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J.K. Rowling, whose actual name is Joanne, turns 50 today. (Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
J.K. Rowling, whose actual name is Joanne, turns 50 today. (Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
J.K. Rowling turns 50 today. (Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

It seems like author J.K. Rowling hardly ever takes the day off from work, whether she’s writing or keeping up with readers on Twitter. Today (July 31) marks the Harry Potter author’s 50th birthday, but hopefully she’ll take a break to enjoy her day. We’ll try to take some of the weight off of her by compiling these 50 quotes from previous interviews and tweets that you can look back on:

1. On second chances.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” (Harvard Speech)

2. On living in a tiny front room. 

“I feel I really became myself here, in that everything was stripped away, I’d made such a mess of things. But that was freeing, so I just thought, ‘Well, I want to write’, and I wrote the book and what is the worst than can happen? It gets turned down by every publisher in Britain, big deal.” (The Telegraph)

3. On writing. 

“I’ll be writing until I can’t write anymore. It’s a compulsion with me. I love writing.” (GoodReads)

4. On her favorite literary character as a child. 

“My favorite literary heroine is Jo March. It is hard to overstate what she meant to a small, plain girl called Jo, who had a hot temper and a burning ambition to be a writer.” (New York Times)

5. On creativity.

“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” (The Guardian

6. On self-awareness.

“Whatever money you might have, self-worth really lies in finding out what you do best.” (

7. On her ideas. 

“I’ve no idea where ideas come from and I hope I never find out; it would spoil the excitement for me if it turned out I just have a funny little wrinkle on the surface of my brain which makes me think about invisible train platforms.” (

8. On universal appeal.

“If it’s a good book, anyone will read it. I’m totally unashamed about still reading things I loved in my childhood.” (Time)

9. On presenting at the 2012 Olympics.

“It was simultaneously terrifying and one of the most wonderful things I’ve done in my life. It was wonderful. The British aren’t very good at celebrating themselves. We have quite a complex view of ourselves, I think. And that was one evening where we got it right, and we celebrated being British in a way that we all felt comfortable with.” (CBS News

10. On battling obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“Those are the indulgences you can have before you have children. Now I don’t have time to obsess. All that stuff about, ‘I need to go this certain way and do that’ was an indulgence of my youth.” (The Guardian)

11. On women wizards.

“I’m a female writer and what’s interesting about the wizarding world is that when you take strength out of the equation, a woman can fight just the same as a man can fight.” (The Women of Harry Potter)

12. On keeping the Harry Potter plots a secret. 

“Of course one could be cynical and say it was a marketing ploy, but I don’t want the kids to know what’s coming because that’s part of the excitement of the story. I’ve sweated blood creating all my red herrings and lay all my clues.” (Newsnight)

13. On readers’ expectations. 

“There’s always trepidation. I think people might be surprised to know I felt trepidation every time I produced a Potter book. The weight of expectation there was … I won’t say crushing … but it was extraordinary and wonderful to have that weight of expectation, but at times … with the expectations literally of millions of fans, all of whom were very invested in the story and wanted to see what they wanted to see. And I knew where I was going. I had to put on mental blinkers a lot, and just think, ‘I know where I am going. I must not be influenced by this.” (Charlie Rose)

14. On her love of Hufflepuff.

“This may surprise people, but in many, many ways Hufflepuff is my favorite house.” (Scholastic Inc.)

15. On children.

“Those who write for children, or at least those who write best for children, are not childlike or immature, but they do remember with sometimes painful intensity both what it was to be small and confused and how wonderful was that fierce joy in the moment that can become so elusive in later life.” (The Eternal Bookshelf)

16. On her children.

“My youngest child asked me the other day, ‘Mummy, if you had to choose between us and writing, what would you choose?’ And I said, ‘Well I would choose you but I would be very, very grumpy.'” (Waterstones)

17. On Harry Potter finding her. 

“I had been writing for years, intending to write for adults, but had never tried to get anything published before. But when this story came to me it was obviously a children’s story. So, it chose me, rather than the other way around. I never sat down and said, ‘I’m going to write for children.'” (STV)

18. On fame.

“The fame thing is interesting because I never wanted to be famous, and I never dreamt I would be famous. My fantasy of being a famous writer—and again, there is a slight disconnect with reality, which happens a lot with me—I imagined being a famous writer would be like being Jane Austen. You’d be able to sit at home in your parsonage and your books would be very famous. Occasionally you’d correspond with the Prince of Wales’ secretary.” (Newsnight)

19. On looking in the Mirror of Erised.

“I would definitely see what Harry sees. I would have seen my mother. I would have been able to talk to my mother. Definitely [my] mum dying had a profound influence on the books because I had been writing about Harry for six months when she died. In the first draft his parents were disposed of in almost a cavalier fashion. Six months in and my mother dies, and I really think from that moment on death became a central, if not the central, theme of the seven books.” (Today)

20. On taking responsibility.

“There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.” (Harvard Speech

21. On her favorite Harry Potter books to write.

“Three, six, and seven have been the best to write. That’s Azkaban, the Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows.” (Wit Beyond Measure)

22. On finishing the last Harry Potter book. 

“Any writer finishing a book will know what I mean when I say, you’ve lived a parallel existence and suddenly the door closes and it’s over. For me it was 17 years. I was writing Harry Potter the night my mother died. It was a connection to a very different time in my life. It had always been there for me to escape into during the most turbulent years of my life.” (Today)

23. On mourning the end of Harry Potter

“It was a bereavement. It was huge. Although I knew it was coming, we all know that the people we love are mortal, we all know we’re mortal, we know it’s going to end; you can’t prepare yourself for it. So even though I always knew it would be seven books, that was it, I knew how it was going to end, and when it ended I was in a slight state of shock.” (Oprah)

24. On finding interviews easier after Harry Potter.

“I think finishing the books, it’s definitely been a release. I feel more relaxed. I thought, I can come here now and crash and burn. What does it matter?” (Jonathan Ross)

25. On writing Casual Vacancy.

“The worst that can happen is that everyone says, ‘That’s shockingly bad.'” (The Guardian)

For the second half of the 50 quotes to live by, we thought we’d pull from some of her best tweets:

26. On joining Twitter. 

27. On feeling appreciated. 

28. On cheering up fans. 

29. On being just like us.

30. On announcing Career of Evil

31. On fan’s allegiance. 

32.  On real life owls.

33. On decision-making. 

34. On remorse.

35. On Harry Potter-themed dreams. 

36. On Dumbledore being gay. 

37. On rejection. 

38. On managing a pseudonym’s Twitter account.

39. On sharing dog photos. 

40. On it not being a prequel. 

41. On watching rugby. 

42. On other career paths.

43. On reality checks. 

44. On realities mixing.

45. On being a bystander. 

46.  On Who Do You Think You Are? 

47. On shutting down online bullies.

48. On being snubbed by Draco. 

49. On not being liked by everyone. 

50. On you.

Happy birthday Jo!

See More:
J.K. Rowling Unveils New ‘Harry Potter’ Story for the Theater
J.K. Rowling and the Very Nice Tweets of Inspiration
How the Director of the ‘Harry Potter’ Play First Met J.K. Rowling

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By Brigid Brown