Matter Chatter

Don’t be afraid to kill your darling.

When writing, if there’s anything more daunting than the blinking curser on a blank screen, it’s the bleeding tracked changes after a colleague reviews your work. As a PR practitioner, I’m writing everyday – press releases, bylined articles, communications plans, pitches – the list goes on. Some people assert that the hardest part of writing is getting started. I disagree. For me, the hardest part is embracing the review process with an open mind about how the final piece will develop. 

I was reminded of this challenge in listening to NPR’s report of the IKEA Effect, which chronicles the psychological phenomenon that “it isn’t love that leads to labor, but labor that leads to love.” In other words, those hours spent assembling your coffee table, scratching your head trying to decipher what those bubble people are telling you to do, make you love the table unconditionally – no matter how it looks in the end (crooked, cracked and wobbly). I was comforted to hear that it’s not just me – people all over the world fall in love with their own work, mostly because of the personal time and energy invested in creating it. 

Here’s what I mean. After laboring over a piece of writing, grappling with each word to make a sentence sing and reorganizing paragraphs to ensure the perfect flow, we become connected with our work. We are proud of our diction triumphs and protective of that clever opening line we rewrote a dozen times. So when someone else reads the piece and deletes our prized analogy, replaces our favorite paragraph with bullet points and adds an entirely new section, we feel defeated. Offended. Paralyzed. 

It is in this moment that we must remember the value of a fresh perspective. We must be stronger than the IKEA Effect. We must shade our eyes from the blinding light of pride and ownership to see our work more clearly through an outside perspective. After all, what we write means nothing unless it connects with others. 

What I’m saying is, we should be careful of getting so close to our work that we can’t consider and grow from constructive feedback. Instead, we must be open-minded. Ask questions. Liberate our creativity from the confines of our self-consciousness. Above all, be willing to kill your darling in the name of objectivity.