In the world of fiction writing, there’s a phrase: kill your darlings.*

Authors often become obsessed with specific characters. They fall in love with their ideal and they want to indulge in developing them, describing them, and having them part of every scene.

But it’s this kind of practice that can make a novel dull. Not everyone is in love with the protagonist. Not everyone wants to hear more about the author’s favourite one or two. A fast-paced and interesting book can become an elongated fantasy for the benefit of one.

The author needs to kill their darlings.

Sometimes quite literally, kill them. Have them suddenly fall ill or brutally murdered. Have them move on or move away and out of the story. Leave a void where they once were and let something new fill it.

You don’t know what will fill the void until the darling is killed.

We can all be guilty of not killing our darlings. Whether it’s that flagship programme, the safe and steady job, or the home we see as our castle. The favourite pair of jeans, that same Christmas routine, that responsibility that has come to define us.

We see them as essential, permanent fixtures in our lives. But what if they weren’t? What if we had to rethink even the most stable and secure elements of our existence?

If you’re getting too comfy and too routine with projects, obligations and little demands on your time. If you’re thinking, “it’s only an hour a week” and holding on, what other progress are you inadvertently halting?

If it doesn’t excite you anymore, if you’re becoming stale because you keep developing something that’s had its day, consider what might be possible if it was thrown out, reimagined, or wiped from your to-do list with no regrets.

What would happen if we killed our darlings?

*“Murder your darlings,” is a popular piece of writing advice that is often attributed to William Faulkner, but which can actually be traced back to the English writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch from 1916.

In Steven King’s book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he elaborated further: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”