One Darling Escapes
Writers have to learn to, as either Ginsberg or Faulkner put it, “kill your darlings” — to viciously excise those self indulgent bits of plot or character or (much more often in my case) sentence or diction. It’s a lesson that is not much fun to learn, but any working writer is undoubtedly a mass-murder of darlings. A certified spree killer.
But sometimes I just can’t pull the trigger. I’m too smitten with my own words. It’s even more absurd than winking at yourself in the mirror, but I get so attached. I’ll do about anything to save those odd darlings that catch my particular fancy, and the most insidious strategy is that bargaining.
“It’s ok, you know it’s a leaden sentence, but you deserve to keep it in there.”
“You’ve already killed so many darlings this week.”
“Just this one time.”
“It’s shows style.”
“It’s your voice.”
Terrible, terrible rationalizations. Somebody else said, “killing ain’t easy” (Maybe that too was Faulkner), and killing darlings is tougher yet. I tell myself that pros do it the hard way. I tell myself that killing darlings sharpens my knives and leaves my words lean and trimmed. I tell myself that again and again and I delete and cut and try to lay it bare.
Sometimes I give my darlings a stay of execution. With a Control+X I rip them from their home and paste them into a rambling document in the cloud called “cut darlings”.
Tonight’s snippet of precious prose was excised from a piece I’m working on about a water tasting class that I attended recently. I’m describing the end of the class when I realized the absurdity and relevance of the experience simultaneously:
It was somewhere into the sixth glass of water that the answer became clear, for me at least. Or rather when a quirk of chemistry became a visual metaphor for the important things that aren’t so easy to see at first.
The formal tasting aspect of the class had wrapped up, and the room was chatting over the different waters as the restaurant’s wait staff began to whisk in elaborate, miniature snacks. A shot-glass of panna cotta topped with a delicate foam. A single diminutive oyster sprinkled with roe. Four tiny cookies. We noshed on the amusing bites and sipped on the artesian waters, my new friends and I, laughing at our prior naivete. How simple we thought water was, and how complex we now knew it could be. I reached for my glass of sparkling Slovenian water and noticed that the crystal wineglass was sullied with unsightly spots. Hard water spots from where the droplets of spring water had evaporated leaving traces of their mineral content behind…
I’m already glad that I cut that.