a.k.a. “Kill Your Darlings.” No, I did not intentionally kill the orphaned bunny discussed in last week’s post. But despite our best efforts, little Hopscotch was found dead early Monday morning. So now that I’m no longer nursing a newborn rabbit with an eye dropper, I guess I have no choice but to continue with my writing goals. And I can’t help but think of Faulkner’s writing advice to kill your darlings.
While “your darlings” can apply to fictional characters, this advice actually refers to those parts of our writing that we love. The parts that are brilliant, those beautiful and artistic phrases (pages, even whole chapters) that remind us why we became writers in the first place – because we are gifted! Clearly!
Unfortunately, that obviously brilliant prose may be like the plight of most orphaned baby rabbits. Can you imagine a world where no darling bunnies died? We would be overrun with rabbits. Rabbits here, rabbits there, rabbits everywhere!
Now there are deeper, spiritual meanings to this advice as well. Sometimes we can become so obsessed with something that it takes over, when really it should have kicked the bucket long ago. Narcissism, addictions, and all forms of idolatry, for example. We must kill our darlings in order to move on, to find the life we’re meant to have.
If you read books about writing, you’ll notice that Faulkner’s advice is quickly followed by something to this effect: “don’t delete that writing entirely! Move it to another file, and learn from it.”
You know, we learned a lot from our newborn bunny. Our whole family grew and changed through the experience. We learned about how to sustain a delicate living being, and how to let go when we didn’t beat the odds.
In both writing and life, learning when to let go is no small matter.