At 29, Joanne Rowling felt like a failure. Her marriage had recently ended in divorce, her money was running out, she had a young baby to take care of, and she was clinically depressed. Her mother had died a few years earlier. Suicidal thoughts were constantly on her mind.
Nearly everything had been taken from her.
And for some reason she was haunted by the idea of a young wizard named Harry that came to her one day while on a train. He and a whole world had arrived fully formed in her head.
She had to write a book about it.
So she soldiered on. Welfare paid her rent and heating bills, while cafes proved to be the best place to both get her daughter to fall asleep, and for her to focus on her manuscript.
Of this time Rowling said in an incredibly inspirational Harvard commencement address,
…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. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.