My grandfather was, and still is, a gardener. His old backyard—with rows of vegetables, a strawberry patch, a raspberry patch, a fence draped in grapes, and beautiful apple trees—is one of the fondest memories of my childhood. I remember one particular visit, in June, when I found my grandpa outside pulling baby apples from the tree. He ripped every other one from it's perch without ceremony.
I looked at him in horror, unable to fathom why anyone would waste all those baby apples. "What are you doing?"
"Thinning the crop." He pulled another one from the branch, and it fell at my feet.
"The tree can only handle so much fruit. When there are fewer fruits, the tree makes those apples bigger and sweeter. If I left all the fruit on, the apples wouldn't be very big or sweet."
I pondered this for a second. "So you're helping the tree?"
"Yes," he said. "Would you like to help?"
I nodded, and my grandfather taught me how to thin apples. Then he told me every crop needed to be thinned. You thin the grapes and the peas and the carrots and the lettuce. If you don't thin, your crop suffers because it doesn't have enough room to grow. And many spindly plants does not a good crop make.
I thought of my grandpa, today, as I went out to thin my own little garden (That's my pile of broccoli, poor broccoli). It's hard, honestly, to watch that pile of discarded plants grow. I've spent many an hour watering them. I've worked for them, and here I am ripping them out of the ground. But I can't mourn over the lost plants, because the ones that remain are much better off. They have room to grow, to be what they're supposed to be.
And of course that got me thinking of editing, since that's where I'm at writing-wise right now. I remember when I was hesitant to chop out any word. I had worked over those words! And if I cut them that meant I'd wasted time. But that's not true. Editing is much like thinning a crop. We writers take out what's in the way, so that the important stuff can flourish. If we don't, our book won't grow as it should.