Right now, millions of people are scratching out notes on small pieces of paper, singing a short melody into their iPhone during their drive to or from work, and coming up with ideas in their head. Sometimes it’s hard to write anything, but other times you will find a prolific time of writing. At some point you will undoubtedly ask yourself, when is it good enough?
It’s pretty impossible to judge your own work. The problem appears the moment you first have an idea and try to capture it. It always seems brilliant, like the greatest thing you’ve ever done. And that excitement is great, it’s what we strive for. But sadly, it almost never lasts. The next day, week, or month you look at those same lyrics or musical idea and think, “What was I thinking?”.
You’re not alone.
The second problem appears when you play something for someone else. Usually, a friend or family member. They are probably not going to be brutally honest with you, and in fairness, probably aren’t qualified to objectively critique a song. So when we ask, they say they like it, whether or not they do, or should.
They key to knowing when your stuff is “good enough” is to first define what you mean by that question. Is it “good enough” play at an open mic, a coffeehouse gig, or festival? Is it “good enough” to record? Is it “good enough” to submit for licensing or a songwriting competition?
There are two levels of “good enough” that you need to worry about, depending on what you want to do with your music. The first is to ask if it’s good enough for you. If that’s all that matters, then let your ears be the only judge that matters. If you like it, keep doing it and keep working to get better.
If you want to play for other people, and want people to really like it and not just tell you they do, you’ll know once they start telling other people. That’s why you don’t have to try to reach a lot of people with your music. Just play it for 10 people, and if they really like it, they’ll tell their friends. Then you have something. Until then, keep working.
Don’t listen to the people who are negative (especially online) just for the sake of it, but don’t also fall into the trap of your friends telling you it’s good but they’re not buying your CD, coming to your shows, or telling anyone.
Good art will market itself to some extent, so if you’re not there yet, keep working on it.