“So, the first question we must ask ourselves is, what is a boggart?”

Hermione put her hand up.

“It’s a shape-shifter,” she said. “It can take the shape of whatever it thinks will frighten us most.”


Hermione did everything perfectly until she reached the trunk with the boggart in it. After about a minute inside it, she burst out again, screaming.

“Hermione!” said Lupin, startled. “What’s the matter?”

“P—P—Professor McGonagall!” Hermione gasped, pointing into the trunk. “Sh—she said I’d failed everything!”

(from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling)

I have a lot in common with Hermione Granger. I’m not as clever, of course, or as bossy, but I am every bit the perfectionist that she is. Anyone who talked to me in the days after I turned in my last paper this semester knows that my boggart would look remarkably similar to Hermione’s, but without McGonagall. When it comes to academic success, I’m a mess of insecurities. And it’s worse when I’m working on papers. In fact, I’ve had to recognize panic and self-doubt as part of my writing process (though not a particularly productive part). And this neurosis has gotten worse lately so that paper-writing has become a little traumatic. It’s boggarts all around while I’m writing.

So, this summer, I’d planned on revising a couple of papers–one that I’m presenting at a conference in September and one that I want to submit for publication. I always say that revising is the easy part, that all the really stressful stuff has already been done and that’s especially true on papers that have already been graded. But now that it comes down to it, I’m having a hard time convincing myself to revisit the glaring imperfections in my arguments and execution. Boggarts.

Lupin explains that the way to defeat a boggart is through laughter; you figure out a way to make it funny. Sounds good to me, but how does one make failure funny? Any ideas?

None? Me neither. Oh well. Guess I’ll just have to suck it up and face my fears like the muggle I am.


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