Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Kill your darlings

I'm in the midst of writing a very important, emotional letter.  I actually don't know if this letter will ever be read by anyone but me, but that's sort of beside the point right now.  It's one of those painful, liberating pieces of writing that really lays out my emotional landscape.  I'm lucky that the person to whom this letter is addressed is someone who knows me well, and feels safe.

But what keeps coming back to me, as I write a little and then draft (creative writing workshop habits die hard!), is that pithy phrase tossed around in my workshop days:  "kill your darlings," said William Faulkner (of all people!!  He had some pretty intense darlings.  Remind me to tell you sometime how I feel like I married into a family from a Faulkner novel).

"Kill your darlings," meaning:  if you are too attached to a phrase, too infatuated with your choice of words, too sweet on your syntax - it's become too precious, and it must be killed.  "Kill your darlings":  get right to the heart of what you love, and see what that love says about you, rather than about your object of love.

We are in a week-long class about God's redemption of the fallen nature of the world, with Walter Wink as a basis.  I feel like we could study Wink for a year, just on his own.  What a man.  But one thing I love is that Wink insists that we must resist the lure of mimetic rivalry.  This is just a super-fancy way of saying:  I shoudnl't react with violence just because the world may be violent to me.  Rather, he says that evil in the world may actually have value for us, because it shows us what parts of ourselves are still in need of redemption and resurrection.

"Kill your darlings":  if you feel especially hurt by someone's actions or words, think about what this says about you, rather than about them.  If some part of you has become too precious, if you're holding on to it too tightly, it probably means that it must be surrendered to the redemptive power of God.

So, who even knows about my letter?  At this point, the whole thing is basically a darling and it may just have to be burned in its entirety.  But perhaps the process of writing it was the really valuable exercise for me.

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