Killing your darlings
“In writing, you must kill your darlings.” – William Faulkner
William Faulkner was a genius writer, a Nobel Prize-winning scribbler of works that shaped much of the roaring 20’s and Great Depression years. Faulkner’s quote refers specifically to elements of your writing style: characters, dialogue, theme, or whatever you think is essential to your writing success.
Sometimes you have to sacrifice your “favorite” character because they’re not as essential as you wished they were. It can feel like killing off your best friend. It’s brutal to experience as a writer. Who would do that?!
I believe Faulkner’s quote has a bigger context than just the art of writing.
Pursuing your dreams means sacrificing ideas, opinions, or traditions. At some point in pursuit of your dreams you will line up all of these and vote the weakest one off your survivor list. It happens. It’s necessary.
Sometimes you need to take a favorite idea of yours and give it a proper burial. Sometimes you have to let go of the way things used to be to make way for something newer and better. Sometimes you need to choose not to have an opinion because it’s a learning opportunity.
Your opinion is important. Your ideas are yours, buried treasures just waiting to be shared with the world. You like the way you’ve done things in the past; the warm blanket of tradition can be pretty soothing in the midst of ongoing changes in life.
All of these are your darlings, precious to you because you’ve carried them with you for so long. One of the few guarantees in life is change. Nobody really loves change. I hate change for the sake of change because that’s pointless, but change is still inevitable.
It’s in the motion of constant change though that we’re forced to a crossroads with many of our mental darlings, our ideas, opinions, and traditions: stay the same and be left behind, or kill your darlings.
That sounds harsh. It is. It hurts to change our opinions. It hurts to leave tradition. It crushes us to think the ideas we’ve held onto may not be as good as we thought. And so, we do the unthinkable and change our minds, killing our darlings in the process.
Some of the most meaningful lessons I’ve learned is when I’ve had to kill an idea, opinion, or tradition of mine, especially as an entrepreneur. Do I miss some of those darlings? Some times, but it’s amazing how infrequently they cross my mind as new darlings have entered my thinking.
Pursuing your dreams means how you think about what you think about will change. New ideas, new traditions, and new opinions can’t form until the old ones are removed. God will call you to change your perspective as you pursue the dreams He’s called you to follow. That’s part of the dream-chasing process.
Have the courage today to know when to say goodbye to your darlings. You have the chance to change. Don’t let your dreams escape you because you’re too busy holding on to a dying idea, opinion, or tradition.
What are the darlings, your ideas, opinions, or traditions, that you need to kill today?