Title: The Old Lady Reflects
As you get older, it is easy for your life to become narrow. In your youth, the possibilities were limitless. You dreamed great dreams. "I will do this, and this..." Then, one by one, the responsibilities attach themselves to you like barnacles, big barnacles. Taking care of your children, then taking care of elderly infirm family members, then saving for your suddenly looming old age. You start hunkering down, drawing inward. There are no items on the bucket list. "Someday..." you tell yourself.
But things that are never used or disturbed become dusty and covered with spider webs, almost unable to be seen anymore. It is time to break free and look back, through all the cobwebs in the brain, to half a century ago when you used to write, dumb stuff that you never showed to anyone and, somewhere along the line, threw away. It would be embarrassing to read it now, but it was important then, important enough to write.
Then there were the stories that I never wrote down, except for the opening pages and the final page, the rest composed in my head, set in the American west of 1888, but full of scraps of my own experiences, lines of imagined dialogue inspired by my son at age four, bits of historical detail that needed research in those pre-internet days, expositions of my unfolding understanding of the adult world, rich with characters and events still waiting to be put to paper.
Mugglenet Fanfiction carries me back to those times when I believed that I had something to say. Of course the characters are different now. Geologists in the newly-established U.S. Geological Survey in nineteenth-century Colorado are replaced by magically talented adolescents in twentieth-century Britain, but the process is the same. A lifetime of experiences and observations has made me who I am, and now I transform that essence into new stories with both age-old themes and fresh insights.
Can I still do this? Can I master this craft? Isn't the time long overdue for me to set myself a new challenge? (Once it was learning Finnish. Harry Potter goes to Finland? Then it was preparing and delivering sermons. Harry Potter goes to church?) My style is different from some other people's styles, and I can learn from reading their works, but I also resist the compulsion to imitate them or to assume the differences automatically mean that their work is better than mine. I strive to be the very best Me, not a reflection of someone else, and to have faith that someone will appreciate the real me.
Writing forces me to venture into new territory. I must be imaginative, building stories one detail at a time. I dredge up ideas, then keep dredging, or pull ideas out of thin air. What are the possibilities? Okay now, what are some more possibilities? I keep adding to the list, and suddenly connections materialize out of nowhere. People will think I planned it that way, but I didn't, at least not consciously. Maybe hundreds of links already exist, just waiting to be discovered. If I look hard enough, I will see them. I learn to have faith and start working. I learn to believe that the ideas and the links will come. I am spinning the straw of a random prompt into the gold of a worthwhile story. My life gains value as I write because without it these stories would not be possible. Jesus taught in parables, so why shouldn't I?
The triumphs, tragedies, challenges, success, failures, and joys are universal experiences which happen to each of us and to all other people too. So we write our stories, pretending they happened to Harry or Fred or Luna.
The skeleton of my stories comes from J. K. Rowling, but the flesh come from the ideas that are buried deep inside me. My writing becomes a way of communicating with my adult children. They know that there are things that Mom never told them, things Mom never talks about, that is, except in her fanfiction stories, through which Mom can share with them in a backhanded way that everyone tacitly understands. They read between the lines and understand more about what makes Mom tick, why she lived her life the way she did, and why their own childhoods were the way they were.
My children know who writes Mom's stories, but to the rest of the readers of Mugglenet Fanfiction I am just an enigmatic pen name. It doesn't take much courage to hide behind this anonymity. If the story is clumsy or stupid, no one will know that I am the culprit responsible for manufacturing such dross. On the other hand, if the story manages to avoid being rejected outright by the mods, then hey, maybe it's not so bad after all. A few readers will write supportive and appreciated reviews, and the readers who find the story boring will kindly refrain from saying so. (That's the job of my hard-nosed beta, who calls a spade a spade and doesn't suffer fools gladly. Yes, that last sentence is a string of cliches, but it expresses how I think of her and her invaluable advice.)
I do not feel competitive with the other writers who publish here (full disclosure: being a Slytherin, I guess there is a little competition), but they inspire me to improve the quality of my work, analyzing it sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase, and word-choice by word-choice. Maybe some people can dash off a good one-shot in a few hours, but I agonize over it. Scraps of longhand dialogue, scraps of action, and scraps of plot outline are scattered all over the tabletop. Once the story is printed off from the array of assembled hand-written scraps, the flaws glare out from the white paper like angry faces of little monsters. "Not good at this point!" "Not good here!" I go back and try to ameliorate all these rough, inadequate patches. Can I ever get it so perfect that my beta will find nothing to complain about? (Not yet.)
The Harry Potter universe provides me with limitless scope for whatever I want to express--the settings, the characters (both canon and created), the eras, the topics, the moods--it all fits in there somewhere.
And the readers are always there, even when my sentences are clumsy and imperfect. I like to think that the readers can see beyond my mistakes to discover what I am trying to say. Maybe some of them gain insight or support from a story I have written; if so, then I am giving back something of what I have received. Above all, the readers want me to succeed, and when I fall short they always give me a second chance, and a third chance, and a fourth chance.