was it good for you?

| 1 Comment

So my post on Mark Pilgrim's writing--and his response--got me thinking about what makes writing "good." And that questioning continues today, with my receipt of a request to republish one of my essays from grad school in a rhetoric textbook.

I'm sure this topic has been discussed at length in thousands of books, essays, and weblogs. But what the heck...I don't really want to go out and read what everybody else said. I just want to think about what I think.

To me, what makes writing "good" is very difficult for a writer to assess about his or her own work. Writing is intended to communicate--if the receiver of that communication deems it "good," isn't that the salient charcteristic? Can I write "good" paper for a class that doesn't get an A, if the professor for whom I wrote it didn't think it was good? If, later, someone wants to publish it, does it now "become" good? Is "good writing" in the eye of the reader, or the creator? Mark says about his writing, "if, indeed, it is [good]." But if I've just said that I think it is good, do I have the final word?


(If a story is written in a for(r)est, and noone is there to read it, can it be good?)

1 Comment

I think that you are for the most part right here.

There are two "goods" in writing.

One, is how good it appears to the reader. Does it stand up to the reader's scrutiny? Does it communicate something, anything to him? Does he enjoy reading it?

The second is the author's "good". In my case for example:
Am I satisfied with my writing? (No)
Can I see obvious, glaring flaws in my texts? (Yes) Can I think of ways to improve? (I think so)
How does my writing compare with that of others writing in my field or a related one? (Badly)

I can't say anything about the first "good". I just know that everytime I read over my texts I see their flaws, and I have to resist the temptation of the rewrite.

But, to quote one of Mark Pilgrim's on one's life occupation, writing is one thing that I can't 'not do'.

Wei Wu Wei, and I write.

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