We are not born with a sense of taste, but it develops over time under certain conditions, even if we do not think about it. However, it is possible to help this process if you like.
If you want to develop a sense of taste in a certain area, here is my understanding of the stages you have to go through.
For starters, there’s a good trick to determine how well your sense of taste is already developed in a certain area. I looked it up from Ludwig Bystronovsky, it sounds like this: “If you find that most things in a certain area are fine, you haven’t formed a sense of taste in it yet”.
The names are arbitrary, there is no clear moment of transition from one stage to another:
1. Stage of accumulation
First, you need to be concerned about quantity more than quality. It is not so important to find only good examples, there are much fewer of them than you need now. The amount of information you consume is most important at the beginning of the journey.
No neural network will learn to distinguish a dog from a cat based on two dozen pictures, even if they are the best pictures. The same thing is going on in our minds, we just need more data. Look at everything that comes up on the subject, do it every day.
Look at it this way – we can only appreciate the good in contrast to the bad. When we are just starting to study something, we just don’t have enough bad examples in our pocket to compare with. The stage of accumulation allows us, among other things, to get such luggage.
2. The curating phase
After a while you will notice that you begin to have preferences, something will start to seem trivial or boring, somewhere you will notice poor quality. And you will start to find certain things pleasing. The taste is beginning to form.
At this stage, you may have role models – people whose taste you are already able to appreciate, and whom you trust in judgment.
Now you not only absorb everything new but also evaluate it by comparing it with your accumulated luggage. This is the time when you start filtering the incoming flow, leaving only the best.
Here some people are hurrying to broadcast their newfound wisdom and state their tastes as rules. Such “rules” can be categorical and sharp in judgment, and often promote the one and only correct order of things.
The key is not to block the flow of various information, continuing to receive not only what seems to be “right” for now. Even when the taste is already developed, inspiration is still important.
3. Stage of principles
Finally, when the luggage of inspiration has been accumulated and opinions – sometimes quite intuitive – have been formed, the time comes when you want to formulate the difference between good and bad, to formalize your empirical experience in some more verbal form.
Unlike the “rules” from the previous stage, principles usually operate on a slightly different level of abstraction, and profess a more relaxed approach to beauty and correctness. It is more observations than manifestos.
Such principles, despite the authors’ desire to share them with the world, are more useful for themselves than for beginners in the field. Of course, directions and recommendations can help beginners move a little faster, but they alone are not enough to develop taste by trying to mechanically determine what is good and what is not, following some formulas.
At the beginning of the journey, it is more useful to take the principles formed by the experts as remarks and notes to apply to your own experience, rather than as instructions and guidelines on what is right and beautiful.