If creators knew when they were on their way to fashioning a masterpiece, their work would progress only forward: they would halt their idea­ generation efforts as they struck gold. But in fact, they backtrack, returning to versions that they had earlier discarded as inadequate. In Beethoven’s most celebrated work, the Fifth Symphony, he scrapped the conclusion of the first movement because it felt too short, only to come back to it later. Had Beethoven been able to distinguish an extraordinary from an ordinary work, he would have accepted his composition immediately as a hit. When Picasso was painting his famous Guernica in protest of fascism, he produced 79 different drawings. Many of the images in the painting were based on his early sketches, not the later variations. If Picasso could judge his creations as he produced them, he would get consistently “warmer” and use the later drawings. But in reality, it was just as common that he got “colder.”

In the example Beethoven, backtracking seems to be positive because he revived the discarded the first movement. However, he described backtracking as colder movement at the end. I am so confused. Is there anyone can explain the exact meaning of the Beethoven’s example?


The writer says that both Beethoven and Picasso at first discarded early versions of their work, but then went back and used the early versions in the finished composition.

In children's games, we say 'You're getting warm' when a player is near to finding something or guessing the right answer. We might have expected Picasso to be getting 'warmer' (closer to the effect he wanted) in successive sketches, but sometimes he was getting 'colder' as he worked (later sketches were less successful than the early ones). The writer doesn't mean that his backtracking was 'colder'.

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