Very very good is good enough


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 at the time. And Sam was wonderfully encouraging to me and a whole bunch of other women poets who were feeling their oats.

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!

P.S. You can browse my middle-of-the-Bell-Curve poems any time

Matt Fray triggered these thoughts with his blog post I’m not special and it’s OK

14 thoughts on “Very very good is good enough

  1. Excellent point – we can’t all be the best or the worst! Sounds like a no-brainer but sometimes the obvious needs stating. Thanks for doing that. I am sure this info will be helpful when my kids switch schools and are trying to learn their place among a new set of peers.

    1. Some children need this message, others need the opposite! And you know the difference. It’s more of a message to myself 🙂 As a child, this was my indignant silent rebuttal to teachers who expected me to be top at everything.

  2. Best place to be is in the middle—the top and bottom are already crowded. It takes some of us a lifetime to come to the conclusion that we like the middle. It’s comfortable here!

  3. Well, I am number 3 of 6 girls, so middle is probably my rightful place.

  4. Robyn Haynes says:

    These days I try to just compete against myself.

    1. You’ve got a tough competitor there!

      1. Robyn Haynes says:

        I think we’re all our biggest critics. Good advice I was given was to be as forgiving of one’s self as one would be of a treasured friend. Have never achieved that.

      2. Nice thought.

  5. Val says:

    I aim for never being best at anything. Finishing what I start is the better goal.
    Had a look at your poems. Will have another look another time, too. In the meantime, I like this:

    1. Much more realistic and useful as a goal. And yet I always expect and want to do some things very very well — just for the joy of it.

  6. Aunt Beulah says:

    This is the first post I’ve read this morning, Rachel, and it was a perfect way to start my day: an interesting idea to contemplate and lots of chuckles. After a travel day yesterday filled with delays and cancellations, then an overnight in a hotel without luggage — no toothbrush, comb, change of underwear — I needed a good start today. Thank you, thank you.

    1. I am very very glad it did the trick. And hoping today is a better day.

  7. Joared says:

    Write for yourself and everything else is a bonus!

  8. Good advice: I can see you’re following it!

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