I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.
(Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
Do you know that feeling of anxiety and dread, when the world weighs a ton, and you just don’t know what to do? When you feel so stressed because of work or homework, and there’s just so much noise in your head that you can’t physically concentrate? It makes you wish you had a Pensieve where you could pour all those annoying thoughts and memories and make sense out of the chaos they create in your mind. Unfortunately, I happen to be a regular Muggle, and I have no way to access wands or Pensieves, so I have to cope with the stress as any other Muggle would. Some people exercise or see a therapist. Others find a way out through cigarettes or alcohol. I cope with my stress by reading or writing.
I find it’s the best way to put your thoughts in order. When you read, you leave your life behind and find shelter in someone else’s problems and fears. It gives you a sense of security; you somehow experience all the good and bad things of life without having to actually worry or try to solve the character’s problems. It’s the perfect way to escape for awhile and calm down. However, we all know we have to go back to reality sometime, and no matter how relaxing it is to live through someone else’s adventures, you’ll have to wake up and solve your own, very much real problems. That’s the reason writing is so helpful to me.
When I write, my anxiety is still there; it doesn’t just magically go away, but I get a chance to organize my mind and share my worries with a paper friend. I try to condense everything I’m feeling or experiencing into words and sentences. The noise in my head slowly goes away with each word I write, and my mind starts to focus. Without the fogginess of messy thoughts and stress, finding connections and solutions for your problems suddenly becomes a lot easier. It doesn’t work for everyone, and there are days when it doesn’t really work for me either, and I need to go back to the traditional methods: throwing things around or crying until I feel ready to write and let the feelings go. It doesn’t really matter what you write about; you could channel your anger talking about bees or magic wands. Just the action of writing and seeing the pen gliding over the white paper in fluid motions has a calming effect. Sometimes you just need to take a moment to focus on something and forget all the mess that lies around it.
I’ve often wished for a Pensieve, to take everything out of my head and see without all the chaos, like Dumbledore does when there’s too much on his mind. I realize my problems (and most people’s problems) are faaaaaaar simpler than those of Hogwarts’s former headmaster, but I think you don’t have to be one of the greatest wizards of your time or have huge problems to feel overwhelmed by your mind. What I now realise is that you don’t need a Pensieve to take a step back and put things in perspective – paper and pen are enough.
Maybe that’s how authors feel when they say, “Okay, I’m going to sit and write.” Maybe what they are really doing when they create alternate universes is letting go of their thoughts, anxieties, fears, and pleasures and somehow transferring them to fictional characters. This could be the reason why certain books and characters strike us as more vivid and real than others. We should rethink this idea of good literature as literary devices and authors meticulously planning the meaning behind every symbol, word, or punctuation mark. It might as well be a lot simpler than that. Perhaps the reason we enjoy Harry Potter so much has something to do with what J.K. Rowling was able to transmit of herself through it. Maybe that’s the reason some of us found it natural to grow with Harry, Ron, and Hermione by our sides while patiently waiting for an owl carrying a parchment letter with McGonagall’s signature in emerald green ink.