Have you seen/read J.K. Rowling’s commencement address to the 2008 Harvard grads? If not, I highly recommend it…her words actually made me a little teary and inspired to go out and do Good Things, and I haven’t graduated from anything in years.

My favorite part is when she talked about failure, and how hitting bottom and ending up in a dark place you never wanted or expected to be can end up a blessing in disguise:

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

I would add to the above that, from my own experience, failing (spectacularly at times) and the things I learned from said failures have resulted in the writing that I feel is more true and engaging than anything I’ve come up with from the heights of (boring) contentment. I’d bet that is the case for a lot of writers, and artists in general (and definitely for songwriters)…disappointment and heartbreak and misfortune can be the best material.

Which, you know, kind of sucks sometimes.