On making “good” art

dbborroughs comments on Neil Gaiman’s speech:

I take nasty exception to Neil’s statement that we should make good art… We should make art, period.

I’ve been pondering this, because I both agree and disagree with it.

I agree that we shouldn’t hold back in the act of creation because we’re afraid the art we make might not be good enough. I agree that the act of creation is in and of itself important, and should be done without fear.

But I also feel that once we decide to put what we create out into the world, there is an obligation to make it as good as we can before we do so. It’s not going to be perfect, ever; but we need to strive to do what we can.

And then we need to let go of it, let it out where others can see. But only after we’ve done what we can to make it good first. Not everyone will agree that it is good, even then–we accept that when we create–but we have to put what we can into the work nonetheless: not just in the first fire of creation, but in the rounds of refinement that follow, too.

He goes on to say:

How will we know if something is going to break the mold, if we judge things by curent standards of “good” or by what is art?

I think the key here–for me–is that good can’t be determined entirely by outside or current standards of “good.” We need to seek feedback, we need to read what others have done, but the drive to create good art–and the definition of good art–ultimately comes from within, not without, for all that it also doesn’t happen in a vaccuum.

If we don’t put it all out there without qualifying if its good or not how will we learn what is good?

I do think one does continue learning based on reactions when one puts the work out there–but the learning doesn’t begin there. It begins with ourselves, and then maybe with a group of trusted readers. Then it moves outward from there.

One works and works the thing, until one decides one honestly feels that it is good, or at least as good as one can manage at the time. Then, I think, one puts it before the world–after making that judgment, not before.

Saying make good art may prevent some one who is unsure of themselves from ever coming forward since they will think its not good enough. And Maybe its not, maybe thats the next thing to change how we think and feel and see things…

And that’s the hard question. How not to let the need to create good art keep us from creating at all, while not throwing the drive to be good out the window, either. I think just about every writer I know–and probably every artist, too–struggles with this.

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