How to break your toys and be glad you did it

I killed a character today. And it was hard because I sorta liked her a lot. I was digging what she stood for, how she carried herself, and how she had her shit together. But she took a turn…in my head and in my imagination. And suddenly, she just wasn’t the same girl anymore. She had to go.

All that was left was to figure out how to murder her.

It’s not easy to kill your darlings

But sometimes it must be done. Why? They no longer serve the purpose of your story. They’re no longer the people you thought they were. There are lots of important reasons, but first and foremost, they simply don’t fit into the story you’re telling anymore.

The corporate world has been my darling…

As a creative writer just starting out in the world, I constantly heard my mom’s words reverberating in my head, “You can’t make any money writing. Why would you want to major in Liberal Arts?”

I thank everything on this giant spinning globe that I didn’t listen. She tried to get me to shoot for an international business degree, and since checkbooks, banking, and generally anything dealing with finance sends me into a bout of hives, that would have been a disastrous decision.

So, when I landed my first corporate job as a proofreader / transcriber, I was elated. BOOM, Mom! See, there are jobs for those of us who prefer diagramming sentences to solving equations.

From that moment forward, I never left corporate. I’ve proofread, edited, written, marketed, planned, organized, branded, rebranded, and worked my way up as a pretty decent word nerd extrordinaire. But here’s what I just learned.

Writing in the corporate world

Writing for companies and large entities is a unique experience, and I believe all creatives should give it a shot. Why?

Because it gives you experience in learning to write to the voice, tone, and feel that another person is directing. It gives you the experience of working with a team to develop an overal concept that’s not your own. And it gives you the experience of not owning your work. It makes you tough. And resilient.

We’re all human

Writers are often portrayed as “too sensitive,” but that’s only the case because we HAVE to let our expressions, words, and feelings out in order to pour them onto paper (or a screen). Spreadsheety McNumbers doesn’t have to do that in order to get his job done, so a lot of the time, he doesn’t understand that. (That leaves it us to we sensitive sorts to be a little more understanding.)

Giving up control is hard

There’s nothing worse than feeling extremely protective over your work and then having to give up control over it. I’ve recently had to step back and learn this, both at my money-making job and at my creative-outlet job.

Here’s what I’ve learned about myself, both in my personal writing and in writing for a corporate entity:

  • I will take on too much. I will continue to take on projects, work, writing, whatever you can throw at me until I break. And then I will keep going.
  • I won’t tell you. (#IntrovertProblems ?) Could be an introvert thing, but I don’t think just introverts suffer from this phenomenon. Maybe it’s more of a pride thing. If you keep handing me things, I’ll keep doing them. And I won’t stop until they complete and correct.
  • I won’t answer the phone. OMG don’t call me. I love you, but don’t call me. I have email and text, and I am exhausted from human interaction. I answer the phone for a very select few people, and if that’s you, then you know I would also throw myself in front of a bus for you because I love you that much.
  • If I’m backed into a corner, I will fight. And I won’t fight fair. I think that’s true of a lot of people, but I’ve learned that a lot of people won’t admit it. They just get nas’y. See how I let people know in advance? That’s the sensitive side of me!
  • I’ve worked hard, and it sucks when it feels like someone is downgrading that. So if I see that happening to you, I’ll fight for you, too.
  • I will respect you, but I want respect in return.
  • No company will ever value my family and my personal time as much as I do. That’s true for me. It’s true for you, and for everyone else on this planet. So if you’re working somewhere that you don’t feel valued, it’s time to re-think your situation.
  • I’ve been too hard on myself, but then again, who isn’t? Here’s a little secret about creatives: you don’t have to be tough on us or our work. We’re already WAY ahead of you there.
  • There are still a LOT of old thinkers in corporate America. They may throw around words like “innovative” or “bold,” but many of them will balk the first time you give them new-day, new-thinking ideas. Often, they don’t want to be the first ones to take chances.
  • I thought it would be easy to walk away from a corporate career. It’s not. We’ve been brought up with this mindset that a corporate title determines our success. You’ll finally feel free of that B.S. when you dip your toe into the slow lane…the one that chugs along outside the Rat Race.
  • I have more pride than I thought. Pride can be a good thing, but don’t forget, there’s also that old saying about it coming just before a fall. It’s all about balance. Don’t let your pride get too big to simply put it in your briefcase and walk away.
  • I’m underselling creative talent to please other people. And so are you. Your talent for creating, writing, editing, and imaging new worlds is phenomenal! (Honestly, you think that guy over there putting all your accomplishments on a spreadsheet can come up with next year’s kickass tagline? As my teenager would say, “Naw, fam.”)

Question for my writer friends: Are we selling our creative souls for the sake of funding our present comfort?

So what’s next? Here’s what I propose:

Take a look at your darlings. Do you still love them? If so, then they get to stay in the story for a while. If they are meaningful, add depth and intrigue to the plot, let them stay. (I loved being in the office for a long time! I loved the hustle and bustle and deadlines and watercooler meetings. And it’s ok to love that!)

But when it’s their time to go…when it’s time for a new chapter, don’t think twice about choosing your murder weopon and OFFING your darlings.

Also, I did just kill a fictional character, and it felt pretty good! But if anyone runs across my online search history, I expect you all to vouch for my “research” endeavors.)