JK Rowling has no time for the cult of productivity

Nope, not today.
Nope, not today.
Image: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
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Our social media feeds are full of little reminders of the things successful people allegedly do that you probably don’t, like keep a steady morning routine, meditate twice daily, or wake up at the crack of dawn. Adherents of the cult of productivity may lap them up, but those not on the quest for continual self-improvement may find themselves mumbling an expletive or two when scrolling past the latest pro tip.

Author J.K. Rowling is in the latter camp. Amid recent tweets about Brexit and family separations at the US-Mexico border, the Harry Potter creator retweeted a chipper post suggesting that the world’s most successful people rise at 4 am. Her comment on the report: “Oh, piss off.”

Rowling’s irritation is deeply relatable, though Quartz At Work can’t fault Inc. Our site has written many a piece offering advice for those who want to change up their work routines and try to get more done. But it’s worth remembering that these hacks are correlational. People don’t become successful because they rise at 4 am. They achieve because they do the work.

Take Rowling’s by-now famous story. She moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, in December 1993 with a four-month-old daughter, no job, and, in her suitcase, three chapters of a novel about a boy wizard. She would load her baby into a stroller and walk until the child fell asleep, then park them both in a café and write as much as she could, pouring the pain of her mother’s death, her recent divorce, and her seemingly impossible situation into a story about a world of evil forces threatening good, in which magic rescues the unsalvageable.

The illusion of control that a strict morning routine provides wasn’t possible in her life at that time. She was broke, hounded by an ex-partner, caring for a baby alone. But still. She did the work. And the result changed everything, both for Rowling and for the generations of readers transformed by what she made.

Rising before the sun may help some people do the things they care about; in itself, it’s no guarantee of success. As long as you’re doing the work you care about, feel free to tell all the other noise to piss off.