What Beethoven, Mozart, the Beatles, and Einstein Taught Us About Writing

What Beethoven, Mozart, the Beatles, and Einstein Taught Us About Writing


Thanks to bensond.com for the intro and outro music.

ASK THE AUTHOR: Therese Moore via Facebook: From a discussion of a comment, I heard on a different podcast – What is the difference between “commercial fiction” and “literary fiction”? Interesting in how you answer this.

AARON: Thanks for the question! For me, the answer is somewhat simple: commercial fiction is what you write if you want to make money. Literary fiction is what you write if you want to win hoity-toity awards and impress critics. More specifically, commercial fiction tends to adhere more to common tropes and conventional structures and character archetypes. Usually the stakes are larger (saving the world, epic fantasies, high-concept sci-fi, etc.). Literary often focuses more on the every-day character, the ones struggling to maintain a marriage and/or a job. Usually the quality of writing is higher (compare a Cormac McCarthy novel to Twilight, say). However, there are several novels that are commercially and critically successful. Stephen King has one or two of those. The Harry Potter series is very well written, and for me, crosses the line between literary and commercial–it’s both.

POPS: Get ten people to answer this and you’ll probably get twelve different answers. Such questions are difficult to answer because basis for the questions is artificial. In college I took a class on argumentation (in the scholastic sense, not in the “I’m-gonna-pick-a-fight” sense). The professor taught me something I’ve found very useful: “Always attack the assumption.” In this case, the assumption is that there is a difference between literary and commercial fiction. I think the distinction is artificial. All genre’s have things that make them unique. A cozy mystery and a police procedural are both mysteries told in different ways with different high notes. Literary often holds up the struggle of character or life over action. But there is plenty of heart in commercial fiction. Some say literary is art-driven while commercial is entertainment-driven. I believe that’s a false dichotomy. Animal Farm and the Old Man and the Sea are certainly literary but they are also commercial. What is Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein? It is, at it’s core, 280 pages of sci fi horror, but it also examines what it means to be alive, to be human.

Firsts in Fiction

What Beethoven, Mozart, the Beatles, and Einstein Taught Me About Writing


Ask most writers about their mentors, the people who influenced their work and most will name another writer or two: Hemingway, Arthur C. Clarke, Dean Koontz, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe and a hundred other recognizable names, but you’ve given us a list of people, none of whom have written a book. Why?

Al: I often find inspiration from creative people who work in fields vastly different than mine. Creativity covers countless expressions in architecture to music; poetry to acting; nonfiction to sculpture. And creativity inspires creativity.

Aaron: You’ve give us four very recognizable names. Two born in the eighteenth century; two in the twentieth. None of them writers of books.

Al: Not one wrote a novel but each wrote creatively. Again creativity inspires creativity.

Beethoven, Mozart, Einstein, and the Beatles have all influenced me and my guess is that non-writers have influenced you and our listeners.

Aaron: But why these four? Why Beethoven? Why Mozart? And what about the Beatles? And what in the world does Einstein have to do with writing?

Al: I’m glad you asked

Let’s begin with Mozart.

  1.     He taught me that early success does not mean lasting success. Mozart died in poverty and his body was dumped in a mass grave.
  1. also taught me that no matter how good you are you will have critics.
  1.     Not everyone will “get it.” Not everyone will get you.

Mozart had his moments, but he was largely unappreciated by his peers and superiors. Most people don’t like geniuses.

  1.     He taught me about the power of the mind.

[One of my favorite movies is Amadeus. One of my favorite scenes shows Mozart’s wife delivering her husband’s works to Salieri. Salieri is impressed but then is stunned when he learns that what he thinks is the final draft is the first and only draft.]

  1.     Mozart heard the music in his head (The movie did a great job showing this.)
  1.     He would hear it then write it on paper.
  1.     Shared it.

Mozart said: “It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.”

Aaron: But what about Beethoven?

Al: [Many years ago, when I was younger (and much thinner), I used to be one of those bicyclists you see wearing a loud jerseys and making you nervous as you passed by in your car. I used to ride around Ojai, California and I did so listening to Beethoven.]

