Chair Hope

I just read a post on Facebook by a friend who's visiting Edinburgh. She just sat in the very chair that JK Rowling did when she wrote the first Harry Potter book! AH! As I said to her, I would go to Edinburgh just to do that very thing! Even if I saw nothing else, even if I was blindfolded and all I could feel was the chair beneath me, I’D DO IT. I realized that sounds extreme. I realize, also, that it’s just a CHAIR. But it’s not just a chair—it’s a chair that Joanne Rowling (before she was JK) sat in EVERY DAY, when she was a destitute single mother on welfare, writing a novel she had no idea would get her anywhere. What did she feel, when she sat down each day? Determination? Despair (after all, she admitted to being depressed when she wrote that first book)? Regardless of that, regardless of what uncertainty she felt inside, that chair represents HOPE. She sat there EVERY DAY, without promise of reward. What faith! Each and every day, some element of faith brought her back to that chair, some sense of resiliency, regardless of what she or anyone else was telling her.

I needed that lesson.

I’m sitting inside a cafe in Florence, and had felt the nostalgia of sitting in a chair I might have once sat in while I wrote. When I lived here four years ago, I had started my novel (at that point, it was still in “thesis” form), but I hadn’t written—not really—in nine months time. I was scared. I didn’t know where the story was going. But I remember a few determined afternoons spent here, in this cafe, scribbling away on my book. I wanted to finish it by the time I left Florence (that definitely didn’t happen), but something perhaps even more important did happen: coming to Italy gave me the perspective I needed to know I wanted, more than anything, to finish my novel. To see it through to publication. More than staying in Italy another five months, more than moving back to Colorado to be close to friends, more than the security of doing normal things, I WANTED TO FINISH MY NOVEL. That desire was cemented here.

I wonder what four-year-younger Laura would say now, if she could see me scribbling away in the same cafe she put pen to paper on a series of chapters that were ultimately thrown out. I have a feeling that Rowling had a bit of that determination, too, when she sat down to write every day. Perhaps, like me, a bit more hope than she was willing to admit.

Gillian Tracey