What I learned about Writing from Dumbledore’s Pensieve

Of all the strange stuff happening in the Harry Potter universe, one thing struck me as quite symbolic; the Pensieve. 

The formal definition of a pensive from the Harry Potter fandom wiki page:

The Pensieve is a magical object used to review memories. It has the appearance of a shallow stone or metal basin, into which runes and strange symbols are carved and precious stones are fitted. It is filled with a silvery substance that appears to be a cloudy liquid/gas; the collected memories of people who have siphoned their recollections into it.

Memories can then be viewed from a non-participant, third-person point of view. Owing to the highly personal nature of extracted memories, and the potential for abuse, most Pensieves are entombed with their owners along with the memories they contain. Some witches and wizards will pass on their Pensive/memories to another person, as is the case with the Hogwarts Pensieve

If you watched the Harry Potter films (or read the books), there was that strange bowl that Dumbledore used to show Harry past events in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 

(Harry used it alone to view Snape’s memories in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2). 

Why should you care about a Pensieve?

If you think about it, a Pensieve is analogous to writing in all its forms (on a notebook or typing on a keyboard) to us muggles: 

  • It helps relay historical messages
  • It helps relieve your mind of stress
  • It helps you form meta-thoughts 

Dumbledore also said that extracting his memories like that also helped him solve mysteries.

Creating meta-thoughts and relieving your mind are the most relevant functions we would have obtained from the mystical basin in our daily lives.  

This definition of Meta-thoughts from Metathoughtsdotnet strikes the nail on the head: 

Meta thoughts are thoughts about thoughts, one can think of them as thoughts on a higher level. They are more conscious, clear and reflective than the ordinary regiment of thoughts that pass our minds all day. They stand out, provide awareness and move us forward

Writing has many benefits but here are two that are quite significant: 

  • It is a stress reliever
  • It helps fight distractions

Writing as a stress reliever

I’ve always thought of writing as the closest thing to talking to someone and relieving your mind of stress. 

Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits, wrote this about Shame

Mindfully Working with the Beliefs That Cause Shame It can be helpful to write down the beliefs that are causing us to feel shame, or to speak them aloud (perhaps to another person, like a trusted friend or therapist). Getting them out of our heads helps us to get clear on them. And sometimes saying them out loud can make them feel a little silly. I’ve found that true for myself — saying a belief out loud to another person takes away some of its power, maybe shows me how hard I am on myself.

What that means is that writing stuff down almost feels like talking about your problems to someone, only it is perhaps even more convenient. For example, if you don’t have someone with whom you can have an honest conversation without being judged OR if you have problems that you fell other people will not understand, writing is the only way you can relieve the stress. 

Writing to fight distractions

If you are doing a serious task, one of the best ways to keep yourself in full concentration mode is to write down distracting thoughts on a piece of paper. 

It is a modified form of the Pomodoro Technique

As you get started on some serious work, have a piece of paper and a pen.

If in the course of doing your work you can’t stop thinking about cleaning your room, just write “clean room”… and that will free your mind to carry on with your job. 

If brilliant ideas hit you, jolt them down. 

It is simple, powerful, and effective…

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PARTING SHOT: If you haven’t read or watched Harry Potter, get your head out of the sand will ya!

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