupied her mind, but left enough room in there for this wonderful creative connection to be made.

Giving ourselves breaks from endless information, entertainment, and connection can open us up to making creative leaps.  Will two of your unrelated thoughts suddenly connect and be the next great breakthrough?

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