what is the criteria?

We write in privacy and we write totally enmeshed in the world.  This paradox makes literature useful, because it means even the most idiosyncratic writer can tell us about our lives.  But it is also what makes this question of the important versus the unimportant difficult to calculate.  If we wrote only in privacy and only for ourselves, then word choice wouldn’t matter.  Any word would do.  But we also write knowing that someone is listening.  Not only is the world listening, but we are listening, our superego is listening: meaning the part of ourselves that judges our actions within society and finds them wanting.  It is often this knowledge of someone listening that interferes with the writer’s ability to calculate the sense of value that controls his or her work.  Instead of seeing the work on its own terms or trying to discover those terms, the writer has some outside criteria influencing his or her choices.

– Stephen Dobyns, Best Words Best Order

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