On Killing Your Darlings

One piece of advice that gets bandied around among authors is that “You’ve got to kill your darlings.” It’s always bothered me, mostly because part of the fun of writing is falling in love with parts of whatever it is you’re toiling on. Working on creative projects can be an obsessive endeavor. There’s the rush when you first start but every obsession slowly transforms into disgust (usually around the editing process). Every time you fall in love with your work, another drop is headed your way. There’s always a point where you hate everything you’ve ever written (at least there is for me).

In an interview  for the New York Times Magazine, Taika Waititi (director of the vampire comedy “What We do in the Shadows“, which is one of my favorite movies, and a little superhero movie you probably haven’t heard of), was asked about his editing process. After making some cuts, Taika said, “You’ve got to kill your babies, as they say.”

His editor attempted to correct him that “darlings” was typically used in that phrase, but Taika responded with, “I wouldn’t say I love them that much. They’re just babies.”

I found that exchange amusing and interesting. Our work is in an endless draft cycle until it’s published. Each part of it has it’s own potential, but we have to be willing to cut away at it until its final form is revealed. It appears that Taika knows better than to get too attached to anything. Maybe he has the final form in his mind. Maybe he’s just a hilarious visionary. But I appreciated the approach. Downgrading “darlings” to “babies” makes it somehow seem less monumental.

Click here to read the complete interview. 

Featured image by Stokpic

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