Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How Harry Potter Changed Our Lives

At stage left, you'll notice a little ticker I've got goin' on featuring Daniel Radcliffe's smudged, bespectacled face. Only, he's not just good ol' Dan, looking all breathless, intense, and eager to get out of a full day's worth of nonstop, "stand here, do this, look this way" etc. etc... He's Harry Potter. Ready to battle the odds, defeat the most dangerous dark wizard of all time, and save the entire world from the tyranny of Death Eaters and a ginormous snake who's doubtless fighting a serious case of indigestion.

This Friday at midnight marks the conclusion of what has been an enormously successful franchise in movie-making history. Whether you are young or old or somewhere in between, I'll be my last dollar you know at least a little about the orphaned boy who found out he was a wizard, went to a wizarding school (some weird name... what was it? Pigsfeet? Dragonsbreath? Ah! Hogwarts!), and proceeded to meet up with two introverts, much like himself, who helped him in more ways than studying for Charms and Potions exams.

Hermione Granger, Harry Potter, & Ron Weasley

Harry Potter has, in some way, meant something to you, whether you wanna own up to it or not. If you're a kid, he's taken you on an adventure beyond your wildest dreams, made you believe in magic and elves and stones which can bring one back from the dead. Heck, he's done that very thing with us adults, too! If you're a graphics artist, the movies have wowed you with all their magical elements, scary beasts like trolls and basilisks, and sets that'll make the viewer declare they wanna pack up their bags in suburbia and move to a castle in Scotland. Finally, if you're a writer, there's no turning away from the success that is the fabulous, multi-talented Ms. Jo Rowling (J.K. is merely a pseudonym she used for the first book, so she could easily sell to both boys and girls. I'm thinking it worked!).

Yes, as writers, most of us yearn to touch even a portion of Jo's enormous success. That's why so many of us fans write fanfiction! Yours truly being one of them (look to the right for my personal renditions of what might've happened years later, after the seventh book, sans epilogue). Fact is, the stories spun by Jo are among the most fascinating ever told. A new world, an old concept with a new spin, and elements which each and every one of us can understand. I mean, who at one point in their life hasn't been a frightened child, headed for their first day at a new school? Add on the pressure of making new friends, possibly not knowing what the heck's going on in your classes, this one kid blowing up stuff every time he swishes & flicks his magic wand...

Harry & Seamus Finnigan in 1st Year Charms Class

Yeah. We all know what that's like. Except for maybe the last part. So, then, you have to wonder... What can I do in my own writing to equal this incredible burst of imagination Jo had whilst traveling the subway from her first to her second job? (She thought, "What would it be like to fly?") How do create a new version of an old concept? Because, really, that's what we're told the editors and agents want, am I right? Beuller? Beuller? Old concept, new spin. Give us what readers like to read, only make it your own.

Wow. Okay, Madam Editor. Just back off. Here's the thing, guys: I believe you need to throw all that out the window. All right, maybe not ALL of it. But a good portion, I'd say, because this is supposed to be YOUR story. Not what someone wants. Yours. YOU are the artist. Do you really think Jo Rowling was worried about what Madam Elite Editor or Mister Highfalutin Agent thought of her little story about an orphaned boy wizard from Surrey? Heck, no! She BELIEVED in herself. KNEW she was onto something. She just needed the right timing, and the right support group.

Alan Rickman, Tom Felton, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Matthew Lewis
(better known as Professor Snape, Draco, Hermione, Harry, Ron, and Neville) at this year's NYC premiere.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone got rejected twelve times before it was finally take on. If you're a writer, you probably already knew this. As a matter of fact, Jo's agent said to her, "This will never sell. People aren't ready for this kind of a story." But she wouldn't budge. And you know what? It did sell. And people were more than ready. Potterworld is a multi-billion dollar franchise, with not only Jo's books still selling in print and (soon!) ebook, but films and theme parks and prop replicas and hats and scarves and people proudly declaring their houses. (Hogwarts! Slytherin! Hufflepuff! Ravenclaw!)

So, why am I telling you all this? I'm so glad you asked!

1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, the final installment in the Harry Potter film series, releases to the public in theaters nationwide this Friday at midnight. Woop! Woop! One of your local stations has doubtless been running every Potter movie over and over for the past week or so. They do this every time, not that I'm complaining. :)

2) I want YOU, whether you are a writer, a teacher, or the busboy at T.G.I.Fridays, to never give up on your dreams. Don't let others tell you what to do. Yes, do take good advice, use it to your advantage. Set goals, achieve them. If you fail--and you will--pick yourself back up, and try again. Believe in your abilities. Go after what society has deemed as impossible, a dreamworld, unlikely for the average Joe/Jill, and do it! Because you can, and you will. I believe it, 110%.

3) I've posted this before, and it pretty much goes with what I said in #3, but I want you to read it again. Plus, it goes in keeping with the whole Harry Potter/believing in your dreams theme for today.

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. 

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone's total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes. 

You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. 

Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

Dream on, gentle readers. The only person who can stop you is you. Tell me: When adversity comes your way, how do you face the challenge? Have you had people ridicule you for what you believe in? The goals which you've set for yourself? What do you tell those nonbelievers when they laugh or try to discourage you, etc.?

Peace, Love, Junior Mints, and Harry Potter (and Draco, too, because I love the bad boys),

Quick Note: From this day forward, I will blog on Tuesdays & Fridays, instead of Thursdays. Need a little more time in between. :) Thanks for following and/or reading!


BREA said...

