I attended an incredible concert in which Joshua Bell played the solo violin in the Johannes Brahms Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 77. You might ask, what was so wonderful or different about this concert? Little did I know that when Brahms created this piece, this was the first time a violin was so heavily featured in an orchestra. Usually there are violins, of course, but not where the violin soloist actually takes the stage front and center and literally outplays all the other instruments. One reviewer wrote right after the first performance in 1878, “The Brahms Concerto was for violin against orchestra–and the violin wins!”
When Brahms wrote this concerto, he didn’t have as much confidence in it as we might imagine. In fact, he wrote to his friend, Joseph Joachim:
“I really don’t know what you will make of the solo part alone.” He then asked Joachim to mark the parts that were difficult, awkward or impossible to play.
After that the two geniuses worked on the composition back and forth. Brahms took to his friend’s “editorial” advice and tweaked the composition as needed.
As a writer I was impressed by this collaboration. So often we write alone and wonder if what we wrote works. Although we doubt ourselves, we don’t always abide criticism.
when we allow others to see our work, and when we listen to their thoughts. This is exactly what Brahms did, thank goodness for all of us.
Now, years later we can enjoy one of the most magnificent pieces of music ever written played by many of
the world’s top performers.
What does this teach me about my own writing?
. Do not doubt yourself in the creative process. Brahms wrote the first draft, knowing it might need some work.
. Do not send it to someone who will simply say, “I think it’s great.” Send it to someone who can give it a critical eye and lend good advice for making it better.
3) Revise what you’ve written based on the input you get. Then send it again for more critical review.
When writers tell me they never have to revise or that they can write a perfect first draft one time and one time only, I have serious doubts. Even Brahms doubted himself and listened to the excellent advice of another. That suggests that we can do the same thing.
What are your thoughts?
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Matthew Peters says
I was listening to Brahms before I read your post!
I love to listen to classical music when I work.
Great tips on writing, inspired by Brahms. I used to think I could write a good first draft, and then I started taking writing classes and became part of a writing group. Now I know better–LOL
But what you say is true. We can always revise and revise more until we get the piece into the shape we want it to be in. Not all professions are so lucky as to be able to do that (neurosurgeons come to mind).
Thanks for the wonderful post.