With all due trepidation, I admit that until a few days ago I was not a Harry Potter fan. What can I say? When, years earlier, I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, I was not feeling the magic. In my defense, this was in the midst of a dark, mugglish phase of my life.
I know, I know. Why should you keep reading such a scandalous affront to good taste? Who is this guy? Can a person trust such a person?
Wait. Shouldn't you be happy for me? Like – OMG, the grand story awaits you like a glorious banquet!
That is the sort of thought resonating through my mind when I recommend X book or Y movie or Z tv series to a friend who somehow missed out when most of the rest of us were all-in. The Fault in Our Stars. Baby Driver. Breaking Bad.
I hope you're feeling this feeling for me now. I imagine that you are. And this imagined feeling I ride like a wave.
It is why I have moved along at last to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. (I am on page 36.) Already I find myself with a newfound awe for Harry and Rowling. I will share a few outsider's insights...
But first, a bit more backstory:
No doubt you saw at least one of those "Which Hogwarts House Do You Belong In" personality tests that made the rounds to commemorate Harry's 20th anniversary on 6/26/2017 – that being my birthday, by the way – coincidence? – perhaps not.
I'm a sucker for personality tests. When I came across a Hogwarts iteration, it reminded me that my Myers-Briggs results (INFP) purportedly correlate with the personality of none other than Harry himself. I couldn't resist taking the Hogwarts test to see whether I would be sorted as Gryffindor.
Here are my results:
So: Huffleclaw: predominately Hufflepuff yet also significantly Ravenclaw in nature.
Cool, I thought.
Since so many folks these days share their Hogwarts affiliation on social media, identifying as such in their bios, I wanted in on that action.
Here's my bio as of today:
Once you post a Hogwarts affiliation, you're duty-bound to read the whole Potter series if you have not already done so. Anything less would amount to sheer hypocrisy.
Yes, I am all-in. Committed. Happy. This stuff is better than good, it's otherworldly. I am feeling it.
Which brings me back to page 36 of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Thus far, my biggest takeaway is: J.K. Rowling is a genius (duh) in ways myriad but particularly in juxtaposition – contrast – commingling opposites.
Here is a table I created to enumerate the excellence:
Is it any wonder the Harry Potter books constitute the best-selling series of all time? Such unforgettable juxtapositioning essentially weighs reality against fantasy, disappointment against ideal, hell against heaven.
Don't we all want a secret identity, secret powers, a destiny with a higher purpose, adoration, respect and Quidditch?
Don't we all feel trapped by circumstance, holed up in a metaphorical room under the stairs or a chamber offering only a catflap of a connection to the outer world?
Rowling paints our anguish and desire on the page with colors magical, breathtaking, and bold. We appreciate the art.
But enough with the analysis. I have 998,712 more words to read.
I used to marvel at writers who write a lot. Now, I'm glad to say, I am one of those writers. My secret is not innate awesomeness. It's routine.
Here's what I've found works:
Of course, my routine might not work for you. Then again, it might. Try some or all of it. Tweak some or all of it. Or not, and not. But do something. Good routines do not just happen – they are cultivated.
So get cultivating. Drop everything and ROUTINE!
Until recently, I did not realize how often I start sentences with the word so. That changed when I tried a new method of editing. This method, which is simple and obvious unless you share my male-pattern boneheadedness, facilitates a big-picture view. It helps me to notice repeated errors, patterns.
Rather than edit my novel's chapters within each individual Google Document, I now edit the entire manuscript at once within a Word document with Grammarly enabled. I have no stake in Grammarly, but I do recommend it. If you're not already using the free Chrome extension, give it a try. Here's an example of how a notification might look:
I am a grammar aficionado, but I'm not perfect. Editing a whole manuscript in a cursory fashion, focusing only on addressing issues noted by Grammarly, I see now what had previously escaped my attention.
Lately, for example, I've been pruning my current wily nemeses: so, actually, really, pretty. I had been employing these words to reflect teen speech patterns... yet global manuscript editing has empowered me to see how I've gone overboard.
Fellow writers, let's vow never to sink once we have gone overboard. Climb with me aboard the good ship Grammarly – and see what you've been missing.
Writer, reader, runner, teacher, father, infp, huffleclaw.