To Kill Your Darlings — Move Forward By Letting Go

The end of the narrative for my publication, Th-Ink Queerly

Over the weekend I wasn’t feeling well, worn out from the heat and humidity, and stuck in my head feeling somewhat depressed. I decided to lay low and take it easy and binged on Netflix. I was feeling a lot of stress and worry about how to make progress on projects I’m working on when I’m feeling so scattered and unfocused all the time.

I knew what the problem was. I just hadn’t figured out how to address it.

That worrying caused me to think deeply all day. On Sunday, I felt better after a solid rest and realized my previous day of deep contemplation lead to absolute clarity about what I needed to do.

The short version is that I have decided it is time to close my publication on Medium, Th-Ink Queerly. Over two and a half years ago I had an idea to launch a personal development blog on Medium, which I called Th-Ink. Within a few months that morphed into Th-Ink Queerly as I began to talk about more LGBTQ issues and then opened up the publication to other writers on Medium.

But it’s taken me a long time to admit that the publication no longer meets my current and future needs. I have been too attached to what was, why I first created it, what it meant to me on an emotional level, and what I had hoped to accomplish. But, with any goal, it’s not about the goal itself, it’s about the journey towards what you planned to accomplish.

It’s rare that we ever accomplish a goal exactly as we pictured it. Along the way, things get in the way, we may veer off the planned course, we may get the help that speeds things up, or we might realize that we need to alter our plans and ideas for any number of reasons.

I have created a new publication on Medium called, The Queer Thought Leadership & Coaching Blog of Darren Stehle. If you’ve been following my work, you will see that I have moved many of my articles that were on Th-Ink Queerly that speak to personal leadership, self-awareness, and personal growth.

This new, single-author publication on Medium has freed me up to focus more clearly on my coaching philosophy.

Here’s what I wrote on the About page:

When you freely love who you are, you can freely create the life you want. I’m Darren Stehle and that is the essence of my coaching philosophy. If you’re like me and want to make a difference in the world, you’ll understand that change starts with the responsibility to know thyself first. I follow two principles that support my philosophy: Lead by example, and; Give people better ways to think. This blog is a place where I get to share my evolving insights as a coach and thought leader through an intersection of self-examination, queerness, understanding how our brains work through neuroscience, and my study and contemplation of the Tao Te Ching. My intention is to help you see the world differently, to think queerly, to lead from your uniqueness, and to create solutions for the betterment of humanity that impacts the world.

When I set these changes in motion, I felt a tremendous weight drop off of my body. That was my physiological response to letting go of an emotional burden, a figurative knapsack of worry, frustration, and uncertainty that I had been carrying around for too long.

Often when confronted with making a significant change in life, I am met with serendipity.

A good friend of mine, who is also a coach and a creative spirit, texted me on Monday. He had the awareness as a result of being without a cell phone and a laptop, both of which broke on the same day.

He told me, “I am addicted to being busy doing things that get me nowhere. I could be doing things like writing that puts me in the zone, but I still cling with resentment to the fact I can’t do old things. Maybe that is why I haven’t been able to let go. I am literally addicted to the things I don’t feel like doing.”

“I am addicted to the things I don’t like doing” is absolutely brilliant! Isn’t that really another way of saying that we attached to the prediction of the past and an established and expected way to respond to our circumstances? When you want to change your circumstances, you need to upset the apple cart. It also means that you won’t have that trusted prediction in your life, and without prediction, as humans we experience stress.

We often don’t make changes — larger or small — in our lives because we don’t want to experience stress.

It can be difficult to separate from the past for the simple reason that your past is a narrative; a story of who you were. If you feel you can’t change your narrative, then you are holding on to the past as a commitment to not changing, to not experiencing stress. Even when we know that the things that you are doing are things you want to stop doing, you keep doing them anyway.

One way to move forward is to consider the smallest, single step you can take that will help you make a change with the least amount of stress. You also need to associate the highest emotional intention for wanting to create that new outcome. In other words, the more awesome, empowered, excited, and joyful you feel about the what you want, the easier it is to practice that habit, routine, or action to make that change a new pattern.

There are many ways to figure out what’s blocking you.

Sometimes we have to do a number of exercises until we figure it out. As a coach, when I’m working with a client, my role is to ask the kinds of questions that help my client to see their challenge with the greatest clarity, and then to help them create their own associations with what they’ve done in the past to come up with strategies that they can practice to create a new pattern. And sometimes it’s an external event, like your phone and computer both breaking on the same day that causes you to see your attachments for what they are.

As human beings we become skilled at doing tasks and habits.

There’s an important difference between a skill that serves you and one that doesn’t. You can look at these negative attachments to what was, or who you were as being unskillful. That skill set has helped you up to a certain point. You can consider what those skills have done for you to discern their past value, and at the same time, release yourself from the emotional attachment.

“To kill your darlings,” a common piece of advice given by experienced writers. You kill your darlings when you chose to get rid of a storyline, character, paragraphs or sentences in your writing. It doesn’t matter how much work it took to create those elements, for the sake of the story, you need to remove them.

This advice can apply to any creative endeavour, pursuit, or goal in life that is no longer serving you, or has run its course. In this sense, you have learned what you needed to learn, or accomplished what you set out to do and now you need to let it go and move on to the next project, to free yourself from the past to transform into the next stage of your life.

What are you addicted to doing that you want to let go of?

I hope this personal story might help you to see something that you’re holding onto. Often the things we need to let go of are not bad or harmful, which is why we might not see them as important. If it’s not hurting us, why change it? As you have seen, as innocuous as keeping the publication open was, it drained my time and personal energy from focusing on building my coaching practice and creating a membership version of my Think Queerly Podcast — details coming very soon!

If you’d like to explore why you can’t seem to let go of what you know you need to stop doing, let’s talk. Head over to my coaching page and request a time for an exploration session.

Image credit: Robert Couse-Baker, This is the end.

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Darren is a leadership coach in Toronto, Canada who helps his clients to connect and embrace their uniqueness and freely create the life they want. He writes and podcasts regularly about Queer Leadership.