The phrase "kill my darlings," or more commonly, "kill your darlings," is a piece of advice often given to writers or artists. It emphasizes the importance of removing elements from one's work, even if the creator is particularly fond of them, if they do not serve the overall narrative or purpose of the piece. The "darlings" in the phrase refer to parts of the work that the author might be especially proud of or attached to, but that might not be necessary or even detrimental to the creation.
“Kill my darlings” is an advice often given to creators, especially writers. It suggests that they should eliminate elements dear to them if these components don’t elevate the overall work. This means looking past personal attachments to make the work better.
Let’s break down its essence and application:
The phrase "kill your darlings" and its variations, including "murder your darlings" and "kill your babies," have been passed down in writing workshops and guides for many years. It has been attributed to numerous renowned 20th-century English authors. For instance, it has often been associated with William Faulkner, who is believed to have said, "In writing, you must kill all your darlings." The phrase has also been linked to other literary figures such as Oscar Wilde, Eudora Welty, G.K. Chesterton, Anton Chekhov, and Stephen King. Stephen King, in particular, wrote, "kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings."
"This does not mean I don't need an editor. I am often too close to 'kill my darlings,' as famous writers advise. But I believe that the best editors pass along to their writers some of their instincts for spotting..."
- A View from the Loft, Volume 17, 1994
To help you get a clearer grasp on when to use this phrase, let's check out some examples from different situations:
This expression has found its way into pop culture, mainly hinting at the process of refining and making hard decisions for the sake of art.
Let's dig into some references:
Although "kill my darlings" is a unique phrase, other sayings emphasize sacrificing loved elements for the greater good.
Here are some of them:
"Kill my darlings" means getting rid of your favorite parts of a piece of work, like a story or a painting, to improve the overall outcome.
You can slip it in when talking about refining or editing a creative project. For instance: “I always do my best in editing, even if it means I have to kill my darlings.” "While reading through the draft, I realized I needed to kill my darlings to improve the flow."
The phrase is often attributed to William Faulkner, but it's been used by many authors to convey the idea of ruthless editing in the name of art.
Nope! While it started with writers, anyone in a creative field can "kill their darlings" – it's all about ditching beloved elements for the greater good.
It's not about hating what you created, but rather about recognizing that sometimes even your favorite bits can detract from the larger goal. It's a sacrifice for the bigger picture.
Oh, absolutely! It can be tough letting go of something you're attached to. But it's all for the sake of improving the overall project.
It's all about objectivity. Ask yourself if this "darling" really serves the story or project. Getting feedback from others can also help spot them.
Good news! In the digital age, nothing is truly lost. Save previous versions of your work. You can always revisit or reuse your "darlings" in another project.
It often happens during the revision or editing phase. Once you've laid everything out, it's easier to spot what needs to go.
Yes! There's even a movie titled "Kill Your Darlings". The phrase has inspired various works and discussions on the art of creation and refinement.
The idiom "kill my darlings" is about making the tough calls in creativity. It's about the art, not the ego. Whether you're writing, painting, or composing music, sometimes you've got to let go of your favorites for the sake of the whole piece.
Here's a speedy recap:
So, next time you're stuck on a project, step back and see if there's a "darling" you might need to part with. It could make all the difference!