Can't remember the first time I heard/read this maxim, but needless to say I doubted much of its wisdom, which goes something like: If you write something, step back, read it and think 'Wow, that's good. Boy, I've nailed that, oh yes'...you should instantly bin it. What! That can't be right. Long sweaty hours, well minutes, composing prose that's near sublime...and I'm supposed to ditch it. And for years, I didn't. Editors, friends, publishers would (mostly) politely suggest a phrase, sentence, occassionally a paragraph should, not be re-written, but put entirely out of its misery. The argument being if the much adored words provoke some sense of vanity, indulgence or smug pleasure in the writer, then it has little to do with strengthening the writing.
At the risk of eliciting deserved derision, I'll give you an example. Feeling a description lacked a certain poetic nuance, I (many years ago, I'll add) came up with the following: The vista ahead was soon sullied by the incongruous metallic structure that had passed him earlier. This may not have been a 'darling' as such, but the purpose is served. Today that line reads: Ahead, in the lay-by, the car was parked.
The former is all about writing something for me - 'literary masturbation' I like to call it. It's a phase most beginners go through (though I doubt Carver ever did), and goes hand in hand with cramming in adverbs and adjectives ad nauseam. Okay, occasionally I write something now and think it works, that it does the job I want, but I'm never entirely satisfied with it. It could always be better. Edit down. Cull. Be brutal. And, yes, murder. Thoughts?