It’s long been debated in writing circles, the idea of being too precious with your writing. Some of the controversial advice given in this regard comes from poet, Allen Ginsburg, to “kill your darlings” and strip away those parts of your writing that feel cosy and comfortable. Now there are many alternative views to this, too many to list now, and the idea of killing my darlings has never appealed but I have recently been considering whether there is more merit there than I had previously considered.
In the last year my creative work has gone from being almost entirely solitary to being almost entirely collaborative.
It started a few years ago with my growing interest in writing for comics rather than just poetry and novels like I’d thought before. That means finding an artist you trust, sharing your vision, making compromises because now this is someone else’s baby too and you have to co-parent. Your darlings change under someone else’s influence.
Running the monthly poetry nights have been similar. Jess and I share responsibilities but we also have to hold each other to account. We can pick a theme but we never know where the poets we choose will go with that theme and how they’ll express it through their work. So every month looks different from the one before and has fresh energy because we cannot be precious or perfect about it.
But more than anything this year I have learned from getting back into my old love Dungeons & Dragons.
Table top role playing games (TTRPGs) include a whole range of games, the most famous of which is D&D. What these games have in common is that they involve creating characters, stories and sometimes whole worlds as a group. While GMs drive much of the world building and stories it’s impossible for the players not to put their own stamp on things. Done well a D&D campaign can become one of the most truly collaborative creative outlets around.
You will have darlings, you will love your character but the mechanics of the game, the GM and your fellow players will make it difficult for you to become over-precious or pretentious about them. There will be give and take. You will breathe a kind of 3D life into the narrative that is incredibly difficult to achieve alone.
Writing TTRPGs or campaigns for them is a masterclass in writing for others, writing functionally, while also allowing yourself to love what you write.
Share your darlings. They are OUR darlings now.