Don’t kill your darlings!

June 2, 2010

I’ve heard the expression “kill your darlings” on a more or less regular basis for quite some time now and it’s beginning to annoy me. Please don’t kill any darlings. A darling idea should by definition have some good qualities about it. If your idea does not have any good qualities, it usually qualifies as what I tend to call a “Crappy Idea” and should thus not be considered a darling. If you have a “Crappy Idea” you should most definitely kill it (and stop calling it a darling). If on the other hand your darling idea has some good qualities but does not fit into any context at the moment, save it. Put it in a safe place until you find a good context for it.

Jerry Weinberg has written an excellent book on writing called The Fieldstone Method. The general idea is that you collect ideas like fieldstones until you can start building (writing) a fieldstone wall (article/book) out of them. You carefully match stones (ideas) of different shapes and sizes into a stable wall. Any stone that doesn’t fit at the moment is stored for now and brought out again if and when you find a good place for it. This is what I want you to do with your darlings.

“Harsh words will draw them nearer never, never!
But love their hidden hearts will find.
Oh! don’t be cruel to the motherless darlings;
Don’t be unkind!” – Henry Clay Work

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