Monday, May 23, 2016

Freedom to Write as Granted by Sherlock Holmes

Three things occupy my heart this summer: Elementary, Supernatural, and #ReadWomen.

I get a little sadder as I approach the end of Elementary episodes available at the library because it is, by far, my favorite rendition of Sherlock Holmes. Ever. Also I love murder mysteries. Plus it is great.

I want to talk about one of the subplots “Rip Off” (S3xE5). Sherlock discovers a document in the trash of Watson’s old computer: a book about him. Despite its unread fate in the garbage, Sherlock feels violated and insists his new protégé, Kitty, to sign a non-disclosure agreement so she will have no power to write about what they do together. The book’s contents plague Sherlock until the episode’s end, when he relents:

“You weren’t entirely wrong about Watson. She does have the right to tell her own stories. I may have felt some mild trepidation about subjecting myself to her full appraisal. Almost imperceptibly mild. Anyway, um, I’ve decided that this nondisclosure agreement was made in error. I want you to feel free to um, produce your own memoirs. Should you feel the need.”
“I’m not much of a writer.”
“Well, let me know if that changes. Who knows? If you do write a book, someone might be interested to read it.” 
–Sherlock and Kitty, Elementary, “Rip Off”

This is a big change for Sherlock. Though he fears receiving the judgment of those he respects and loves, he acknowledges that he has no authority to stop those people from telling their stories. The stories don’t belong to him—he has no right to impede their production.

Still, that should be a given. I’m impressed by his second line, “let me know if that changes.” It’s a simple line, but it’s a significant invitation: for Kitty to share her work when she’s ready. Sherlock never reads Watson’s book because its location on the computer signaled to him that she never meant for it to be read. Likewise, he assures Kitty that while he takes interest in her thoughts, he won’t pursue them without her consent. This, coming from a man who is notorious for invading the privacy of others, demonstrates a personal change and goodwill absent from his former self.

I appreciate that. So much.

I’ll admit to my frustrations because a) in general, no one should need permission to write their own stories and b) no one should have to be afraid that someone will invade their writing space uninvited. I believe in those statements quite firmly.

Behind my frustration though, I love Sherlock. He said nice words, and they were nice because mentors so rarely say them. Sherlock essentially gives Kitty his blessing to write bad about him without interference, if she wants. He won’t pry. He won’t resist. And who else gives that kind of permission?

School notebooks are out. Depending on what you write about I believe it is within a teacher’s rights if not their obligation to report it. If Little Timmy writes a poem about the brutal massacre of Little Sally’s family then Little Timmy’s counselor and parents will hear about it. Grades corrode freedom, in that regard.

Obviously, the Internet is out. Work is probably out. Family might be in, but then there’s that fear. I don’t know about you guys, but I keep journals. Diaries. Personal thoughts about my life, some of which could hurt those who are close to me. I am not sorry—writing bad about other people is one of the best ways to feel better. Gets it out of the system. I can move on. Yet as much as that writing is cathartic for me, I get why kids write “PRIVATE” and “KEEP OUT” on the front pages of their journals and why the idea still tempts me.

My diary isn’t meant to be read or shared. Whether it’s nice or not, it’s mine. As long as I am the only one who reads my writing, I myself am the only person I have to own up to for saying such things.

I don’t want my writing to be found. In its time, it may be suitable for sharing, but that should be a gesture from me, not an obligation and certainly not an invasion. That sort of betrayal is not beyond forgiveness or acceptance, but it can lead to censoring oneself. Some thoughts will never mark the pages because, for now, only my brain is guaranteed my own.

Ah, freedom. How it stings.

Kudos to Sherlock. I think he’d know what I mean. And I think he’d also be glad to have offered a little hope—the expectation that something can be better. He teaches more than he knows.

What does the freedom to write mean to you?


  1. Really interesting post! I love when you write about more philosophical topics like this.

    I definetly value my privacy when I'm writing. Some projects I'm working on aren't ready to be shared with the world yet. Some are ready to be shared with specific people, etc. Since my writing is very much an extension of myself, I expect people not to violate that privacy, in the same way I expect people not to violate my person.

    Great discussion! P.S. I love that this grew out of an Elementary episode, haha.

    1. That's good to know; thanks for mentioning it!

      Exactly—the idea of "putting your heart on your sleeve" seems kind of cliche, but it is like, literally the way to describe it. It is one of the deepest parts of you, and if people aren't gentle they can crush it or break it and that is terrible!

      *fangirl salute*

  2. Ahhh, this is an excellent post, Heather. MAINLY BECAUSE SHERLOCK AHHHHH. (Okay bthough but I admit, I couldn't watch S3. I started??? And Sherlock and Watson fighting was making me SO SO SAD and I just couldnot. *weeps* Someday I'll get the courage. But the first 2 seasons are my most favourite thing. :') Ahem, anyway. I honestly haven't even written anything that I would want to DIE if anyone read. Like I have a journal that I write in like once ever 2 years. XD But apart from that? Not really.
    I totally agree with you that we don't need permission to write stories. *nods*

    1. SHERLOCK YAY! (Ohhhh Cait please do not be too sad! They were fighting but if you don't mind the spoiler alert by the end Watson moves back in and even though they have their times of struggle it is always because they care about each other I promise you are missing out on a bunch of emotions.) And I suppose that is good that you don't have anything that you would DIE if someone read because you are less vulnerable than the rest of us, which I guess you would expect from a world ruler like you.

      But yeah.

  3. I do believe that every writer should be free to write but it depends WHAT they write about. Are they writing to purposely upset people or to encourage people?

    But what did you mean? Kitty and Watson are the same person?

    1. See, I'm still not willing to put any limitations on it. The freedom to upset people is a torch carried high since basically forever, and I'd hate to be the one to douse it, you know?

      Nope; Kitty is Sherlock's student, Watson is Sherlock's partner. They are two different characters!


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