Hemingway, Beethoven, and You

Laura Basha

Photo By: Guang Yang

Back at the hotel that night when we were dressing for dinner, Ernest said, ‘I’m working out a new novel. Or it’s working itself out, really, …’ His eyes were bright, and the enthusiasm in his voice was unmistakable. … ‘You have to write it.’ ‘Yes’, he said, and although we left and had a long and delicious dinner with several bottles of wine between us, he was already with the book, inside of it. Over the coming days, his thinking grew deeper. He began to write in intense spurts, in the cafes early in the mornings, and in the hotel very late at night, when I could hear the aggressive scratching of his pencil … he’d filled two thick notebooks, two hundred hand written pages in fewer than ten days, but he wasn’t happy with the opening anymore.”


– From The Paris Wife: A Novel, by Paula McLain



I have often wondered what it was like for Beethoven to write the most exquisite music, deafness to the outer world shutting him off from much of human interaction and yet opening doors to a kind of silence that perhaps allowed him to hear the celestial soul that still illumines today, reminding us of our magnificence and allowing us to forget the countless attachments that keep our focus on the very noise that creates what we are trying to dissolve.

The creative process unfolds us and as we work, listening to its wisdom, the work molds and then allows us to become the vessel for its expression. “I’m working out a new novel. Or it’s working itself out, really …”


Perhaps we are much more related to the genius of Hemingway and Beethoven and Mozart and Tintoretto, Freud and Einstein, Gertrude Stein and Twyla Tharp and whomever your creative hero(ine) is, than we think. Perhaps it’s simply the willingness to withstand the pressure of the molding process that elevates us to the realm of creative genius, and it’s just that we hold too narrow a vista which keeps us locked in our safe familiarity, finally unexpressed and unfulfilled.

Cultivating a capacity for gracefulness in the face of angst: a pragmatic strategy. What could deafness allow for? And to what could we turn a deaf ear? Einstein flunked math. Tintoretto never had formal training yet became the one true Venetian painter.


The integrity of a clear vision has strong roots. What strength can fear have when Grace shows up?

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