I wrote a blog post for this morning that made me smile.
Last night, however, as I thought about it, I started to worry. Something didn’t make sense. A thought in paragraph one didn’t match paragraph three. What was my point? What was the theme of the piece?
I wasn’t consistent.
This morning at the crack of dawn, I edited it, set it to be published this morning, then went about my routine.
I came back ten minutes later and deleted the post, even though there were sections in it that I really loved.
The whole exercise reminded me that one of the greatest things a writer can learn is to kill your darlings.
I have a rule. Whenever I think I’ve written something scathingly brilliant, I delete it. I may just put it into another section, labeled “Brilliant” temporarily. Later, after some time has elapsed, I read it again, roll my eyes, and delete it.
Writing, ultimately, isn’t about the writer. It’s about the book (or in this case, the blog post). When a writer’s ego gets in the way, you end up with endless paragraphs of description of the moon, or exposition that barely masks the writer’s political beliefs, or witticisms that make you think the writer was having fun with himself, by himself.
The first dozen times I deleted something, I knew I was cheating the world of deathless prose. Somewhere, a muse wept. It took me awhile to get over myself.
Lately? I can cut with the best of them.
How about you? If you’re a writer, can you kill your darlings? In other fields, are you ruthless about your own work?