“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”
Those words by Michelangelo have always resonated with me, because great writing is as much about what you leave out as it is about what you keep.
It’s why I can take an 8,000-word interview transcript that is full of the interviewee’s bumbling, ineloquent speech*, and shape it into a sharp 1,000-word marketing case study that showcases your product or service. The sculpture is there – I just have to cut away the block around it.
And you do have to learn to let go – just because you got the information in your research or interview, doesn’t mean you have to use it. It takes a level of ruthlessness, but often, getting rid of that piece of information you love, but that doesn’t quite fit anywhere, can transform an entire piece of writing.
So never be afraid to take out your chisel – that sculpture is waiting to be liberated from the marble block.
* Very few people come across well in interviews; few of us are naturally eloquent. It’s up to the writer to extract the gold.