An editor I had at the Washington Post told me a parable once, probably when I complained about something. A reporter had been assigned a story that was seventeen inches for 3:00 that afternoon.
“Can you do it?” the editor said.
“Sure thing,” said the reporter.
At about 1:00 the editor swung by the reporter’s desk and said, “Make it ten inches, actually, they’re cutting space.”
And the reporter said, “I’ll need next week.”
I had forgotten this parable. And 300 words seemed so easy. And now I’m sitting looking at 1,000 words of notes and a sparkly, tight 500 word draft and thinking:
Shit. I’m going to have to cut the part about how he took photographs of the burning World Trade Center to trade for a ride back home to the Bronx from a truck driving through. And I’m thinking, this always happens. Every single time. There should be a separate heaven for anecdotes, unused.