"It is not hard to compose, but what is fabulously hard is to leave the superfluous notes under the table." Johannes Brahms said that.
Soon, I'm off to a colony, where I plan to make progress on a novel and finish off a story or two. I hope I succeed in leaving out the "superfluous notes." But when one is in the midst, it can be hard to tell.
I'll be blogging, tweeting, status-updating, and the rest (but not too often!), from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts (VCCA), where I've been accepted for my third fellowship (yay!).
According to the program notes for the National Symphony performance the other night, Brahms also said, "I am rather lazy, but once begun I never cool down over a work until it is perfected, unassailable."
"Unassailable" is hard to enforce. And "perfected" is subjective. "Perfected" in this case is both in the eye of the artist, and, if it leads to "unassailable," in the eye of the observer. When do these ever agree on what constitutes perfection? And the idea of it can change. What writer, having once seen her work as satisfactory (forget perfect), doesn't read it again years later with pangs of regret (oh, is it just me??)? Who doesn't want to comb a project over and over obsessively until it's nearly bald from the attention? Leaving well enough alone may be as much a challenge. When is it well enough, after all? Only when the superfluous notes are shed, and those that are left ring true.
I think I should leave the music metaphors alone.
And what if you as the artist fill both roles--the perfectionist and the assailant? Which of course, many of us do.
Then you're really stuck, aren't you?