  1.     Genius is no defense against difficulty.

[I’m sure you’ve heard the powerful and lovely Ninth Symphony with the unforgettable blend of chorus and individual voices in the soul stirring “Joyful, Joyful.” He never heard it. Beethoven was almost completely deaf when he wrote it.]

[To hear his music, he would lay his head on the piano and play.]

  1.     Genius with determination can overcome adversity.

[Fanny Crosby—who was blind—composed her poems and hymns (over 8,000) entirely in her mind and then dictated them to someone else. She was said to work mentally on as many as twelve hymns at once before dictating them all out.]

  1.     Deafness stole his hearing but not his heart or his talent.

Beethoven said: “Tones sound and roar and storm about me until I have set them down in notes.”

Aaron: And what of the Beatles?


  1.     Creativity can come early. The boys were, well, boys—high school students when they first met.
  1.     Creativity came first as a group. Creativity is not always a lone pursuit.
  1.     Grew in their art. There is a huge difference between “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and their later music.

[Interesting: On their last album Abbey Road, the song “Because” is based on Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”]


I am not the writer I was; I am not the writer I will be.

  1. Change is inevitable.
  1. Change is welcome.

Aaron: Last on your list is Einstein. A theoretical physicist.


  1.     Thought experiment.

[Theory of Relativity began as a trolley ride.]

  1.     “I will a little think.”
  1.     Concerned over social issues.
  1.     Struggled with personal relationships.

Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Aaron: Okay, so what is the takeaway of all this?


  1.     What’s your dedication to the craft? Are you willing to learn? To try different things? To experiment? Are you in it for the money? Mozart enjoyed fame, but he lost everything except his love for the craft.
  1.     What is your level of commitment? Beethoven lost his hearing but kept composing. If your book, article, novel doesn’t sell, will you write another?
  1.     How willing are you to change and grow? Every project is training for the next project. Like the Beatles, will you later work be better than present work?
  1.     Ask most people what the most important tool in writer’s tool chest and you might hear computer, dictionary, other books. No, it’s imagination. Without it there is no creativity. But creativity doesn’t come easily.
  1.     The learning process continues.
  1.     Inspiration is all around you.
  1.     Look for mentors who teach you something about creativity.
  1.  Other writers are not your competition. It would seem they are. After all there are only so many publishers. Still your greatest competition comes from within—when discouragement comes, or depression, or a setback, or an unexpected turn of events. But creativity will win out.
  1.  Einstein didn’t fit in at school.
  1.  Beethoven was a loner.
  1.  Mozart alienated as many as he drew.
  1.  The Beatles had no idea the fame they would attract.
  1.  Creativity breeds creativity.

23 thoughts on “What Beethoven, Mozart, the Beatles, and Einstein Taught Us About Writing”

  • I really liked this podcast, because it talked about the creativity of of things and how it all starts. They compared musical artists that had creative minds. For example the beatles were very creative with their work which is why many people like them. It made me realize that i should start being creative with my writing. I should start adding more crazy and interesting instead being bland. I am going to use more imagination in my stories now.

  • I liked this podcast because you guys related writing to famous musicians/music artists/singers. In each comparison, you represented a key point. The purpose of writing. The purpose of writing isn’t fame, but to enjoy your work and let others enjoy it too.

  • This podcast is my favorite due to the fact that it involved relating writing to famous musical artists. I liked how, even though these artists have nothing to do with writing, their ‘philosophies’ can be applied to writing skills.

  • I really enjoyed this podcast mainly because it’s saying that you don’t need to have fame to have fun in which you’re writing or in other cases you can write what you’d like and it’s for you to have fun with what you’re writing and i extremely love how you put put famous music artist in it which made it stand out a bit more.

  • I liked the podcast notes a lot. I love how the idea that “creativity inspires creativity” because it is so true. And that there are vast amounts of creativity in the world and its the best idea to have the least limitations. Inspiration depends on who the person being inspired is, not so much what the inspiration itself is.

  • The podcast was interesting because I believe that music artists are considered writers. Also how you don’t need to be famous to know what to write about,you can be creative with your ideas and write stories that may inspire others.

