the sky floor

Murder (All) Your Darlings

May 17, 2021

No matter how beloved that sparkling idea, product, business, or piece of writing is, sometimes you have to kill it for the good of the plot. 

Initially coined by English writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Murder Your Darlings is a famous adage in writing: 

Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — wholeheartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

I have been mulling over how true this is in all areas of life, not just writing. (Except for your actual, living, breathing darlings, of course – even metaphorically.) If you are like me, you get attached to your plans and fight to keep them alive. But sometimes, it would best to let them go. 

It is challenging to be ruthlessly objective with your ideas. The ability to edit our lives is one of the transcendent joys and weighty burdens of being human. 

We must murder our darlings to move onward and upward. Edit the story. Take out the parts that don’t serve the whole, even if there is nothing wrong with them, even if it is excellent. 

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Maybe you have a product that sells very well, and you love what it is, but it doesn’t represent your company anymore – you may have to send it to a farm up north where it can run wild in the fields. Perhaps your career isn’t panning out how you expected – you may have to change it soon even though it pays the bills and you love your co-workers. 

More than likely, you need to kill your Netflix binge sessions – even though they feel like an evening therapy session – if you want to write the story you want for your life. 

Ruthless editing is crucial advice for writing and also salient advice for life. The question is larger than simply “how do you want your life to look?” 

What are you holding onto that you need to let go of, even if you love it?