Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nooccar/
We start as we start writing, clumsy scruffy letters but in the boat the strokes are often ineffectual clumsy and feel strange.
Practice is all important, like a musician practising to get better, improve and maintain you need to undertake concerted practice.
With a musical instrument the drive is to sound better, and the quality of your playing is easy for you and others to hear. With paddling the clues can be a little more ambiguous especially when the beginner paddler is concentrating on not getting wet.
Some pointers to the standard of your strokes are listed below:
Balance and maintenance of.
Success did you do it easily or was it merely survival?
Some of the points above can be sensed and others need external feedback be it success or third party input.
Set yourself a course or move on the river and repeat, see how effortless and smooth you can make it, how few strokes can it be done with?