How to judge writing

From William S. Burroughs’ “A Review of the Reviewers”:

1. What is the writer trying to do? 2. How well does he succeed in doing it? (…) 3. Does the work exhibit “high seriousness”? That is, does it touch on basic issues of good and evil, life and death and the human condition. I would also apply a fourth criterion (…) Write about what you know. More writers fail because they try to write about things they don’t know than for any other reason.

I know I’m guilty of doing this.  Just because you might be well-read when it comes to a certain subject, it doesn’t mean that much unless you have some real world experience to back it up.  Meticulous empirical thinking complements theory, and will make you into an expert on a topic.  And that’s what you should write about.

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