  • This podcast I like in particular because it talks about creativity. I like how they compared musicians and there creativity. I also like how they talk about how you can be creative and inspire others.

  • Ive learned a lot of things from this blog. Ive learned somethings from Beethoven that really made me believe that it is true. Like no matter what, you will get criticism. Is probably one of the most realest things ever. And also that success doesn’t last forever. Just look at Meek Mill.

  • The idea of gaining ideas by works of others, “creativity inspires creativity”, is a very true statement. Without the works of others we would have nothing to fuel the minds of writers, letting them write for the next generation.

  • I enjoyed this podcast because of it blended the all iconic people quite well. Creativity is a fluid term and how it was extracted from each person I thought was interesting. I was particularly surprised about the facts about Mozart and how he died in poverty.

  • I really liked this podcast because you guys related writing to famous musicians/singers. Basically music artists are considered writers because they write/sing what inspires them. The purpose of writing is to make sure you like what you wrote and also make sure the reader likes it even more.

  • Something I personally enjoyed about this podcast was when you touched upon writers being inspired by other writers. I often take ideas from other stories and tweak them and make them my own an fit into my writing, and learning that this is common practice makes me feel better about doing so. I find inspiration in uncommon places so I related to the mention of not all art and creativity coming from fame. I like that the purpose of writing is mainly to inspire and be inspired so that the art of writing continues and evolves through generations. I also enjoyed when you explored and talked about the idea of musicians being artists through the writing of their songs and the storytelling within them.

  • In this podcast I found it very intriguing how the difference of commercial and literary fiction can be seen just in the plot, characters and other aspects of the work.

  • One thing I enjoyed about this podcast was learning that it is common practice for people to be inspired by other’s works because I often use ideas from other stories in my writings and tweak and mold them to fit into my story. I also enjoyed when you touched upon musicians being writers through the creation of their songs and the stories they tell within them. Another aspect of this podcast I enjoyed was the mention of creativity breading creativity and inspiration. I often find inspiration in uncommon places so it was nice to learn that inspiration and artistic writing doesn’t always come from fame or strives to be famous. I agree that the true purpose of writing is to inspire and be inspired. That way future generations can continue creating new artistic writings using the inspiration of the past and present.

  • I enjoyed this podcast because it somehow took a musical artist like Beethoven and related him to writing. Because at the end of the day many writers are influenced by different things and music can be one of them.

  • I liked this podcast because it shows that writers can be influenced by many different things. I also like how musical artists were tied into the act of writing. In the end this podcast made me realize how writing can tie into so many other things.

  • I really liked this podcast because it showed me how creativity has a great impact in our work but also in our everyday life. Also the involvement of music and art into writing is very eye opening and that everything can be inspiration and useful.

  • I liked this podcast because not only did you guys talk about my favorite band ever the Beetles. I like that you guys talked about inspiration and how way before their fame they didn’t have many friends or people doubted, but they never gave up like Beethoven he became deaf even though he couldn’t hear he still wrote and made music I thought Beethoven was a genius this man literally cut off the legs to his piano just to feel the vibration of the keys that like shocked me this was brilliant I love him! What I also liked about the podcast is that you guys talked how they never give up even though they didn’t have friends or people to support you as long as your happy doing what you love you could go far in life and be happy with your life

  • I enjoyed this podcast because it took artists like Beethoven and The Beatles and how they got far in life using their creativity. How being creative can inspire people.

  • I enjoyed this podcast because of the emphasis on how important creativity is in our work. It has a great influence on the work of writers, and anyone who creates anything. Talking about The Beatles was a nice touch as well, because I love them.

  • what i enjoyed about this podcast is that you used people that i am actually familiar with in a sense that i never would have seen them for. You provided facts about Beethoven, Mozart, the Beatles, and Einstein which i found quite interesting. You even went further to go into detail about how these very recognizable people taught you something they were never known for writing fiction. But the creativity of the individuals is what inspired and motivated you to write your stories. And for you to feel inspired by these people for there creativity, makes me feel as though i can be inspired by people i never knew would ever inspire me to become a technician. Thank you for the insight i enjoyed your podcast.

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