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Killing Your Darlings and Scrapping Everything

When you didn't communicate as well as you thought you did

By Carmel KundaiPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
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Killing Your Darlings and Scrapping Everything
Photo by Christoffer Engström on Unsplash

I felt tired roughly 3 hours ago. So much so that I went to bed. Maybe it was the ill-timed, last minute no-bake cookies I ate. You know, all that sugar isn't good for you! Or maybe it was the hour of gleaning and giggling as I listened to the recent Colin and Samir podcast episode featuring Hank Green. I wasn't planning on being challenged the way I was.

"You can't get addicted to your own ideas."

How could I not feel challenged? In my effort to rehabilitate my writing muscle, I've been writing almost every day. In that process, I've lost track of how many half drafts I have stashed away in my laptop, my phone, my notebook.

"Kill your darlings."

This was beautiful and needed advice for my high school English teacher to share with me. I took this to mean that no singular word or phrase is more important than ultimate communication.

Beautiful. Liberating, even.

Every sentence placement doesn't need to be perfect; the sentences just need to build on top of one another to say one important thing. As for the perfect sentences? I can let them go knowing that even as I grieve letting them go, I am one step closer to sharing my heart in its truest form.

But what happens when I'm asked to rewrite an entire article? My first-ever print submission? The character is there, but everything else needs to be gutted.

After submitting the piece for review, I was proud. I had done the big, scary thing. I had submitted my writing, and in a few short weeks, I would get to see the culmination of 18 years of studying and practicing the craft of writing: a bold by-line with my name on it.

I thought I would make a few cosmetic changes here and there. Maybe I missed a comma. Maybe there was a stronger word I could use instead. I would be filling in drill holes, adding a layer of paint, bringing in a potted plant or two.

But I failed the inspection. Evidently, there is mould in the walls and everything needs to be torn down. I nailed the pitch, but the piece itself left 1000 words to be desired.

What happens when "your darling" is everything?

You cry. You stay up past 2AM multiple nights in a row trying not to think about the feedback you just received. You cry some more. You avoid sitting down to write again, because what if you can't rebuild the piece in the way that is needed? More tears. You wonder if you will ever be the kind of writer that could make a living publishing under their own name.

As I've been transferring this reflection from analogue to digital, all of my go-to brave quotes are coming to mind.

"20 seconds of courage is all you need and something wonderful could happen."

We Bought A Zoo, thank you for helping me survive middle school.

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear."

Yes Theory, you got me through the latter years of high school.

And then there is every Brené Brown TEDtalk and podcast that has carried me through my young adulthood, reminding me to be vulnerable and "dare greatly."

These platitudes don't magically give me the tools I need to do what needs to be done. But they do turn the sobbing into sniffling. And writing is a lot easier when you can actually see the page in front of you.

What do you do when you are asked to rewrite an entire article? You try again. You face the blank page, and you do the hard work of starting over.

Writer's BlockPublishingProcessLife
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About the Creator

Carmel Kundai

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