I had a variation of this assignment in a college writing class. It started as a regular assignment to write about someone we knew. Then we were asked to edit it down to one paragraph that gets at the person’s essence. Then we edited it down to one sentence, and finally to one phrase, no longer than five words. I still find myself writing this way and cutting, cutting, cutting down to dense phrases that I couldn’t have gotten to without first filling up a page to find what’s really important.