One of my pet theories that I think applies with equal veracity to both music and life is that mastery of anything worth doing excellently starts with clear thinking. It is only after I study a passage long enough to understand how it really works that I can make it sound easy. I may be able to read the music accurately and push down the proper keys in the correct sequence, but if I misread the essential design or form of a musical gesture, the results will usually sound awkward and clunky. Often my first understanding of a thing is superficial and distorted because some small detail has captured my attention inappropriately, and then I miss the big picture. Curiously, my first readings of things tend to be unnecessarily complex when underneath there is a simpler idea that is far easier to think and bring to life. I am coming to understand that cultivating this clarity of mind is the real work both in the music I play and in living life.
Incidentally, Project Gutenburg offers a free download version of Schumann’s Advice to Young Musicians. This .pdf is a beautiful reproduction and includes the complete text in both German and in English translation. You can download it here.