Why and How to “Murder your Darlings” – Episode 106

Close up of knife stuck in the earth, twigs on the side, old style lamp in the background.
Photo by Vladislav M on Unsplash

Whether it’s in your content creation or in your life, it’s super important to cut out all the unnecessary stuff. Even if said stuff is perfectly good on its own. “Kill your Darlings” aka “Murder your Darlings” is a phrase used in the world of writing. It means that authors should ruthlessly edit out anything that interferes with the crisp, smooth pace, and flow of their article, story, blog post, etc.

In my usual style, I couldn’t resist using this as an analogy for cutting out dead weight – things, practices, habits, relationships – from our lives, businesses and creative endeavours.

Listen on the embedded player below this 👇🏽 (or on any podcast app that you like). If you prefer reading, then scroll down for the transcript. Enjoy! 🙂

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Transcript: Why and How to “Murder your Darlings”

(gently edited for a better reading experience)

*evil voice* Hello there. Today I wanted to talk to you about Muuurrrrderrrr! Muhuhahahaha *pretend evil laugh turns to giggles*

Okay, so this morning, I was having a conversation with a very dear friend of mine Dee. Dee is a very creative, imaginative person and they’re very good with writing and stories.

So both of us were discussing about writing, about creative writing and stuff like that. And then this topic of ‘Murder Your Darlings’ came up. It’s also more commonly known as ‘Kill Your Darlings’ in the world of creative writing, or any kind of writing for that matter.

‘Kill Your Darlings’ refers to editing ruthlessly

Cutting things out from your story, your article, whatever it is you’re writing. Cutting things out that are absolutely unnecessary. Things that are adding extra weight to the whole storyline, not helping it be crisp enough. Something that’s affecting the pace of the story, the flow. It could be words, sentences, whole paragraph sometimes, things that just don’t need to be there.

Ceramic square with the text "write without fear. edit without mercy." On the left, blurred succulent plant in a small pot closer to the camera. Kill Your Darlings.

Now on their own these words, these phrases, they could be perfectly beautiful

Something that you really had a stroke of inspiration and wrote, or something that just came out while you were flowing with the writing process. But they don’t have a place in your story. Or they don’t really need to be there in your article, blog post. whatever it is you’re writing.

So then the question comes, “Ahh, do I have to remove this? How do I remove this? How do I edit this out?”

And as a writer, it’s very difficult to do because you’ve kind of poured yourself into the story. You’ve written it out, you’ve let the words flow out of you. There’s so much that you want to say, and it’s very hard to remove things, to eliminate them.

Because you put this work out here, you’re already attached to it, so it’s harder to edit things out

That’s why it’s called ‘Kill Your Darlings’, or ‘Murder Your Darlings’. It’s something you love, something that you poured your heart and soul into, but you have to eliminate it.

Here’s a quote:

“I apologise for such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

Mark Twain

This is something that writers of any kind – whether it’s content creation for your social media, or if you’re a journalist, or a novelist, you’re a blogger – whatever kind of writing you do, this is something you’d totally understand.

The writing itself is not the thing that takes a lot of time. It’s much easier to write things down, but editing things out, removing unnecessary things from your writing, that is the truly time consuming part of any author’s life. Any writers life.

It takes a lot of effort, a lot of thinking, and of course a lot of willpower, because you have to be really ruthless with your editing

So you must be wondering, why am I even talking about all this? You know, the content creation, and writing, and the process of it on The Feel Good Factor. Why am I bringing up this topic of ‘Killing Your Darlings’ in podcast that’s meant to be about feeling good?

See, if you know me, if you’ve been listening to my show at all from the beginning, then you probably know that I love taking things that I’m learning, certain situations in life, things that I’m teaching, and then pulling life lessons, completely unrelated life lessons from them.

If you listen to episode 63 of my podcast, the topic is My Baked Tofu Formula For Joyful Success In Life And Business.

In that, I share the steps that I follow in making really delicious baked tofu, everything that goes into that – the time, the process and all of it. And then I’ve used that as a metaphor for different things that we do in life. You know, the different steps, how you can apply them in your regular day to day life and your business, creativity and all of it.

And then episode 38. It’s called, Are You Losing Your Identity To One Aspect Of Your Life? Reclaim it!

