I identify as a Ravenclaw with secondary Hufflepuff leanings (Pottermore says I’m a Hufflepuff, but, like Harry, I chose with my heart). I love being a Ravenclaw, but until a short time ago, I tended to confine that identity to the fictional world and niche culture.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized knowing my Hogwarts house could explain many choices I’ve made as a writer. Additionally, I’m hoping this knowledge will guide me in future career choices.
Before we go further, let me clarify that your Hogwarts house shouldn’t be the determining factor in your project selections or career choices. However, knowing you write like a Ravenclaw with Hufflepuff leanings or a Gryffindor with Slytherin leanings can help you understand why you write as you do, which audiences to target, and what your strengths and weaknesses are.
With that said, let’s put on the writing version of the Sorting Hat and get started.
Ravenclaw: The Wise and Witty
We’ll begin with Ravenclaw, the house of the learned, witty, and wise. As a Ravenclaw myself, I’m always eager to help other Ravens find their writing niches.
Ravenclaws value intelligence and learning above everything else. They might not be classic academicians, but they crave the experience of learning something new and teaching it to others. Ravens are the “outside the box” thinkers of Hogwarts; in fact, they threw out the box.
Luna Lovegood was a wonderful example of this. She, more than any other Ravenclaw and maybe Hogwarts student, knew the best answers sometimes lay outside the expected boundaries. For instance, Luna expected her stolen sneakers to come back to her, and they did—hanging from the ceiling. Yet Luna accepted this as an answer to the dilemma, “Where and how do I get my shoes back?” In so doing, she also found an unexpected way to deal with bullies, in that reacting positively toward their behavior might make them feel foolish.
The world, especially the writing world, never runs out of ideas, topics, and possibilities a Ravenclaw can explore. Ravenclaws think like Luna almost unconsciously. If the answers don’t come from expected sources, they’re more willing than the rest to keep looking. They’re often brave enough to eschew the “expert” quote for an interview with a marginalized third party, or clever enough to put their own spin on an oft-used topic.
If you are a Ravenclaw, you love writing for its own sake. You gravitate toward fiction, poetry, and memoir because these genres give you a lot of freedom to explore and express yourself. Nothing makes you happier than creating characters, finding perfect phrases, or sharing your experiences with others so they can learn what you have learned.
Like your eagle mascot, soar above your topic, looking for niches and trivia that might make it easier to complete the assignment. Write these things within the parameters of client needs. Seek out niche publications, such as websites or magazines dedicated to your love of children’s books or Moroccan cooking.
Hone your eagle eye. When you need a break, fly back to the comfy “nest” of your favorite creative projects. Don’t have a nest? Seek out one in the form of a critique group or writing conference. Brainstorm or free-write frequently, and stay away from jobs that depend on strict word quotas and narrow topics. If you must write like this, take frequent breaks and stay close to your tribe. Otherwise, you’ll feel isolated and useless. When Ravens feel like this, we fall apart, and then we crash and burn.
Look for publications and editors who embrace creativity and new ideas. Try publications with casual voices, or those in which the editor doesn’t mind if authors make asides to the audience. Search for publications on any topic that interests you, and pitch any and every idea you can until they say, “Yes, welcome aboard!”
Hufflepuff: The Loyal and Unafraid of Toil
My Hufflepuff leanings have served me well as a content writer, and if you’re a Puff too, I bet you can guess why. Hufflepuff writers are the “worker bees,” ones unafraid of toil. You can give us a 5,000-word assignment and end-of-day deadline, and our response will be, “Hold our butterbeer!”
As a Hufflepuff, you want the world to be a better, kinder place. You might draw inspiration from Cedric Diggory, a Hufflepuff who saw the value of competition but, moreover, the value of helping his teammates and school. To Cedric, the Triwizard Tournament didn’t accomplish anything unless it made every student, participant, or spectator, a stronger, smarter, braver, and more compassionate person. That’s why he went out of his way to help Harry, who procrastinated in preparing for the second task and arguably didn’t need or deserve help.
Like Cedric with the Tournament, you see writing as a way to help people. To you, it is just and loyal to make all kinds of writing accessible to everyone. You want your audience to come away educated, but also entertained and reassured.
Hufflepuffs gravitate toward universal, relatable genres and topics. Like their mascot the badger, they dig, searching for truths that make their audiences say, “Me, too.” Hufflepuffs are the quietly brave, the ones who are unafraid to toil and explore. They like imparting information on cutting-edge topics, or de-mystifying complex topics like law, medicine, or forensics. This interest is often why Ravens and Puffs make great writing teams, or why these complementary houses make one great writer.
Hufflepuff writers, more than any others, have to be careful not to burn out. I learned the hard way, a Hufflepuff work ethic didn’t make me a machine. I found myself saying, “If I have to write one more word about X topic, I’m going to give myself the Curse of the Bogies just to call in sick.” I was stuck in a job where quantity was privileged over quality, and I was miserable.
If this happens to you, stop right there. Take a personal day, and begin looking for writing gigs that serve your interests and strengths. Hufflepuffs think being informed should be fun, so they gravitate toward fun, light topics such as 1990s nostalgia, new ways to cook a tried-and-true recipe, or the special “trick” plays in their favorite sports. Look for projects like these, and the editors who love them. Always privilege quality over quantity. Five hundred informative words are better than 1,000 written for the sake of meeting a word count.
Finally, write in optimum comfort; if you must sit at a desk or in a cubicle, use tools such as your favorite beverage, a soft sweater, or a cheerful art print for inspiration. When you can, put on your headphones and enjoy your favorite podcast or music. Write freely, but edit without mercy. Take every opportunity to bounce ideas off colleagues.
Slytherin: The Cunning and Ambitious
Okay, Slytherins, I see you recoiling. You worry your house affiliation makes you evil, suited to write about serial killers. Don’t despair! In reality, you are probably the most versatile writers in our world. Here’s a secret: With your ambition, unfailing tenacity, and resourcefulness, you’re my favorites (well, after my own Ravens, of course).
As a Slytherin, you don’t take “no” for an answer, and you know there’s always an answer. If you can’t see it, that’s an opportunity to plumb deeper. You’ll tackle everything from the latest political scandal to removing rats from an attic, because you know each topic holds a clue to the depths of humanity. The topics that scare other houses are the ones you love, because they challenge your cunning and wit. For you, no topic is too complex or obscure.
Avoid projects and work environments with too many rules. I’m not talking about grammatical rules, or rules against using offensive language. I’m talking about rules like “Please highlight keywords” or “Here is a list of common words you absolutely may not use.” If you must write like this, let yourself break the rules in a draft before polishing it for publication. Remember, when Slytherins are backed into corners, they bite. In other words, they vent frustrations on colleagues, bosses, and loved ones. Breaking the rules in the safety of a draft will give you back control and help you feel calmer.
When choosing projects, topics, or workplaces, think like your alumni. My absolute favorite Slytherin is Severus Snape, and he has inspired my own writing on tough days. As a teacher, Severus was confronted with a thorny dilemma—protect a student I don’t like, while under cover so deep, one wrong move could cost us both our lives. He treated this mission like you the Slytherin writer can treat your topic. Find what interests you about it, and probe as deeply as you want. Push for answers the way Severus pushed Harry in Occlumency lessons—don’t stop until you have what you want.
What happens when you can’t get what you want or write what you think? Start slithering. In other words, don’t break the rules, but look for loopholes, or follow different rules to get the same results.
Remember, Severus couldn’t tell Harry, “I loved your mom, and I care about you.” He couldn’t say, “I’m hard on you because being nice would kill you.” But he could give Harry his memories. He could covertly teach him a signature spell. You must do the same.
If your editor forbids you from discussing controversial topics, perhaps you can hint at them with a well-placed anecdote or some tasteful snark. If you’re stuck writing about a topic you hate, perhaps you can focus on why it’s useful. I once had a gig that involved writing almost nothing but statistical data. It helped to tell myself that someone, somewhere needed that data, and to mention how that data affected people wherever I could.
Gryffindor: The Bravest Ones of All
Last but never least, we have venerable Gryffindor. I admit, you guys kind of scare me. You’re the “pantsers,” the writers willing to tackle topics you know nothing about. If someone tells me, “Don’t start a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but,’” I won’t do it. A Gryffindor will smile and say, “But why not?” They bend the rules, sometimes even more than Slytherins, and their writing is better for it.
As a Gryffindor, you are brave and chivalrous. You want readers to come away from your writing thinking, “I can do that” or “I want to do something with/about what I just read.” You gravitate toward topics that let you experience the world, topics that get you out from behind a desk. Think like the Golden Trio themselves, all Gryffindors. They knew a place for research existed—without Hermione’s help, Harry would never have defeated that basilisk. But all three of our heroes knew, there’s a time to leave the classroom and put theory into practice. Harry probably gave us the best example when he defied Dolores Umbridge to create Dumbledore’s Army, thus giving his classmates the knowledge, skills, and confidence to which they had a right.
Think like Harry, Ron, and Hermione on your writing journey. Balance research with practice, and tune in when your body aches, feels tired, or otherwise signals that it needs to move. If you love writing mysteries, ask to go on a ride-along with a local police officer. Are you an athlete like Harry? Go watch a game and interview players. If your client wants 10 blog posts about interior decor, spend a day at the hardware store, curled up with paint samples.
If you have to write behind a desk, take a cue from your mascot, the lion. No, don’t roar at or bite anyone. Instead, look for the parts of your topic that require some chivalry. Maybe there’s something no one else is saying about this topic that needs to be said. Maybe there’s an angle everyone else is afraid to cover, such as the implications of child labor in the diamond or chocolate markets. Find those niches and pounce.
Gryffindor writers are the type to work on the next Great American Novel one minute and the next, write a piece about cleaning tile grout. This can increase your versatility, but be careful. Commit to a project and stick to it. Take frequent exercise or stretch breaks. If you find yourself procrastinating, it’s a sign you’ve been working on one thing too long. Like Ravenclaw, learn to journal and free-write to combat this. Set strict writing limits, and reward yourself for finishing projects.
Seek out companies or editors who embody the Gryffindor spirit, who believe the readers have a right to know, who say what other workplaces won’t. Like Slytherin, seek workplaces with flexible rules. If your workplace has a fitness center, a sports or trivia team, or a tradition of going out for lunch on Fridays, embrace it. Your colleagues are fellow world-changers and your best resources.
What Did the Hat Decree?
Maybe you saw yourself in one house right away. Maybe one house is dominant, but you have other leanings, or maybe you’re a Hatstall. If you see your writing style in more than one house, ask where you are most comfortable. Which writing style sounds most like you? Where do you have the most fun, and where do you get bogged down or burned out?
Once you know your house, ask yourself with every project, “How would a witch or wizard from my house approach this?” Keep your mascot and alumni at the front of your mind, as well as the positive traits of each house. Your wit might spice up a boring topic; your cunning might help you find a new angle and conquer writer’s block.
Knowing your Hogwarts house will improve your writing in many ways, whether you’re a fiction writer, a blogger, or a news reporter. It will help your writing sound more authentic and individual, and give you a unique voice. Knowing your house and the associated strengths and weaknesses will also help you cope when the writing life gets tough, so you can find the joy in writing again.
Whichever house you’re in, 50 points to you for enhancing your career.