Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” Frederic Chopin
As soon as I read this, I knew I wanted to share it. There is something so profound … so simple and true in these words. After all the writing and writing that we do, it is comforting to think that in the end, our true aim can and should be simplicity.
Now some writers are lush and wordsome in their work, of course. I think of Dickens for instance, whose writing just seemed to pour out of him and which he edited and revised on the fly — often as he was dashing to his printer, late yet again. Or I think of those writers who construct elaborate plots with tons of bells and whistles. Simple they are not.
And yet, Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks — or rather, it wrote him. And if you give yourself a treat and read it, you’ll find that it is written with a simplicity, a clarity, that allows it to race along and pierce your heart like an arrow. It surely must rank as one of his most popular works — and probably as the most beloved one.
And Agatha Christie is surely known for clever, twisty plots — and yet, as she progressed in her career and honed her craft, her ability to deftly and simply tell a story and capture a character deepened. I once read an early mystery of hers and a later one back to back and was instantly struck by the difference in the writing. The earlier book was far wordier, far more eager for effect. The more mature mystery was crisply written and beautifully paced — you could see a master of her genre at work.
As I muse on Frederic’s words, I am struck by the idea that simplicity emerges as the “crowning reward of art” — its most satisfying fruit. As writers, this would mean that when we simplify we find a deep fulfillment in the very act of getting at the heart of what we want to say. And that, when we strive for simplicity, our readers also benefit — they reap its rewards as well. Something to ponder and apply as we all write on.
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