By: Jilian Whitehead
When I have a story that I’m (moderately) happy with, I usually have my friends and family read it before I give it to any fellow writers. I do this because I’m testing to see if the story passes a certain bar: enjoyability. If a non-writer likes the story, then I circulate it further—whereas if no one enjoys it, I decide to work on it more.
Of course, you can still share your writing even if no one enjoys it; sometimes the only way to get better is to hear others’ feedback. Plus, there are stories out there that check all the marks for interesting characters and plot and so on, but simply aren’t enjoyable. Then, there are popular works that many well-versed in the craft will agree is horrible.
Unfortunately, there’s no explanation of why some stories are entertaining and others are not. However, if the majority of the people you share your piece with enjoy it, I take that to mean that you’ve written something worth spending time on. To me, the only thing a poem or story needs is to be enjoyable. (You could argue that the only thing it needs is to convey meaning and be understood, but that’s a bit too meta here.)
You might have someone trying to make you tick off boxes of things you have to include and be aware of in your work—and certainly, it is beneficial to be attentive to craft—but if in the process, you lose something in trying to write that perfect piece, then it’s best to forget the rules. Focus on writing the story or poem you want to write, regardless of what others say. If you can’t enjoy writing it, then why should someone else enjoy reading it?
So, if you’re getting worried or depressed about a piece, thinking that it doesn’t have well-developed characters or the plot feels too thin or all your lines are boring . . . remember that all that matters is for the piece to be enjoyable. If someone (even if that someone is you) likes reading your work, then you’ve already created something worthwhile.