Good from Bad

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I wonder what distinguishes good writing from bad? What is it that makes us want to read on? To some extent it must be subjective, different words and styles appeal to different people. The good and bad of it is the wrong terminology of course. It’s not necessarily good and bad, it’s different, at different levels but I can keep qualifying for ever.

When I read blog sites, why do some appeal to me and others not? Why am I so taken by the self conscious confessional tone of some like Artandmylife, who forever admits to feeling poorly educated, a non expert, and yet offers her thoughts and opinions regardless. For me she becomes a sort of every woman, the mother at home with her little ones imparting knowledge to them that is greater far than anything they can read in text books and yet, her knowledge is somehow diminished because it has not been formalised through the official authorised discourse. Maybe this is why I enjoy her work so much, the same with Stripeysocksstudio and Martin Edmond on Luca Antara– was there ever a more self-effacing, yet brilliant writer, who also seems more self taught than spoon fed by the institutions. Maybe for me, too, because I have gone back to the university after thirty years and because I do not have a vested interest in fitting in with the academic ethos – I’m not looking for a job there – I can write more freely even as I know it will not satisfy certain of the establishment.

I resent the insistence that everything said be backed up by a footnote – Who gave you this idea? Who has said this before you? How can you claim to know this? How dare you presume to say anything unless someone else presumably more learned than you has said it before? To me that’s different from the need to acknowledge other people’s ideas. I have no problem acknowledging other people’s ideas, but sometimes I cannot remember and sometimes my own ideas have become such an amalgamation of all the ideas that I have read and heard from many other people I cannot think to anchor the idea as someone specific’s property.

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6 Comments on Good from Bad

  1. Jim Murdoch
    November 12, 2009 at 4:28 pm (7 years ago)

    I feel that final paragraph refers to the recent comment made on my first 'Beckett the tinkerer' post. The reason I included so many references was to try and avoid someone coming along and saying: "Yes, but where did you get your information?" I don't know if this is typical of other authors (although I suspect it is) but students of Beckett are very pernickety when it comes to proof. My trouble is that I have read so much about Beckett – I have a Beckett shelf at home and it's not enough to contain all I own not counting the huge amount of stuff I've downloaded over the years – that I simply cannot remember where I've read something. In my most recent post on Beckett you'll note that one of my references actually owns up to the fact that I can't trace the source of a certain quote. It's tiresome. It's fascinating but it's also tiresome.

    As for the sites I visit, they are varied but there are few I visit for the quality of the writing. It's the nature of blogging that few posts go up that an author has worked for days on. I'm very much the exception in that regard. Most people write quickly and then upload it. And that's fine. The sites I like best are thoughtful ones like Dave King's Pics and Poems. No post is ever boring and he also keeps to his theme pretty much which is something I appreciate. There's no rule I adhere to. It's like when I think about all the women I have been attracted to in my life, if I was to stand them all side by side you would wonder what they had in common bar the obvious.

    A lot of it depends on mood – we're back on blogs now, not women – there are some blogs I will stop what I'm doing to read there and then, there are those I'll skim and sometimes pass over if the subject doesn't interest me. Much depends on how burdened I feel. Sometimes I just have to clear the decks, start afresh and hope I've not missed anything too good.

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  2. Tommaso Gervasutti
    November 12, 2009 at 6:51 pm (7 years ago)

    I very much agree, ideas flow, we carry them inside us, the various blending of them shapes the various identities and personalities that often fluctuate like in sea waves…I actually always sense the others' ideas and personalities in me…and I feel for sure ideas do not belong to anybody but only to themselves.
    Several years ago I wrote a poem "Sirocco" -that I think I posted too last year- I sensed that poem thoroughly as mine but with flowing of Dereck Walcott's sea air in it.

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  3. Reader Wil
    November 13, 2009 at 7:31 am (7 years ago)

    Thank you so much for this post. I am not going to write much as I have a visitor, who is also having his birthday.Thanks for your visit and very kind comment. We have a lot in common, Elizabeth.

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  4. Elisabeth
    November 13, 2009 at 12:09 pm (7 years ago)

    Jim, the analogy between blogs and women, inadvertent as it might seem, points to the issue of attraction, that strange something that draws us to one another, across a crowded cyberspace floor.

    I tend to be drawn by the quality, tone and style of the writing, but I'm also drawn by what I experience as a level of sincerity, genuineness or some such thing. I don't go in for the clever showing off that might exist, nor am I drawn to displays of vitriol or hostility, unless it's accompanied by a self reflexive comment that says something about why someone might be upset. We all go off the handle at times.

    I fear that I am not very focused in my blog and I hope it doesn't irritate you too much. I have a scatty brain and I'm easily led off in odd directions.

    Davide, I agree with you that ideas belong to all of us. I heard an interesting discussion the other day on the Book Show here.

    I did not catch the name of the writer but he too spoke of the way in which there is no one single owner of a story. To some degree once stories are communicated, whether orally or on paper, we all share them.

    Reader Wil, it is the commonality of the blog world that I enjoy the most, that synchronicity that others have remarked on.

    I love the democracy of cyberspace. It has its downfalls but mostly it's positive.

    I love connecting across the world.

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  5. Dave King
    November 13, 2009 at 2:33 pm (7 years ago)

    I am with you all the way when you are speaking up for the likes of artandmylife, but I am worried by the tendency to denigrate footnotes and references in general. I agree that the validity of an idea or opinion does not depend on the authority of who first said it, but references are useful jumping-off points for further reading.

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  6. Artandmylife
    November 17, 2009 at 8:44 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for the mention! Perhaps i shoudl point out that I do have a post gradute degree – just in a VASTLY different area to the arts and literature which I now write about.

    For me there is too much gatekeepign especially int he visual arts which is very off-putting to the common (wom)man. I like to talk from an outsider perspective.

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