People say all the time..."I will be so lost without Harry Potter".

And I am like...Harry Potter will be around forever! I got my midnight tickets, planning on getting in line Thursday very early in the morning - sleeping bags and all.

Lela said...

Honey, I got goose-bumps reading this one! :D I am so glad you chose to post about this. Not necessarily Harry Potter, but facing challenges and adversity. It is true that you never know how you will handle a challenge until it presents itself, you may just surprise yourself. All I can say is I have recently learned the hard way how I can and intend to handle an extreme test of life that adversity has seen fit to throw my way. I have a road to follow, it's a rocky one, filled with potholes, but I intend to kick its butt along the way! I love that first quote where it says, "You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity." There is no truer statement out there - I'm living it, we all are, every day of our lives! So, how do I handle challenges? I grab them by the horns and I hold on for dear life while it tries to shake me loose and in the end, my intention is to still be stand with just as firm a grip as I started with!

Donna K. Weaver said...

As a serious HP geek (and Leaky Lounge moderator) I thank you for the wonderful tribute. I can't imagine creating something that has touched so many people. I was thrilled to have been a part of it, that group of rabid readers who didn't know how it would all end.

I get to see it early--5 p.m. on Thursday. Squeee!

Andrew Leon said...

Yep, yep. Awesome post. I don't just give out the "awesome post" words often, because, you know, it has to qualify. And leave me with nothing to add. I have nothig to add, and, since I'm really good at always having something to add, that says a lot.

And, hey, as you know, I talk about this kind of thing all the time. Go your own way, don't follow the crowd. It's more difficult but oh so much more rewarding.

BREA said...

Oh and to all those none believers...I ask them what they like to put on their toast. When they ask me why I say "Cause you should start putting it on your foot now so when you have to insert it in your mouth it will taste a whole lot better."


Shannon Lawrence said...

Wonderful post, and something one can't hear enough. My hubby has been to the tea place she used to go to write, and he brought me home a coffee cup. That's right. My husband, who does not read, because he does not enjoy doing so, got to go out there on a business trip and visit the place Harry Potter was born. I got a coffee cup...haha!

Award on my blog for you!

Anonymous said...

Good job, Nik.

Alyssia said...

@BREA That is definitely true. Think about the classics we love--Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings. Have those stories ever left us? And LOL!! About the putting whatever you got on your toast on your foot. Makes me think of our HS band director always sayin', "Uh huh, yeah. Open mouth, insert foot."

@Lela I am so glad you liked it, Lela, and that you found inspiration in Jo's words. I also love what she said about fear and failure: "So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea." That last part gets me every time. If this doesn't teach you to follow your dreams, I don't know what will. Incredible, inspiring words. So, get to writing, Chica! I'm ready to read!! :)

Alyssia said...

@Donna How cool that you're the Leaky moderator! I bow to your uberness... And wow, I am SO jealous! The Hubby and I are so excited about Friday, we watch the trailers every night via the net, right before we go to bed. LOL

Alyssia said...

@Andrew I am so honored, Andrew, and pleased you enjoyed the post. This is one of the things I love most about your blog: Your determination to write what you want, love your writing for what it is--YOUR voice & no one else's--and to keep the faith at all costs. Your an inspiration to all of us. :)

@Shannon LOL! I'm thinking you need that made into one of those t-shirts: "My husband visited Harry Potter's birthplace, and all I got was this stupid t-shirt." That truly would've been amazing, and my husband would've done the same thing, by the way. He is NOT a reader. At all. But he does listen to audio books, and because he listens to audio books, he likely knows the Potter series better than all of us put together.

Thanks for the shout-out & the award on your blog, by the way! I'm tickled pink!!

@Anonmyous Why, thank you! :)

Lynda R Young said...

Geat post. It is so important we don't give up on our dreams. Our passion gives us drive, but it takes courage to keep going despite opposition.

Andrew Leon said...

>blush< Well, I'm glad you think so. It doesn't feel that way so much, but I learned my lesson about that in high school. We never know the impact our words will have on someone, so it's important to always make them the best we can.

Now, if only I could always remember that when I'm dealing with my kids. heh

Kimberly Krey said...

Just looking at those pictures; I almost can't believe how much the actors have grown. I love the way you brought in the importance of sticking with it. Great, inspirational post, and I'm glad to have found you.

Alyssia said...

@Lynda I love that word--courage. And you're absolutely right. One of the many reasons I don't watch American Idol is the ridicule some people receive who really do think they can sing. I'm not talking about the imbeciles who want nothing more than a spot on national television. I mean the innocents. Those that get torn down in front of the entire nation. That's a big blow to someone's courage. And yet... some of them have kept going. Amazing, isn't it? My point is, all of us can find inspiration in the smallest places. The food to stoke our courage in order to keep going. That's one of the aspects I love most about human nature.

@Andrew "We never know the impact our words will have on someone, so it's important to always make them the best we can." HOW TRUE. That's exactly one of the many points Jay Asher was trying to make in his YA hit, Thirteen Reasons Why. Thanks for making that comment, Andrew.

@Kimberly I'm glad you found me, too! And haven't they? As for sticking to it, sitting directly beside my laptop is a framed picture of Jo Rowling typing away on her laptop--the last chapters of the Deathly Hallows. Photoshopped at the bottom are these words, "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?"

If I'm feel kind of down, unsure if I can make this story work, I just look at that picture. Read the caption over and over. And I'm good to go. Thanks for stopping by! :)

Andrew Leon said...


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