Everyone develops their own creative process over time.
Some sculptors, Bernini for instance, build sculptures with clay. Others, like Michelangelo, carve from marble. Though I’m no Michelangelo, my creative process tends to mimic the latter, building way too much and then removing massive amounts of excess until I uncover the beauty beneath the banality.
I call this process Subtractive Creation. Unlike most carving sculptors, though, I also have to quarry the marble from which I pitch, chisel, and polish.
The essays on this site are published with around 400 words, even though they often start with 2,000 or more. My novel was 950 pages before it entered the world with only 283. The current book I’m editing, a memoir called Everything That Remains, is 550 pages, though I hope to whittle it down to fewer than 200.
When I edit this way, the final result is far more meaningful—to me, to the reader. The care and handcraftedness shows in the final work. I teach my writing students how to edit this way, too; that is, how to spend 1/3 of their time writing effectively and 2/3 of their time editing, shaping their work into something more concise, more powerful, more beautiful. [Read more on The Minimalists]