In that I speak about dates, and how they overpower everything. It starts out sounding like I’m talking about food, and cooking, and things like that. Except that it’s a direct metaphor to things overpowering your life. So I have this habit.

Today’s ‘Kill Your Darlings’ again, is something that we can apply to our lives, and not just to our writing

There are things in our lives which are perfectly good on their own. They’re beautiful, meaningful, they’re useful, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, right? They are really good, and we’re attached to them.

But right now, in this moment in your life, they really are unnecessary. Extra weight holding you back. They aren’t letting you move forward, and you don’t really have the time, or the bandwidth or the space for this, this seemingly wonderful thing.

Yet you’re holding on to it tightly, or keeping it in your life. And this is where the ‘Murder Your Darlings’ comes into play.

What are things in your life that you need to cut out?

It may be difficult, they may be things you’re attached to – habits, people, situations, maybe even things like the work that you’re doing, your day to day rituals.

They may be things that are really good, but they’re absolutely unnecessary in the storyline of your life in the present day. Take some time to make a list of these things, and then see how you can cut them out from your life.

It may seem wasteful, it may seem difficult. It may seem like you’re throwing away something that’s perfectly good. But you just have to do it, because it’s affecting the pace, the flow, and the way your story is moving forward. It’s not letting you do that. So you just have to cut it out.

To give you an example from this podcast itself, the process of creating each episode is quite involving. There are different steps that go into it.

One of the things that I did for the longest time was to create individual artwork for every single episode

So the little icon that you see on whatever podcast player you’re listening to this episode on, you’ll see that little thing that says The Feel Good Factor. That, in many podcast players, would appear differently for each episode because the artwork would be there.

And it would make the episode blog posts on my website also quite interesting. You know, just add that little bit of an intriguing layer to it. That one episode artwork that I would put into each blog post on its own.

It was pretty, it was interesting, I would say it would catch people’s eye, all of that was there. But I also realised that it was absolutely unnecessary. It was taking precious time, effort, focus, which I could put into the core podcast itself to make it better, make that experience better.

And I realised that people who’re listening to the podcast aren’t listening to it because they’re looking out for different interesting episode art. They’re listening to it for the content itself.

Podcast Cover Art. Susmitha in a black dress, laughing with joy. The Feel Good Factor with Susmitha Veganosaurus.

So with great difficulty that was a ‘Darling’ that I had to ‘Kill’. About ten or so episodes ago, I stopped creating individual episode artwork. Instead, I just put my main podcast artwork on each episode and I leave it at that. And that has saved me a lot of time, it’s made me more free and more light.

Since it’s a difficult thing to let go of these people, situations, or work and creativity, sentences, phrases, whatever it is that you need to let go of, things that are unnecessary for your process right now, for your life right now…

Since it’s difficult to do, how do you go about doing it?

I subscribe to this newsletter by a lady called Jayati Vora. She’s a copy writing coach, and she has a podcast also called Cutting Chai Stories.

I found the podcast because Apple podcasts suggested her podcast to me as a similar podcast to mine. Sometimes when you subscribe to different podcasts or you’re following them, you can you look around and it’ll show you something which is similar. “If you like this, you’ll like that also.”

Cutting Chai Stories was one of those podcasts. I went and listened to it, it was interesting. And I subscribed to her newsletter.

I’m really enjoying the content she shares on her newsletter. It’s very, very useful for copywriters, and also in general it’s quite well written, and very interesting.

So in one of her newsletters, she spoke about what to do when you have to “Kill Your Darlings” like this

Of course she was talking about it from the point of view of writing. She said that, “yes, when you need to edit things out and remove them, it’s a little hard to do. But what makes it easier is, instead of just deleting it, you cut that sentence that paste those words in a separate document.” And you keep them on the back burner so your mind knows that, anytime you can go and reach in there and pull them out. Put them back if you feel the need to do it.

And that was a very practical, very simple tip, and a great way to make yourself feel a little more fearless, you know, be a little more ruthless in your editing. Because after having put all this work and creativity into writing those phrases, those sentences, it’s not as if I’m just deleting them. I’m just keeping them aside and they’re always there if I ever want to put them back.

