How do you know if your work is any good?

Sheila Chandra - Thursday, September 21, 2017

Being able to judge the quality of your own work is a crucial skill for any creative person. But this is something that new artists often lack. It may be an absence of confidence due to never being recognised or validated in their creative process. It may be due to lack of feedback or the fact that they're unconventional and are constantly being told to 'get back to something more commercial'. Whatever the cause, if you're to develop as an artist you must know what is good and what is not, both in your genre, and in your own work.

How to know if your work is any good – learn what quality is…

All of us are influenced by the work that has gone before and current trends. Even apparently unconnected genres can affect the way our work is viewed or consumed. For instance, I think because of the rise of social media and blogging - which have honed the art of the headline and subheading to the finest degree ever seen - it's more crucial than ever than ever that authors of books write in a clearly accessible, short-and-to-the-point way.

But being influenced for the good means understanding what quality is in the general sense for your own art form. With music that's pretty easy, as there are plenty of commentators on what is both 'good' and what is 'hip' (the two are not synonymous...). This means that any young singer or musician has a pretty good idea of what they should be aiming for.

Knowing if work is good is not always as simple as you think

But with writers it's a different thing. What does 'well written' mean for instance? Too often there's a snobbery about popular 'genre' books, such as thrillers or science fiction, which sell in their thousands, or hundreds of thousands, in favour of a preference for lit fic which sells far less but is adored by critics for its fineness of language. Similarly in visual art, there seems to be a great degree of variation, and acquired tastes, which don't necessarily translate to the mass of people.

How to know if your work is any good – get great technique

Having good technique can never be a bad thing even if you subsequently transcend it... Make a point of finding out what good technique means in your own art form. For writers, Orwell’s five rules of good writing are a good place to start. So is reading good writers with an eye to how they've conveyed their ideas. Remember that readers these have a far shorter attention span. Whatever your art form, once you've honed your technique and started exploring your own style, you're ready for the next stage.

How to know if your work is any good - consult your peers

Peers are not always reliable judges but do try to obtain constructive and specific criticism of your work from knowledgeable ones - both good points and bad. Be wary of anyone who seems jealous who rubbishes your work though. After that it's time to put you work out to fans. There are any number of people who stall at this point - working obsessively in a perfectionist manner to 'refine' their project. The bad news is, no project is perfect in its creator's eyes. And you may stall your further development by limiting yourself to the perfection of your first project, rather than learning from it and going onto the next one.

Believe knowledgeable fans

For those who find this hard, I'd just say one thing. If you don't put yourself out there, your fans won't get a chance to love what you do. So once your project is close to the standard you envisaged, take the risk.

Of course, there may be some fans who love you for what you represent or are not particularly knowledgeable who praise you to the skies. While praise is always nice, that is not the place to swallow feedback wholesale. Instead look to supportive critics, and well informed fans, and believe what they say of your work. We artists do not benefit from promotions or fancy job titles. Our fans - the people who buy and love our work - are the final assessors of our legacies. And in our own lifetimes, they're the ones who can tell us if we're on the right track....

If you’d like to understand more about how you can organize you’re your creative career for success, download a free excerpt of ‘Organizing for Creative People’

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