Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite literary characters. I like weirdos in general, but what specifically endeared him to me is John Watson’s incredulous reaction to Sherlock’s lack of knowledge about the solar system. Here’s a passage from A Study In Scarlet:“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose…It is a mistake to think that that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.” “But the Solar System!” I protested. “What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently: “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”
Ha! Awesome. I love this because I also feel very strongly about my apathy toward outer space, and because I tend to forget things and repeat myself a good deal. Thanks to Arthur Conan Doyle, I can pretend this means I’m a genius. A sociopathic genius, but whatever.
We have a new expression in our house, since Mike and I have recently gone through a Sherlock Holmes phase (thank you, BBC), which is to “Sherlock Dump” something that used to be in our brains, but isn’t anymore. Like, “Oh, you already told me what time you’re getting back from your gig tonight? Sorry. I Sherlock Dumped it.”
OK, so I may not be a genius, but part of the job of being a freelance writer is going super deep into a new topic nearly every day. For any given assignment, it’s a writer’s job to know everything there is to know about a thing. And because you’re going to need to know everything there is to know about another thing tomorrow, you’ve got to Sherlock Dump that shit.
Really, you have to. Because according to this actual genius who was peddling his book on The Daily Show last night, brains have to forget things, or else they get overwhelmed and jumbled and your mind turns into a living nightmare. Or something like that.
So what I’m saying is a) don’t hold it against me that I never remember half of what you tell me, and b) go ahead and Sherlock Dump on occasion. It’s good for you. You’ll be more geniusy for it.