I am forever amazed at the barrage of self-help material urging us to aim for the top, follow our dreams, and especially to be better than everyone else. Just a minute: how can everyone be the best?
I figured out the maths around 1972, when New Zealand’s favourite poet, Sam Hunt, told me that female poets (unlike male poets) tended to be either outstandingly good, or outstandingly bad, with nobody in between. I don’t blame him for this ridiculous statement—outstandingly good was possibly true of published women poets at the time, before editors woke up to their own deeply embarrassing sexism, obvious in any analysis of male:female ratios in the literary world. And Sam was wonderfully encouraging to me and a whole bunch of other women poets who were feeling their oats at the time.
Fortunately, after a brief brush with statistics I knew his idea was nonsense, and I decided then and there to aim for a spot in the middle of the Bell curve. If our country needed more middling women poets, I would provide! Here I am Lord: send me!
So I have had a lot of fun and (surprise surprise) received a goodly share of rewards and kudos. However, I decided to forgo the Nobel Prize for Literature. That would make nonsense of my motto, Very Very Good Is Good Enough.
On the other hand, winning the Nobel Prize would be perfectly compatible with my second motto, which is Don’t Peak Too Soon. Maybe I should reconsider, and try harder. I could try harder, sure.
Na. I’ll give it a miss. Here’s to being yourself and relishing every minute of that privilege!