Kill your darlings

Many moons ago, when I worked at the Finnish Television, we had an expression we frequently used, which was; “kill your darlings”. It was used when someone wanted to keep a part of a programme or insert where they felt they’d been really creative or where they had got something exactly as they wanted it, but for the sake of the whole, and to make the programme better this special bit had to be sacrificed and left on the editing floor.

 
Yesterday, I adapted this system to my song lyrics. So far, I have kept all my lyrics in one single file on my computer called, believe it or not, lyrics. Every word I’ve felt worth holding on to since the dawn of my lyric writing journey have been kept in that file. However, a lot of things have happened since then, and yesterday I felt it was time to re-evaluate this file of mine.

 
So, I decided to keep the lyrics I felt were as good as I could ever get them, in the original file, but I created two new sub files. One called “Needs working on” and a second one called “Scrap file”. Anything landing in the scrap file is living very dangerously. The scrap file is the final destination before the delete button, but I’m giving myself a cooling off period, just in case at some point I would find a way to turn something I feel is beyond rescuing today, into tomorrow’s masterpiece.

 
How did I do then yesterday when I tried to evaluate my own work? Well, 28 of my lyrics stayed where they were. Some of them stayed there, because I have already made the changes to them that I planned to do before trying them out in competitions and evaluations again. Some stayed there because they are brand new and haven’t yet been seen by anyone, so they are also sitting there waiting to be judged. A few stayed, because they have already been made into demos in the form they are. They may not become chart toppers but changing them would mean that not just me, but also others, would have to get involved in the revamp, and I may not feel these lyrics are worth that kind of time and effort at this precise moment. I prefer to let them live as they are and hope that someone, someday will see potential in them, that would then make it worth starting a makeover. Then of course there were a few lyrics in the file which I feel really happy with just as they are.

 
In my file “Needs working on” I have now got 24 lyrics. Most of those suffer from the same disease. It is where I’m using a language that are fine in books, but not in songs. They have a lot of peculiar words in them, because I just love words, but sadly they don’t look good in song lyrics, however much I enjoyed finding them. I really will have to kill a lot of my darlings and say goodbye to some favourite turns of phrases. Some of the ones in this file, should possibly have gone into the “scrap file”, but I felt the subject I had chosen to write about could work with some adjustments. I thought I should give these a go before sending my work to a certain death. A few of the lyrics in this second file need a clearer story or a bridge to make sense to someone outside my inner circle of friends so I will try to make them clearer. All the lyrics in the “needs working on” file stand just as big a chance to be scrapped as they do to be revived. It all depends on how the remodelling goes and, in some cases, if the lyric already has a melody; how the altering of the music feels.

 
Six lyrics were sent to my “scrap file”. Most of them due to the choice of subject. When I started out I may have thought that it was a good idea to never limit myself when it came to subject matter. I still don’t, but now I know that there are topics that won’t stand a chance, and some for good reasons. I will keep the lyrics in the “Scrap file”, only because they could be useful if I ever get to a point where I take another look at the musical manuscript I wrote a couple of years ago. Some of the lyrics could fit in there.

 
Yesterday’s exercise was more useful that I ever imagined when I decided to have this “spring clean” among my lyrics. It helped me realise that my emotional attachment to them has completely evaporated. This has given me an amazing feeling of freedom. I think it has also removed the risk of me feeling hurt ever again, when getting results from competitions and evaluations. Somehow, I have understood that this is what it is, or to use a quote from “The Godfather” one of my favourite films ever;

 
“It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

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