I first heard the music of Brahms when I was twenty and it was love at first hearing. Away from home to train as a librarian, living in digs with 5 other young women and sitting on that evening in a concert hall in Leicester.
It was his 4th symphony. I don't remember the orchestra or the conductor. Instead my overwhelming memory is the sheer power of the music. Speechless. Not a musician myself, I couldn't join in the conversation on the way home except to say very inadequately that I loved it.
Since that time, I've listened to much of his music. Not all but much of it and there are two things that hit me every time.
The sweetness and the melancholy.
Some of his chamber works are among my desert island discs - I can't imagine being without them.
Over the years I've listened to many eminent critics talking about his music and I remember how hurt I felt on his behalf when one of them said Brahms was not in his top ten composers.
To me, he was a musical god and still is.
Recently I came across the quote at the head of this blog and my immediate thought was how true it is of writing too.
I'm not qualified to judge if Brahms left out the right notes but I know how much I struggle sometimes to cut words.
Hemingway talked about killing our darlings. Those phrases that spring to mind as we write. Perhaps the fact they spring so easily to our pen, should act as a warning bell. A clarion call we can do better. Dig deeper to find a more fitting word.
To paraphrase Brahms, writing is easy but knowing which words deserve the red pen or the delete button is a challenge.
There are few writers who don't find it a challenge I think that the biggest challenge, and the biggest act of courage, is to change one word.
At least then we are opening our minds, and for us, our hearts to the possibility that better lies within us.
In my recent Enfolding newsletter I gave a link to an interview with Steven Pressfield, author of the War of Art. He talks about resistance which stops us sometimes from improving our work.
He also talks about where our inspiration comes from and he believes very strongly in The Muse. The important point he makes is that books exist waiting to be written when the right person appears.
So when we turn up to do the work, the book can in a sense be downloaded from where it already is.
And I think that work includes making sure, the book is in the best shape possible to reach others.
Now finding the quote about Brahms, I think if I trust the muse, divine source or whatever you want to call it, to bring me the book, then it has to be able to guide me to get rid of those superfluous words as well.
What do you think?