Bruce Lee and the Art of Editing

I ran across this quote the other day, by none other than the legendary Bruce Lee: “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease.  Hack away at the unessential.”

You see not only his kung fu (or more precisely Jun Fan Gung Fu which means Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu) was strong, but so was his wisdom.

While it is fantastic you wrote 5k words in a day (or 10k or whatever), you have to realize the writing stage is like the quarrying stage. You’re digging out this hunk of material. Your force of will is extricating something from the miasma of whatever is within your noggin and giving it solid form, like a hunk of rock. This is a laborious process, but when you’ve got this hunk of rock, it’s no more shiny and finished than a raw diamond. Hopefully, something good lies in there, but you have to hack away and polish it up. Do you think Michelangelo got a beautiful piece of marble, ran a wet rag over it, and declared it done? Nope. He hacked (or in his case, sculpted) away on the stone until he got something good out of the whole ordeal.

Here’s where Bruce Lee comes in. When you have your words before you, those beautiful, little gems, each one perfection in its own way, you have to be prepared to cull away the bad stuff, reorganize the good stuff, and strip it down to its elegance. Less is more. In brevity, there is strength. Writing succinctly with discipline and attention to the craft requires just as much time (if not more so) than spewing strings of sentences across the pristine plateau of your word processor. Consider this when you approach your work. When you have said all you need to say, stop.

Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu.


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