Yesterday my daughters and I delighted in the wonders of Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Orlando. We devoured the frozen Butterbeer, learned the magical process of a wand “choosing you”, screamed on the dragon roller coaster, and voted the Gringotts ride as best of all. Along with thousands of other Muggles on spring break…we had a blast. The design of the place down to every last detail is remarkable.
On our way out of the park, we made one last stop at a gift store - and for the first time, saw the series of books where all of this began. I marveled that about 18 years ago, a single mom named J.K. Rowling sat in a coffee shop and thought up the whole magnificent story from beginning to end. She was struggling to make ends meet, and then gave birth to the seeds of a vast world of characters and plot lines. In that little London watering hole, Rowling envisioned the story of a 10-year-old boy named Harry.
So here’s what I could not stop thinking about yesterday as we left the park. J.K. Rowling had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA that her creative ideas would one day become a worldwide phenomenon, that 7 books and 7 movies later there would be a theme park in Orlando and a studio tour in England celebrating the entire experience known as Harry Potter World. As she put words on the page, sentence by sentence, describing wild characters like Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore and Luna Lovegood, Rowling had no possible way to know what would happen in the next few decades. She simply kept working on her ideas, kept working hard to bring them to life, kept trusting that maybe someone would be captivated by her story.
So what does this mean for creative artists everywhere? Most all of us will never write or design something that will impact millions. And yet…whenever we are faithful to the ideas in our minds and hearts, whenever we discipline ourselves to do the often grueling work of writing down words or notes or choreographing a dance or editing a video or designing a set or whatever it is we make – we have NO IDEA what might come of it. We do not know when we are in that phase of hard work who might be impacted by what we create, who might be inspired or comforted or stretched or stirred by what comes out of our own coffee shop moments.
So my challenge to myself and to all creative folks like me is simply this – don’t give up on your coffee shop time. Show up as often as you can to a place where you can dream and think and create. On so very many days it will feel unproductive, frustrating, and like a total waste of time. But we truly have no idea what might happen next.