How Do You Know You Are Good Enough?
This is a problem creative types face: Writers, artists, musicians, anyone who doesn’t work in a widget factory and wants to make money from their art.
The question you will ask yourself is (at least I did):
Am I good enough?
Am I good enough to make money with this?
Am I good enough so that people enjoy what I create?
Am I just another delusional fool who thinks s/he’s the best when everyone else is laughing at them? Sort of those Funniest Compilation videos on online talent shows?
I struggled with this for a long time, and still do to some extent. But I do have some answers for you.
You are good enough if you are aware of your flaws and keep learning
This quote by Ira Glass sums it all up:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap.
For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this.
And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
The thing about delusional fools is, they don’t even know they are bad.
You will never be perfect, but the journey is part of the fun.
And it doesn’t even matter you are perfect because…
You will never please everyone
Go find your favourite book. Not some crap your English teacher forced you to read, but a book you genuinely loved. You know, the type you stay up late at night to finish, even though you have school/college/work tomorrow?
Now go and read the negative reviews of that on Amazon/Goodreads. Read as many as possible.
If you are like me, you will wonder if the other person even read the same book.
You can do the same with movies.
Different people watch movies/ read books for different reasons.
You have your “professional” critics, who live in their own universe and hate anything they consider is for the masses.
You have your people tired from work, who just want something to relax—book or movie or TV show.
You have your people reading books to open their minds, learn new things or just become better people.
When people consume what you create, they bring their prejudices and thinking patterns.
If someone hates your book (or music) — is it because you suck, or because you didn’t meet their expectations?
It’s impossible to tell. Sure, you can do a bit to market yourself better. If you are writing horror fiction, but your cover has smiling puppies and flowers on it, readers will get confused and give you 1 stars reviews.
If you are playing classical music but dress like a goth and want to smash your violin at the end of the session, you will have some very confused and angry listeners.
But beyond these very basic marketing things, you can do little or nothing about how your work is interpreted by readers.
Once your work is out there, it is no longer under your control.
And that’s what scares many people; the type who will spend 10 years “polishing” their book because they want it to be “perfect”.
As Kris Rusch says, no matter how many times you polish a turd, it’s still a turd.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
So what’s the solution?
At some point, you just have to face the fear of rejection, of 1 star reviews, of no one reading your masterpiece, and put your work out there anyway.
Here’s a great quote by Kris Rusch:
Is the story perfect? Of course not. No story is. Not a one. No matter how many times it’s “polished” and “fixed” and “improved.” No one can write a perfect story.
If such a thing existed, then we would all read the same books and enjoy them equally. We would watch the same movies and need reviewers to tell us only which movie is perfect and which one isn’t. We would buy the same comics, again, going only for the comic that is perfect, and ignoring all the others.
Am I telling people to write crap? No. Because the choice isn’t between crap and perfection. Those are false choices
The book will never be perfect. Take the advice that those of us who’ve worked in broadcasting learned long ago. I think it was best expressed by Tina Fey in Bossy Pants: The show doesn’t go on when it’s finished; it goes on because it’s 11:30.
Exactly. At some point, you must simply let go of that book or story or play and move to the next.
And that is the answer: You will never be good enough, you will never be perfect. And that’s fine. Our job as creators is to entertain, not reach some academic definition of “perfect”.
Keep practising, keep trying to improve, and keep putting your work out there. You are good enough.