Why I killed my babies

Sophie Sperber, Managing Editor

The best advice I’ve ever received is from my sixth-grade teacher:

“Sometimes, you have to kill your babies.” 

From the second I picked up a pen and started constructing sentences, I’ve always used too many words to describe simple things, been a hundred words over the limit and written long, drawn-out sentences riddled with similes and metaphors. I struggled to let go of every “like,” “as” and every other word I poured on the paper. 

My words are my babies.

So after my teacher told us to work on being concise with our writing, I nearly puked right then and there. I’d always thought more physical evidence of our thinking was what made writing strong. When the teacher said four to five sentences, I wrote 10, thinking I was going above and beyond.

I had this mentality until my junior year English class when I truly learned what it meant to “kill my babies.” I never had problems spitting ideas on paper, turning them in and getting an A. But that year, I was challenged to do more. My teacher saw my whirlwind of an essay and told me to tame it, placing a big fat B on the top of my paper.

Sophie Sperber does not get B’s on English papers.

At first, I wasn’t sure what I was doing wrong. But, instead of reflecting on the culprits of my B, I wrote the way I thought my teacher wanted. No more metaphors or pretty sentences, only a bland, scientific approach. Turns out, that wasn’t what my teacher wanted either. So the next time I wrote an essay, I poured my heart and soul into it again. Metaphors, similes and sass. But while I was writing, I remembered what my sixth-grade teacher told me, and I knew what to do. 

I needed to kill my babies. 

By the end of the year, my writing not only became more concise but also gained more depth and thoughtfulness. “Killing” some of my ideas and focusing on others allowed my writing to grow more sophisticated. No longer was my writing a circus with ideas crashing into each other, but an opera with all the harmonies intact. 

Then I looked at my life, at the activities pulling me in every direction. Racing from swimming to hockey practice, from rehearsals to Hebrew school, barely taking a second to breathe. I looked at my friends — how I wasted time on people who gave me headaches instead of focusing on the ones who made me laugh. 

These activities, these friends — they were my babies too. People I had known forever and activities I’d done since I could walk. I feared giving them up, but I knew I had to.

So I pulled out my pen and crossed out all the meaningless things in my life, from activities that no longer made me happy to friends who lived to make me sad. Although my list of “things” may be shorter now, every bullet point means more in my life. 

Every single aspect of my life that remains is something I’m passionate about. Whether that be slaving over a computer screen at midnight, commenting on articles for Torch or sweating my butt off on the lacrosse field, I know they are minutes well spent.

Whether or not my interests change, I know what I’ve experienced is only the beginning. I’ll have to kill my babies again when I get to college and pick a major from the many things I’m fascinated by. I’ll have to kill my babies when choosing activities in college and again when I pursue a career. Maybe I’ll fall out of love with writing and have to kill that, too. 

And would you look at that, I didn’t exceed the word count this time.