Kill Your Darlings

A very good friend of mine told me something which has been playing on my mind; he said that to improve as a writer you must kill your darlings. I researched this (and by research I mean I typed it into google and read the first few articles I came across) and the general consensus of these was that this quote, although attributed to many famous writers is actually a paraphrased quote from one Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch's lectures at Cambridge university roughly 100 years ago. Whilst I appreciate the poetic and dramatic sentiment of this statement I could not bring myself to adhere to it. To kill your darlings as a writer is to delete or erase your works, in the hope that your fresh writing will be improved. However true or not this may be, I could not bring myself to follow this advice. So in response to the aforementioned friend I wrote back this poem, which I aptly titled: Kill Your Darlings. 


Don’t ask me to line up my children and then pick out just one,
The smallest, feeblest little darling, the fragile stunted runt
My hands fumbling, sweating, – your gun shaking in my clammy grip
You’re shouting at me to shoot at her, but her little tears are drip-ping-


But all I want is to hold her close, to protect her from the world.
She’s frightened, her breath shaking – but she knows I never could – shoot
Rough around the edges, her form is lacking and her words are simple
You would have me execute an innocent, a heart that was born crippled?


If death is inevitable then please, just let her die out somewhere else along the track– in 5, 20, 50 years
Just don’t make me end it, that life was a gift, it belongs to her.
And if success means bloodied hands from butchering my ugly babies in the night,
I’d rather be poor, alone and a failure, holding my perfect imperfections tightly-
Such cruelty just isn’t in me
I’m sorry I can’t kill my darlings,
I would miss them too much.



Published by Alicia Harvey- Dickinson Jones


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