Whoever said that critiquing mediocrity is the real test of one’s critical facilities had it right: pointing out good things about particularly good work and bad things about particularly bad work certainly requires skill, but in those cases you start out with enough momentum to hit the ground running right away. Explaining why unremarkable work is unremarkable, though… that’s difficult. You have to make your own momentum, and it’s that strenuous process that teaches you the material components of the thing you’re putting together from scratch. Not having clear binary classifications of “good” and “bad” to fall back on – that’s what forces you to examine just how you distinguish between the two in the first place.
[may expand this post into a full essay at some point in the future]