Art Takes Effort (More On Beethoven)

Page of Beethoven’s “Sketchbook”

In our culture, where we’ve been trained to expect things to come to us with very little effort, and very little wait; where blogs make us all feel like writers, and Instagram makes us all feel like photographers and artists; it’s very refreshing and challenging to read about Beethoven’s hard work and singular commitment to art that his music required. Beethoven had to labor over his compositions, and they needed many, many revisions to be what they are. This was encouraging for me, and hopefully it can be to other aspiring writers, songwriters, and artists. Good (or great) art doesn’t just happen; it doesn’t just spring spontaneously from our brains and our iPhones. Creativity takes work.

“Beethoven’s life in its devotion to the attainment of a single end, the perfection of his art, affords an object lesson, which cannot fail to encourage and stimulate every one engaged in creative work of any kind. His earnestness and industry is the key-note to his achievement. He worked harder than any composer we have any record of, with the possible exception of Wagner. If we consider how the compositions improved in his hands, while being worked over, as is shown by the sketch-books, a simple process of reasoning will convince the reader that any man’s work, in any line, can be improved by adopting the same methods … The more he worked over his compositions the better they became.”

(From Beethoven, by George Alexander Fischer)

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