When asked his view of the value of University education, Jason Fried of 37 Signals finished with a description of the class he'd like to teach:
"It would be a writing course. Every assignment would be delivered in five versions: A three page version, a one page version, a three paragraph version, a one paragraph version, and a one sentence version.
I don’t care about the topic. I care about the editing. I care about the constant refinement and compression. I care about taking three pages and turning it one page. Then from one page into three paragraphs. Then from three paragraphs into one paragraph. And finally, from one paragraph into one perfectly distilled sentence.
Along the way you’d trade detail for brevity. Hopefully adding clarity at each point. This is important because I believe editing is an essential skill that is often overlooked and under appreciated. The future belongs to the best editors."
Editing is one of the last skills to hone. Hoarding and discovering are just more fun and much less painful.
But the winnowing process as defined by Jason makes editing seem far less sacrificial. I've heard some of the best radio writers don't actually start with the ad, but write full stories, developing characters and scenes in order to understand motive and intent. So each next step in the process of editing isn't a step away from meaning, but towards clarity. Each unable to stand without the understanding generated by the one before.
Seems obvious maybe, but we probably don't give enough credit to all the things we've left unsaid.
(photo via this isn't happiness)