Today I had to kill one of my darlings in the kitchen, which is supremely irritating. It’s for the best, of course, but still, I am grumpy about it.
You might not be familiar with the phrase “kill your darlings” if you’re not in a creative field. It’s ordinarily considered a piece of advice for improving one’s writing, but I think it can be applied to just about anything. Whenever you’re creating something from nothing, like writing a story or, in this case, developing a recipe, you become so entrenched in that tiny little universe that it’s often hard to remember the big picture. You might fall in love with your characters, laugh at your own jokes, and devote yourself fully to your earliest ideas—your “darlings.” Then, when you take a step back and view the entirety of your work, you realize that something’s not quite right. Maybe it’s something small that can be tweaked back into the right shape, or perhaps you just need to tidy things up a bit so you can cleanly move forward. But sometimes it’s not that easy. Sometimes you need to take something you’ve devoted significant time and energy to and scrap it entirely. Sometimes you need to strike a character from existence, or delete whole paragraphs that took hours to perfect, or, as I did today, admit that no matter how hard you try you can’t get something to work exactly the way you wanted to, and it’s time to start over. SIGH.
As annoying as it is, killing your darlings is necessary, especially if you’re not the type to settle for “good enough.” And even though it feels like it right now, I know that time wasn’t wasted, because all the failures teach you something new and guide you where you need to go. Whenever I write an essay I always go back and cut at least a third of it, because you’re bound to ramble a bit whenever you let your imagination run free. Very often I’ll kill the first paragraph, because that’s usually where you dump all your garbage ideas while finding your groove. Sometimes I copy and paste certain darlings into my “jokes with no homes” Google Doc, in hopes that one day they’ll get a chance to play in the big leagues. Sometimes a darling needs to take some time to figure its shit out before it’s worth a damn.
When I develop recipes, though, there is nothing to salvage when they’re killed. They are things I had such high hopes for that ultimately let me down. Sometimes it’s quickly evident that you’re heading down the wrong path, and on some level you know that you’re going to need to turn around and restart from the beginning, but still, you hold out hope that your ugly duckling could grow into a beautiful swan. Today I had to accept my darling would be, at best, a Sri Lankan frogmouth. So I start anew tomorrow.
This is a routine part of recipe development, and it most definitely is going to be worth it in the end, but I’m still pissed that I spent so much time in the kitchen when I could have spent those hours
watching TV and scrolling through Twitter doing other extremely valuable work. Fare thee well, my darling. I’ll be seeing you again... in hell.
You guys whack any of your darlings in the head with a shovel recently? Where’d you bury them?