So applying that to our lives, to the things that we want to cut out, the unnecessary things, you can always keep them on the back burner too. Telling yourself that, “I’m not just dropping it completely, or removing it from my life, and my day to day dealings, day to day workings completely. I’m just putting it aside.”

Then you put it somewhere away from your day to day living, from your present life right now

And you can do with freedom, knowing fully well that if you ever want to get back to it, if you ever want to include it in your life again, then you just reach in and pull it. Wherever you put it, you just connect back to it. And that’s always a possibility.

Like for my podcast, I stopped creating the artwork for individual episodes, but I haven’t deleted the templates that I use for it. It’s there. So any time I ever want to go back to starting it again, I can do it. It’s very easy.

Say for example, you’re interacting with a person and that is taking up a lot of your time. As enjoyable and uplifting as those conversations are, they’re taking up a lot of your time, and space, and bandwidth. And you’re not able to do other things in your life right now.

It’s actually unnecessary time consumption

You don’t have to just say, “Okay, goodbye! I’m never going to talk to you again.” Instead, you can drastically reduce the amount of time you’re spending with that person. Keep them on the back burner, and always know that yes, if required, you can connect back. It doesn’t have to be a daily conversation, or as often as it currently happens.

Same thing with any habit that you have that’s holding you back.

You know, good habits are great, but sometimes we get so obsessed with them

We kind of let them overpower the rest of our lives. Sometimes we get obsessed with the streaks. We want to keep continuing something even though it’s not really useful anymore.

So then again, you just put that aside and say, “okay, I won’t have to do this every single day. I can always come back to this practice, or this habit if I need to, right? Now it’s unnecessary in my life, so I don’t have to do it obsessively, just because I’ve been doing it for a long time.

As you noticed, there’s something here that I shared, which I learned from a newsletter that I’ve subscribed to. Newsletters are pretty awesome that way.

Of course you need to ‘Murder Your Darlings’ there also, and only subscribe to the ones which truly are adding value to your current life. Otherwise pause them for a while and re subscribe later. But my point is…

Newsletters can be a great source of inspiration and there’s a lot you can learn from them. So yeah, subscribe to my newsletter!

I have a free newsletter called The Feel Good Tribe. If you like what you hear on my podcast, then you’re surely going to enjoy the content that I share on my newsletter.

I send out emails once or twice a month. I share:

  • Life stories
  • Some fun incidents that happen
  • Updates on any new workshops, courses and things that I come up with
  • Vegan recipes
  • Tips on vegan living
  • Tips on running business in a very joyful, holistic, gentle manner
  • Links to meditations
  • Sometimes I even offer Card Readings, like Goddess Card, Tarot Card readings to my newsletter subscribers

I’m a multi passionate, so as you can imagine my newsletter is also very multi-faceted

There are a lot of things there. So go to my website and sign up. You’ll get a confirmation email. You have to hit ‘Confirm’ on that email, only then will you be subscribed.

If the confirmation email is not in your inbox, it’s likely in your promotions or spam folder. Go into those, make sure that they’re marked as ‘Not Spam’ please. And then hit confirm.

You’ll get a welcome email. Reply to me immediately, I have some questions for you on the email. Let’s get this conversation going. I’d love to get to know you!

So this is it for today, remember to ‘Murder Your Darlings’

Whether it’s in your writing or content creation, or it’s in your life and business, be ruthless in your editing. Because that’s going to keep you lighter, give you more energy, and help you move forward in your life, and flow a lot more easily.

Talk to you again next week. Take care!

Transcribed using Otter

Susmitha Veganosaurus

Shorth haired Indian lady, beaming a wide smile. Flowers in the background. Vegan business coach and chef Susmitha Veganosaurus

“I’m a Spiritual Vegan Multi-Passionate Entrepreneur. I read voraciously, find humour in most things, and believe kindness and authenticity can make this world a happier, loving place.

If my content resonates with you, join my free newsletter where I share Life and Business Tips, Vegan Hacks, Holistic Guidance, and more.

Vegan cuisine and holistic business building are my two biggest passions. If you’re looking for guidance with vegan cooking, or want to grow your conscious business with joy and fulfilment explore ways we can work togetherhere.”