If given the choice, I’d rather not write. It’s hard, day after day, to come up with something out of nothing. Better to edit — that way, there’s a starting point. You can take something that’s already on paper and make it better or even completely change it. There’s a catch, though: To edit, you have to write something first.
It’s harder than you think. Ann Patchett nails the essential skill novelists, cooks and people in general need to master: focusing on one thing at a time.
Most people write too much. Remember that three page essay in junior high? We clawed and scratched and cajoled that word count higher. But guess what? The essay still sucked. We took 1,000 words to express a thought that could have fit in a paragraph. And when we turned it in, we hoped the teacher wouldn’t notice we had only read the first 20 pages.