Monday, December 3, 2012

How to: murder my darlings

Reluctant public disclosure: I'm applying to graduate school.

The process is murky. I find it hard to write a personal statement or statement of academic purpose. 

Perhaps my problem is that word: purpose.

Fortunately, I've enlisted the services of a willing critic-whom has provided an absurd level of patience with my crappy first drafts.

The response to my first draft:

"This meanders and ambles too much. Remove the affective and chatty sentences. Send me the next draft."

The response to my second draft:

"It is painful to read this sort of jargon and corporate speak from a person with your background. Try again."

Next draft response:

"The voice is the voice of the village. Use it."


"I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English-it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them-then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice." -Mark Twain Letter to D.W. Bowser, 3/20/1880

"Style is not-can never be-extraneous Ornament. Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it-whole-heartedly-and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings."
-Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944). On the Art of Writing. 1916.

Last draft-finally nailed it, at least for this critic. 

Next task=write an Academic Statement of Purpose. 

I am walking in a fog of mental murkiness with a machete. And I need to murder my darlings. 


  1. Good luck, Kit! You are brilliant and articulate and I trust that you will find the right path to continue your journey =)