Today is IWSG Day because it’s the first Wednesday in December. IWSG stands for Insecure Writers Support Group and was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. In the words of Captain Alex, the purpose of the IWSG is ‘To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!’ You can follow other IWSG members here or on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG. We also have a Facebook page.
Today’s post is about something Hubby told me as we were driving down the highway. He’s always got tales from his childhood, but I’d never heard this one and found it interesting. He said when he was twelve years old, he was on the school bus headed for home and reading a Sherlock Holmes mystery—A Study in Scarlet. The best he remembered it, Holmes had said he didn’t read fiction because he would be filling his head with useless info. I found Hubby’s memory as well as that statement fascinating, so we searched for the quote. Hubby didn’t have it exactly right but close.
In Chapter 2 of A Study in Scarlet, Dr. Watson is exasperated with Holmes.
Watson thinks: His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of modern literature, philosophy, and politics, he appeared to know next to nothing. Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he asked who he was and what he had done.
Further down the page, Holmes explains:
“A man’s brain is like an empty attic. You have to put in whatever furniture you choose. A fool takes in everything he comes across, so that there is no room for anything useful to find a place, or else the useful information gets so jumbled up with everything else that he had difficulty laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful as to what he takes into his brain-attic.
…It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
Hubby said at that point he closed the book and quit reading. I suppose at age twelve, he either took Holmes’ words to heart or considered the book useless information. I have no doubt he’s been strategically placing selective furniture in his brain-attic ever since.
As you probably know, A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle was the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. I find it interesting that a twelve year old kid would be influenced—challenged—maybe insulted—by the above passage written in 1886.
Do you wonder/worry about political correctness? Or that your characters, an idea or specific scene might affect your readers in a negative way? Can you think of a book that made you tear your hair, throw it across the room, or view the author suspiciously?