It’s bittersweet, clarity that arrives uninvited.
You’ve looked at what you’ve written a hundred times, making small changes here and there, reading aloud, thinking that whole time, “Wow, this is just about perfect.”
A particular passage or sentence or phrase – you’ve reread it to inspire yourself, to keep going when you’re stuck. To convince yourself that yes, you should be writing this. Sure, the rest of the story might need some help, but this part… This part is staying put, for sure.
Then, after a good night’s sleep or a jog or wasting time on Facebook – whatever you do when you’re not staring at your work – you see the bigger picture.
And you have to kill your darlings.
“Kill your darlings.” I’m obsessed with that phrase and just taped it next to my desk.
I never gave it too much thought until today. But early this morning I printed out some writing, and was hit with a realization: “Whoa, it took me two double-spaced pages to get to the real beginning of this story.”
Cut, cut, cut.
When we become so enamored with something we’ve written, it’s hard to accept that in a first, second, or third draft it’s highly likely to change. But making that change comes, at least for me, after I have spent so much time with that writing that I’m sort of ready to let it go and find inspiration elsewhere.
When I cut big chunks of text or move things around drastically, I expect it to sting, but it actually feels fantastic. Even better than being in love with the writing in the first place.
Kill your darlings, indeed.
I looked the phrase up to find out who said it. Here’s a great post about it at slate.com: Who Really Said You Should “Kill Your Darlings”?