“Is there any sure method for a writer to find out if what he has written has value? Everyone tries. No one I know has succeeded. Discouragement and self-doubt are part of the profession.”

The words are from the Swedish Author Olof Lagercrantz in his small, but still so large, book “On the Art of Reading and Writing.”

How can I know that what I write is good? I cannot know that. Nobody knows. Every year new books are indeed named modern classics, but time is a harsh judge and only the future knows which books will survive among the bookshelves of oblivion. Few are the chosen ones.

However, Lagercrantz gives tips for testing the quality of the text, or it is the English poet Samuel Butler who advises:
“Ask yourself, how what you wrote will look like a hundred years from now.”
“Read aloud to yourself, clearly and slowly. Then the text reveals its shortcomings.”
Advice No.1 is difficult to apply, I think, but advice No.2 works great!

Reading my text slowly as if I were reading aloud to someone is something I always do. Over and over again. Something in the text can then suddenly feel wrong, I change and read again, something else feels noisy or arrhythmic. New strike, new wording, etc. Mainly when I write dialogues, the method is indispensable to feel how, or if, the dialogue flows. It must feel genuine and believable.

But this does not give any answer whatsoever as to whether the finished text has value. On the contrary, it is a subject made to be doubted. If you ever feel the urge for a really good doubt, my advice is: Start writing, then think about whether what you’re doing makes sense.
And that’s where the doubt starts!

But as the Swedish author Tage Danielsson said: “Without a doubt, you are not wise!”

Mattias is an author and illustrator

%d bloggers like this: