In a world of Muggles, the best thing you can do to mark the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book is find your inner wizard—and create something out of nothing.
And don’t tell American comedian Patton Oswalt that making art is just too hard. He used his Twitter account today (June 26) to proclaim that the best way to salute J.K. Rowling is to embrace her do-it-yourself ethic.
Oswalt’s declarations about the pursuit of art and the artistic life inspired trepidation and fearlessness among his Twitter followers. But he pointed to the 10 years he spent struggling at the start of his career to answer one of the skeptics.
What Oswalt did not mention in today’s exchanges was this: The pinnacle of his success as a performer and writer has been coupled with the most terrible of personal losses. His wife Michelle McNamara, a true-crime author, died unexpectedly in April 2016. She was 46. Their daughter is now 8.
He will address the aftermath of her death, and life as a widower, father, and artist, in a Netflix standup special scheduled for fall release. (Oswalt told Vanity Fair he will never perform material from the special, taped in Chicago on June 2, live again. But his ardor for tackling difficulties in life, and in subject material, endures. “If something makes you uncomfortable, run for it,” he said. “So now I’m having to really, really do that in the hardest way possible.”)
Like Oswalt, Rowling has also experienced plenty of difficulty in her life along with success. As a single parent, she was at turns jobless, suicidal, and without any tangible reason to expect literary success. It’s a lesson almost all writers have learned. Another striving writer joined Oswalt in using the day to encourage artists to keep their spirits up:
Oswalt would probably tell that poor editor that drinking is not the best response to disaster. On liquor in particular, he told The New York Times last fall, “I found out the hard way these past few months that alcohol really doesn’t help.”
Instead, he dove back into standup and life—Oswalt and actress Meredith Salenger announced their engagement July 6— in search of a way to somehow cope with grief. He found that, if you are lucky, the work never ends.
This story was updated with the announcement of Oswalt and Salenger’s engagement.