A few weeks ago, Jeff Goins included in a post an anecdote about Pablo Picasso, in a seeming fit of pique, destroying what appeared to be perfectly good works of art.
Good, in his manager’s estimation–but not great in Picasso’s. Perhaps it goes without saying, but this is indeed what distinguishes a good artist from a great one: the willingness to revise, the ability to distinguish the merely acceptable from the extremely sublime.
Writers have a phrase, “kill your darlings,” which implies a certain detached ruthlessness with they must view their works.
It means that if there is anything that one things is good–great, even–but which does not fit within a story, it must go. Kill your darlings.
This is what Picasso did in the example above: he killed some darlings–many labors of love, which he’d spent perhaps days, or weeks, of his life’s energy creating. Because they did not meet his exacting standards, he exercised his sovereign right to destroy them.
Taken in this light, much of the Old Testament makes a whole lot more sense to me. With God as the artist–the Master Craftsman–and the world as His canvas, the stories of genocide contained therein become a tale of an artist, The Artist, becoming dissatisfied with the life that His works have taken on. And as a creator–The Creator–He exercises His sovereign right to kill His darlings, weeping all the while.
But I digress.
The artist, writer, creative must be willing to be ruthlessly holy about rooting out the merely acceptable. Yes, at the core, there must be talent, but talent is a distant second to the self-discipline required.
Unlike God, the artist must be willing to constantly reinvent himself–daily, if needed–to create the best art.
The chaff, the fluff, must go, so the cream may rise to the top.
Kill your darlings. Your art is worth the pain.