The Brilliant Writing Lesson in Harriet the Spy

One Writer

I mean… that notebook was pretty cool

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I don’t recall at what age I read Harriet the Spy, but if you have a young person in your life who always seems to be jotting things down, has their face in a book, seems a bit aloof — get them a copy of this book. This is not a book review, I mean most of you have heard about Harriet the Spy.

I want to talk about her little notebook.

Harriet was a bit of a disconnected kid, as was I. She took something mundane and made it powerful.

She carried this little notebook and she recorded her thoughts about everything. The internal adventures were what mattered to her and everything around her became a part of her world. Imagination became power for her. She claimed the things she saw and captured them, interpreted them in her own special way, and wrote them down in a place all her own.

I am reminded of the lyrics of one of my favorite songs Anna Begins (by the Counting Crows) Pretty much everything reminds me of one of their songs…

But it’s not all that easy so maybe I should
Snap her up in a butterfly net
Pin her down on a photograph album
 — Anna Begins, the Counting Crows

Where were we — ah, Harriet. And I. And you. And People. All around us sometimes and yet, they seem so far away.

I was always one who felt there was some kind of cosmic weirdness that floated between the words as they formed in my head and left my mouth — and the person receiving them. There was always a bit of disconnect. Like a barrier between my inner oddness/inability to conform and the “world out there, the world out there” (Tea and Memories, from "organic" Fiddleheads & Floss Vol 1 poetry.)

Being painfully introverted has not helped to bridge the divide. But being disconnected doesn’t mean we don’t have emotional connection, curiosity, ambitious desires and hopes for our relationships. We have the same needs as anyone else. These needs often lead us to a place of feeling a bit powerless — which is where the magic of Harriet’s little notebook settles on my spirit.

“Sometimes you have to lie. But to yourself you must always tell the truth.” 
 ― Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

There is a great power in words. The words we record about our life. The words we speak to each other. The language we use when we speak to ourselves. There is a pleasant order to recording things just for yourself. Private. Personal. Become a spy in your life. by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Of course, I don’t mean get out there and spy on people. I mean, record your thoughts. Write down observations. Observe the people and events going on around you as if it were something otherworldly, as if you were a guest in your own life, or if you were a different person altogether. You never know what brilliance or fun these small observations may be. What interest they may bring. Try to see something normal in a new way.

Write down that magical thing you saw your child do. It was truly magical, right? It doesn’t matter if no one else see’s the magic there — you did. Write it down. In ink. Claim it.

Pretend you are adding to your shopping list or just making “writing notes” when you jot down that nugget of thought — you know, the one you had when [insert person here] repeated the same phrasing for the seventh time. Seriously, how many times does a person need to say “you feel me, man?”

Thoughts on the weather, what is annoying you, how you feel about corduroy, what you think about that “situation” going on across the street. It’s just for fun. Be a spy.

Go out into the world and observe. Write down what you smell, hear, see — make up stories about what you see going on around you. There’s a whole world of inspiration out there if you put on your silly-spy goggles and view it a new way. In fact, give yourself a silly spy name.

 ― Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

Feel like that kid who needed a bit of power, a bit of control, a bit of secret. There’s really no reason why adulting can’t be fun. You feel me, man?

Poetry Quotes to Get You Through Today

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