On my recent trip to the UK, I was getting out of a cab at King’s Cross train station when I saw a long line of people queuing outside the station. Curious, I walked to the front of the line and found that all those people standing in the heat were waiting to have their photograph taken against a plain brick wall with a sign that simply said Platform 9¾.
No explanation needed. This was incontrovertible testimony to the power of one woman’s imagination. That and the 450 million Harry Potter books she’s sold and the eight movies that have grossed $7,672,299,413 worldwide. Not to mention the merchandise, the theme parks, and the forthcoming interactive website PotterMore.
I was at King’s Cross to take a train up to Scotland. While in Edinburgh, I had tea and a slice of Victoria sponge cake at The Elephant House. This was the coffee shop where that very woman, J.K. Rowling, then a penniless single mother, used to sit for hours nursing a coffee and putting her imagination down on paper, her baby daughter asleep in a stroller beside her.
Which is where it starts for all of us writers of fiction. Applying the seat of the pants to the chair and putting one word down and then another and another. Not being afraid to write badly, not letting your internal critic get in the way. Being bold and brave and confident, even when you are writing about something that you doubt if anyone else will ever understand – a world that you carry around in your head, that you are creating out of nothing, out of thin air. Just telling the story and not thinking or caring about what becomes of it afterwards. Writing because it makes you happy and because you just have to do it.
Bringing to life a whole, rounded, full-bodied story is – and must be - a satisfaction all of its own. But if you find your book makes people so excited that they queue round the block to have their picture taken with a blank wall that your imagination created, then that’s the icing on the cake.