Sunday, December 04, 2005

Kill Your Darlings

Or kill your babies, which I prefer, possibly because it sounds a lot more brutal. It's a quote variously attributed to William Faulkner, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway but I've trawled the net for a good ten minutes, and I can't find confirmation one way or t'other.

read moreIt was at this point that I realised that I was being drawn into that familiar net vortex where you lose hours looking up trivia when you should be doing something else.

So, back to the point. Kill your darlings. In creative terms: remove that thing you love from the work.

You may have sweated over it's creation and polished it to a fine sheen. It may be a wonderful thing. But when you view the piece as a whole, is it necessary? Or does it just sit there looking good, but having no bearing on the rest of the piece? Or worse, does it actively clash with other aspects of the work?

But it is so hard to let go of these things. You have invested such a lot of time and energy into their creation. How can you just cut them out and forget them? And more to the point, will you be able to replace them with something of equal quality? Will you ever be able to recreate that magic? The lightning bolt from the heavens that lead to this miracle may not strike again. You will be left with a blank space and no way to fill it.

Now I may simply be unlucky, but I have yet to have an idea arrive from the heavens fully formed in my brain and ready to be shown to the world. Most of the time, it's some half baked concept that I have to kick around and work on for quite a while before it's fit for public consumption. But I have gone through this process enough times now to know that I can repeat it at will until dementia takes me.

The problem comes when we start to view any act of artistic creation as some sort of magical alchemy with unfathomable rules. It isn't. There are all kinds of wonderful books out there that can teach you the rules about everything from writing jokes to garden design.

Of course, inspiration plays it's part, but from thereon in there is a repeatable process to channel that inspiration into a workable idea.

And by the way, if that original piece was unnecessary, or clashed with other parts of the work, then it was never really a darling at all, it was always just dead wood, with a dress on.

Cut it off and throw it away.

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