Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Taste vs Skill

All creatives start from small beginnings, and being fans of their particular craft. A writer reads before they write, a director watches movies before they direct, a coder reads (code) before they write (code).

At first, you have no preferences - to one who can't read, how could they choose one book over another (besides its cover, text:picture ratio, size, ... just talking about text here)? Soon enough, they start being able to understand individual works on their own. Later on, they'll develop a vocabulary for talking about works. It is about this time that preferences start to be made. Now, we get to the fun part - critiquing works. You may start to discern between works and have particular "justifications" for your reasoning - the contrast is too low, not enough time spent on character development, thoughts not following a logical order.

At this point, you can develop no more, and be a reasonable critic. But to be a good creative, we must go one step further - recognising what a better version of the work would be, and making that better version.

In summary:
  1. You have no preferences.
  2. You develop preferences.
  3. You develop justifications for those preferences.
  4. (maybe) You are able to improve your work to better match your preferences.

Thought path: Listening to one of the Back to Work (podcast) episodes -> searching for "skill vs taste" -> Model Mayhem -> Ira Glass on Storytelling (part 3 of 4)


  1. One note, often the best writers aren't the best critics. Some people just know if something feels right, without being able to put it into words

  2. Yeah, your particular comment fits more with the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. I first became aware of the model in the book (note: I do not recommend this book).