Killing Your Darlings…

My cousin Christine Fletcher (whose second book is due out in April 2008), agreed with my post on the Value of Ripping & Dumping – that there are valuable lessons in projects that don’t work out and that it’s important to learn to let go of your mistakes.

Then she brought up an issue that is particularly relevant to the writing profession; and that’s the concept of “killing your darlings.” What this refers to is a phrase or scene in your writing that you absolutely love, but that does not serve to move the story forward. No matter how much you love the way you wrote it, if it doesn’t help the story… it has to go.

Over the next several days this concept kept rolling around in my brain. It’s one thing to learn to rip out or dump something that didn’t turn out so great. It’s another thing to get rid of something you absolutely love. Was there any situation in knitting or brewing where “killing your darlings” would apply? Are there situations where you’re better off ripping out or dumping something regardless of how much you love it?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that “killing your darlings” doesn’t apply to the whole project. It applies to just a small part of the project. If you’re deleting a sentence or a scene from your writing, you’re not erasing the entire story. While ripping and dumping refer to getting rid of an entire project or batch that went bad, killing your darlings is more like surgery to remove one portion of the project so the rest of your work can move forward more successfully.

In this light, I can easily see how this concept can apply to both knitting and brewing. In knitting it could be a specific yarn or color that you used in part of the garment that caused the final look to be off from what you had hoped for. No matter how much you may love the the yarn itself, you know that by ripping out that portion and replacing it with something else your finished garment will work so much better.

In brewing it could be a specific flavor or aroma that you love on its own, but when worked into certain recipes it detracts from the rest of the flavors rather than enhancing them. By removing the ingredient that you love, your finished beer will taste much better.

So… the concept does apply to knitting and brewing. Lessons learned from mistakes are quite valuable, and learning to let go of something you love by not to forcing it into a situation where it doesn’t belong is just as valuable.

-Jenne Hiigel


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