Every writer has probably heard, one time, if not many times, the sage advice, "Kill your darlings." It's a quote that's usually attributed to Faulkner, though I've also seen it convincingly attributed to Hemingway, Samuel Johnson, or Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, among others. Regardless of whoever uttered a variation of the idea first, I suppose it's unsurprising that so many writers would arrive at the same conclusion about a necessary, but tragic, part of the writing process. But despite the number of times I'd heard--and repeated!--the advice myself, I've never seen it so vividly, poignantly, painfully portrayed as I do in this poem from Jane Hirshfield's lovely collection, After.
"Character and Life"
by Jane Hirshfield
The young novelist held underwater
the head of the character in his
book he loved best.
In the book, and as he wrote,
he counted until he
was sure it was finished.