The Boggart in the Closet


There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them. ~Andre Gide

Franknfurterphobia: fear of campy cross-dressing

Out of all the mythical creatures in the Harry Potter books, maybe my favorite is the one which has no true appearance of its own. I’m speaking of the boggart: a strange shape-shifting entity which takes on the appearance of whatever it thinks will scare the viewer the most. For Harry’s friend Ron, it’s a big ugly spider. For Hermione, it becomes her head of house telling her she’s failed every class. Harry himself sees a Dementor, the personification of fear, so perhaps what he most fears is fear itself.

I’ve been trying to figure out the puzzle of the boggart for ten years or so. For some, figuring out their worst fear is all too easy. Not for me. If I were to be faced with a boggart right now, I’m not sure what it would become (although the spider would be high on the list.)

Godzilla's boggart turned into Mothra

Who knew actually figuring out your worst fears could be quite so difficult? There were the usual suspects (spiders, going to the dentist, clowns, sudden movements), a few novel varieties (mirrors, anything bright pink or yellow) and a few which I actually could laugh out loud at their absurdity. Not until I actually sat down and wrote about it did I truly figure it out. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it sooner.

My biggest fear, it turns out, is twofold. I deeply fear a lack of independence, or having to rely on someone else to care for me. Every day at work I see poor souls who are too old or sick or simple-minded to look after themselves. It’s not to say they don’t deserve quality care. I just don’t ever want to be one of them, wasting away in a nursing home or hospice because I’m no longer a convenience to anyone. I’m especially afraid of losing my mental faculties, whether slowly over time or suddenly in some horrible accident. The idea of simply laughing at this (or the Harry Potter charm Riddikulus) is almost impossible.

Another inconvenient truth

The other half of My Big Fear was pretty laughable when I stopped to think. I’m actually more afraid of success than failure. In all the years I’ve been writing on an amateur level, aside from a few contests in school, I’ve never tried to submit any of my work. Certainly not for publication. I might have sent in something for one of those dinky contests with a $25 prize. If I did it was a long time ago.

“If I became successful,” I know my inner boggart voice has told me, “I’d have more responsibility, less privacy, and more expectations. I’d have to talk to strangers and meet fans. I know I’d get criticized even if I wrote the next The Help or The Da Vinci Code. All of it’s just too daunting, so I’ll just keep blogging and scribbling away anonymously.”

At this point, I did want to laugh. What’s the purpose of writing, if not to express ideas and share with others? If I’m going to write at all, should I not at least try and make something of it? With NaNoWriMo looming (and I’m going to do it this year, hell or high water) this exercise is just a warm-up. If I’m going to commit now, then I’m all in.

Who really cares if my final product ends up as nonsense? It’s a chance for me to shout “Riddikulus!” to that boggart and show it I can achieve a goal and then go one step further. I’d encourage other nervous or timid writers to do the same. If we laugh at our fears (or at least crack a smile), they seem less intimidating. That’s what Rowling is telling us through the image of that boggart.

If it does end up turning into Snape in your grandmother’s clothes, well, I’m afraid I can’t help you. That’s between you and your shrink, or your clergy member. Riddikulus!

Remus Lupin: afraid of being mooned

If you dare, what are your worst fears? Your worst fears as a writer? I’m interested in hearing what you have to say at wikusandmurdock@yahoo.com . Be sure to click “Like” if you enjoyed this post and subscribe to P&Q so you’ll never miss another post.

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on October 5, 2011.

5 Responses to “The Boggart in the Closet”

  1. My worst fear would be people not enjoying my writings..

  2. I know this will sound like a cliche, but I fear fear itself. I could tell you that I am constantly worried about a plane crashing but really it’s that feeling of fear that the passengers experience. I worry about an earthquake or a tsunami or getting mugged at gunpoint, but to even imagine that wave of terror is terrifying on its own, regardless of what I think I’m scared of.

  3. Dammit, I read this straight *after* publishing my latest post. I could have stolen that Andre Gide quote!

    Seriously, I know what you mean by fear of success. With me it’s concern that I wouldn’t be up to the long-term responsibilities of success. Silly I know, but fears very often are…

  4. What a great post! My obvious fear is suffocation, my psychological fear is boredom (every day exactly the same with no imagination to fuel escapism), and my writing fear is being misunderstood (like people laughing at the serious stuff and not laughing at the funny stuff).

    I’m a new follower; just been lurking for a little while. Hi!

  5. Biggest fear would be harm to my family. Also like you being unable to care for myself. Good luck on writing if you decide to.

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