Why We Love Our Darlings, Even If They Deserve To Die

Building your own stuff boosts your feelings of pride and competence, and also signals to others that you are competent. [photo from iStockphoto.com]

Harsh title, eh? I am, of course, talking about the saying “Kill your darlings“.

NPR just featured an article called “Why You Love That Ikea Table, Even If Its Crooked” in which it is revealed that people are attached to the things they create with their own hands far more than the same things created by other people. It is called “The Ikea Effect”.

“Imagine that, you know, you built a table,” said Daniel Mochon, a Tulane University marketing professor, who has studied the phenomenon. “Maybe it came out a little bit crooked. Probably your wife or your neighbor would see it for what it is, you know? A shoddy piece of workmanship. But to you that table might seem really great, because you’re the one who created it. It’s the fruit of your labor. And that is really the idea behind the Ikea Effect.”

According to the article, rather than people doing the things they love, people actually love the things they do. And even more so if they need a boost of self-esteem. The result is that people are often blind to the problems in their own work, willing to gloss over any bad spots because they have become attached. Thus is a darling created.

This is just one good reason that writers have editors to edit, to help us kill our darlings. Case in point, in working to promote the Jot Conference (happening tomorrow night), I sent a guest blog post over to one of our speakers, Chad R. Allen. The post that I sent was far too long. Chad kindly cut it down and sent me the revision for approval. “I think more people will read a shorter piece, and especially since the ad is at the end, I cut it down quite a bit,” he wrote. He was right.

Back to the NPR article.

“If I am sticking to a project and I have been working on it for a year or two, I might think this project really is a good idea,” Mochon said. “So while someone external might look at my project and say, ‘You know, that’s a failed project, I’m not sure you should be spending time on it,’ because it is the fruit of my own labor, because of the Ikea Effect, I might think that it is much better than it really is.”

It’s a good reason — and this is true whether you are running a big complicated project involving millions of dollars or finishing a third-grade craft project — to have someone from the outside, who isn’t invested in you or your work, give you some objective feedback before you show your project to the world.

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If you are interested in writing, editing, or creativity in general, please join us at Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference tomorrow night at Baker Book House, 2768 E Paris Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546.

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