A question -- something that's been bothering me

originally posted by Konran

I'm not sure this is the proper forum for this, but it's a question and this is the question-and-answer section, so… I sort of feel like this is a dumb question, but it's been bothering me for a bit. See, I'm a writer. I love it. I do poetry, short stories, even have two long projects. But I haven't written anything in a while. It's there, I can feel it under the surface, but nothing will come up. I think I've figured out why. I think I'm repressing it out of worry/insecurity. So it got me thinking on how you define a "good" piece of work.

How does one know if they are truly good at something? Art, music, writing, whatever. How do you know that you are producing things of quality and not piles of crap? How do you know that what you are doing is even worth your time and effort? I mean, if you like to do it, yeah, it's worth it, but if you're not turning out anything good, why bother? You could say "As long as you think it's good then it is." But if we go by that, everyone is the best artist/musician/writer in the world. That's obviously not possible. Besides, most creative ventures are made specifically for sharing with other people. I write for myself, but I also want to write things that others will enjoy, to know I have changed them in some small way or briefly brought beauty to their lives. So if other people like it, is it good? Maybe. The opinions of friends and family are often skewed towards the positive side, whether on purpose to avoid hurt feelings or through bias ("Oh, EVERYTHING he/she does is good.") If enough strangers tell you they like it, is it good? As compared to what? Compared to their skills you might be better, but there is always someone out there better than you. A perfectionist like me always sees the flaws in my work and the good points in other's works. And how many is "enough", anyway? Do the opinions of non-professionals in whatever area you're working in count? If it's "good" to a random person off the street but crap to a professional, what are you supposed to think? When you know your work isn't up to professional standards and it doesn't seem it ever will be, what are you supposed to do? Keep practicing, yes, but how do you know when you're "there"? How do you know when you've succeeded at being good? I don't mean you have to be a bestselling author, or even published. Just doing good work. To put it simply, how do you know your words are worth the ink they're written in?

originally posted by Cheryl

I just wanted to say real quick that I had my dad read a little of what I've been trying to write and he was openmouthed. I think he was stunned I did that writing. It made me feel good though and I feel I'm on the right track. He's very smart and I'm going to have him help me with correcting small mistakes. Anyway just thought I'd say that he was honest I saw his expression and knew he liked it. I think just keep on practicing and everyday you improve. Just wanted to help some. But Janny will give you great help.

What makes a piece of creative effort "good?

This question has stages and layers -

FIRST, you have to know what goal you have in creating it. Was it for beauty, suspense, humor, emotion, idea - the list goes on. Some works have only one point. Some have many. If you want to write something just for the beauty of it, and a person who reads as critic expects profound suspense, they will have a not so hot opinion…they weren't looking for beauty, so, they were disappointed - as an example.

Know what ASPECT you want to share with others, and make sure that is your founding drive, and the yardstick by which that drive is to be measured.

Next: WAS what you created well crafted? THIS is craft. Learning to state what you wanted with elegance and panache and individuality. Practice, learning, more practice, refining the CRAFT gives your delivery its clarity. Complexity is not to be mixed up with clarity.

Next on the list to be considered is style. How do you STYLE your craft - some things are crafted very simply - some are crafted with great complexity. Make sure you understand your individual voice - and where in the spectrum of choice you fall, with that.

If your critic beats the "kiss" drum (keep it simple, sweetheart) - they will obviously get VERY self righteous if you go for complexity in either concept or design.

AFTER you understand your drive, your idea, AFTER you have refined your craft - then you have to know that your critic may have a bias in THEIR wants that does not match yours…not every work serves every person.

You know you have succeeded - 1) because you can look back and SEE where your improvement in craft has risen. 2) You will know by feedback - with the caveat: you need to check your "critic's" expectations - and be sure the bais matches to at least a reasonable degree. 3) You will know because more and more, what you INTENDED gets through, even where a skewed bias is present.

You will not reach everyone. That's a given.

The trick is in finding the balance – you have to hold enough of your individual voice to maintain your enthusiasm and passion.

If you have a good support group - put your stuff out there. Then ask, "What did you get from reading this?" Not, is it good - rather, what did your taste tester feel or see or experience? Now look at what they DID get - if it was, say, beauty you were after, and they didn't get that, ask why - You went for beauty, they wound up with (?) - their opinion on how you Missed may be they have another concept of beauty OR - it may come out that your craft was inept, still, and the wrong points received unwarranted emphasis.

If your focus wasn't apparent, you may be able to fix that - hone your craft.

"Good or bad" is a rotten way to approach the question of "did this work succeed" - in my opinion anyway…you're going to fall into a muddle of people's likes and dislikes and personal taste. A work succeeding or not, requires a certain degree of dissection, question and answer to perceive a common snapshot - did you create the shared moment you aimed for, or not.

Understand also - some works are made for a small, esoteric audience, some are made for the mass audience. Know your intended audience, and don't confuse the two, they are not necessarily interchangeable options.

originally posted by Konran

Thanks for replying. :smiley: I'll think about that.