Kill Your Darlings, Lessons From My Bathroom

File:Teniers the Younger Operation.jpg


Dear Patient Readers,

I apologize for the long absence. I’ve just returned from a taxing trip to Zanzibar where negotiations with the locals did not go as well as I’d hoped. It’s a work in progress but if there is one thing I’ve learned from writing is that persistence is key for anything better you want in this life. (At least that’s what the professionals tell me. If I ever get through the “persisting” and to the “enjoying” part of persistence, I shall confirm it myself).

Since I’ve been home, I’ve ordered the house to detox itself from clutter and random trash. Like the Zanzibarbarians though, House was very stubborn and refused to yield up its hoards. Not only was the house resistant, but the clutter also seemed put-out that it was being, well, put-out. Like the laundry room’s six empty soap bottles and two pounds of lint I had to pry from the dead-hand walls. I had to take them all outside so the bottles would stop sneaking out of the trash bag and climb back onto their shelves above the washing machine.

Needless to say, dear read, it’s been quite the time.

An epiphany came to me, though, while I was thus engaged.

I was in the bathroom, googles on and plunger in hand, trying to rid the cupboard above the toilet of unnecessary old junky jewelry. The toilet, obviously disgruntled it was being used as a step-stool, was keeping up a vengeful geyser of water. As though that would have stopped me! ::racks with maniacal laughter, then pulls self together to type once more::

As one gush of water rolled off my hindquarters I stood there looking at the jewelry, wondering if I should toss it, when the phrase “kill your darlings” came to my mind. A reference for doing what you have to in books, I saw the real-life reason for why it is always necessary to kill your darlings to produce your best work.

You spend days, months, even years clinging onto what you love most about your story. It fuels the late nights or early mornings, all of those sacrifices you make to get those words onto paper. This is why I’m doing this you tell yourself This is what I love. And then you get stuck following your tight outline. Or, your critique group hates the chapter you proudly displayed with all the love of an eager parent.  Wailing and throwing yourself onto your bed (or am I the only one?) you despair over your art.

What you most likely need to do in these situations is to kill your darlings. Let go of those sentences, chapters or characters that simply put, do not belong in THIS story. Disentangle those strings from your brain to the computer and store those darlings away somewhere else and find the ones the story is wanting you to tell.

Art MUST be honest. A work of great ark MUST be honest. And if you push and wheedle away that small voice inside telling you that something just isn’t quite like the others, well..

Much like that toilet-water-soaked-tarnished-old jewelry. It was cluttering up my space. Once I tossed it, I forgot about it and now the bathroom shines with the story I want my house to tell about me. The story it’s been supposed to tell all along.




*image: wikicommons


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