How Would You Like A Quote That Will Change Your Life – And Your Memory – For The Better?
If the answer is yes, then pay attention to every word of this quote and my commentary on it.
But prepare yourself ...
This quote may well contain the most important set of thoughts you will ever read.
"To young writers I give only two secrets that really exist... all the other hints of Rosetta Stones are jiggery-pokery. The two secrets are these:
First, the most important book you can ever read, not only to prepare you as a writer, but to prepare you for life, is not the Bible or some handbook on syntax. It is the complete canon of Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Holmes mysteries are nailed to the fixed point of logic and rational observation. They teach that ratiocination, and a denial of paralogia, go straight to the heart of Pasteur’s admonition that “Chance favors the prepared mind.” The more you know, the more unflinchingly you deny casual beliefs and Accepted Wisdom when it flies in the face of reality, the more carefully you observe the world and its people around you, the better chance you have of writing something meaningful and well-crafted.
From Doyle’s stories an awakened intelligence can learn a system of rational behavior coupled with an ability to bring the process of deductive logic to bear on even the smallest measure of day-to-day existence. It works in life, and it works in art. We call it the writer’s eye. And that, melded to talent and composure, is what one can find in the work of every fine writer.
The second secret, what they never tell you, is that yes, anyone can become a writer.... The trick is not to become a writer, it is to stay a writer. Day after day, year after year, book after book. And for that, you must keep working, even when it seems beyond you. In the words-to-live-by of Thomas Carlyle, “Produce! Produce! Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal fraction of a Product, produce it in God’s name! ‘Tis the utmost thou has in thee: out with it, then. Up, up! Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy whole might. Work while it is called Today; for the Night cometh, wherein no man can work.”
All that, and learn the accurate meaning of “viable,” do not pronounce it noo-kew-ler, understand the difference between “in a moment” and “momentarily,” and don’t say “hopefully” when you mean “it is to be hoped” or “one hopes.” Because, for one last quotation, as Molly Haskell has written: “language: the one tool that enables us to grasp hold of our lives and transcend our fate by understanding it."
This quote comes from Harlan Ellison. It has got so much packed into it - and that's not even to mention the quotes inside the quote.
Why Reading Properly Is The Ultimate Cure To Ignorance
Here's a secret:
A lot of people read.
Except that they aren't really reading.
What does it mean to read a book?
I talk about this in the podcast episode How To Memorize A Textbook. So if you haven’t checked it out, give it a listen.
In brief, it shoes you how to memorize the right parts of a book, not every page. A lot of people think they need to memorize an entire book, but it isn't true.
There's a circular question that's been going round for thousands of years: Is it better to learn and memorize thousands of books to get a broad education? Or is it better to know just a few books better than most people ever will?
The Answer Is Pretty Simple!
The best book that you ever read, the most important book you can ever read is the book that you actually read.
Of course, it's up to you which book you read. You don’t have to take Ellison's advice that it must be Sherlock Holmes.
Ellison asks us to see a life lesson in Holmes: “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
And that’s really what Holmes is all about. After all, using Memory Palaces or Mind Palaces is the ultimate preparation.
At the same time,