Sunday, 29 December 2013

Contemplation: Better: the Devil you know...

[Disclaimer: The views herein expressed by the quirky brunette are not necessarily FACT per se but are my perception and should be taken with a very large pinch of salt 75% of the time. My perception is oft warped. But that's why I write this blog, to maintain a little platform for aforementioned warped perception, lest it blows even more out of proportion and my head explodes.]

Dear friends of the quirky brunette (I know you’re out there and I love you for reading this little brain-explosion aka blog of mine)

Hello to you.

I’d like to open today's Contemplation with a clip from a film that I class as a guilty pleasure. Yes, that veritable paragon of film-making known as: Kindergarten Cop.

Recently, I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that that little lad Dominic has crept into my psyche and has taken up residence there, as I become increasingly aware of my shortcomings.

Of which there are many.

I gots skillz, I’m not denying that.

Amongst my accomplishments I list (in the manner of a Bennet sister in Pride and Prejudice): writing, piano-playing, photography, swimming, long-distance walking and singing. And badge-making.

I can also spel gud, and right grammer, and punk chew ayshun! do I use.

{via Pinterest}

(I cannot net a purse nor cover a screen, but then I do live in the 21st century. And am cack-handed.)

Trouble is, in everything I do, I am constantly aware of someone who is so much better than I am at it. And for those things in which I’m generally solid, such as spelling, grammar and punctuation, well, what are they truly worth in the grand scheme of things, beyond being valuable tools in my day-job, of course? Here’s a clue: not much.

On the other hand...

{via Pinterest}

{via here}

If I were to assess all of my alleged skills and keep up only those in which I consider I have a chance of excelling or at least being nurtured to excel in, well, I’ll be honest, I’d have very little left:

  • Most published authors are better writers than me.*
  • Concert pianists (and let’s face it, most people) are better piano-players than me, including this child:

{Watch from 1m 50}

  • Rankin. Martin Parr. Olivia Bee. Rosie Hardy. My university friend Ray Gumbley (who doesn't have a website that I can find but is superb -- trust me on that). All better photographers than me.

{Juliette Binoche by Rankin}
{by Martin Parr}
{by Olivia Bee}
{Millie Mackintosh by Rosie Hardy}

  • Eleanor Simmonds. Rebecca Adlington. Ian ‘Thorpedo’ Thorpe. All better swimmers than me.
  • My workmate Ant. A better long-distance walker than me.
  • Anyone who’s ever been asked to sing solo in either of my choirs is a better singer than me.

(And I’m not sure badge-making is a skill per se but I’m sure there are people who are better than me at that as well.)

* Actually, er, I am a published author of children’s books, and I have won a prize for this book in the past:

{Winner of the 2004 Booktrust Early Years Book Award, I thank you...}
But that was rather a long time ago...

This is the problem with coming to the conclusion that actually you are fairly mediocre really.

Either society holds up to you and duly validates the achievements of people who are better than you or -- as is more often the case -- you (and your inner Dominic) scour your own spheres for those people and perceive them as thus, until some kind soul validates your abilities otherwise.

When did we get so competitive? (Hmm, I think I touched on this vaguely in my last Contemplation…)

When did I get so defeatist? (Tiresome, isn’t it.)

How do we measure 'better' anyway, and how do we measure success? By the prizes, accolades and privileges bestowed upon us?

According to this weekend's Guardian Weekend supplement, "...success is not all about prizes, nor does it necessarily even strike during a writer's lifetime." {What we liked in 2013: books | Guardian Weekend | 28 December 2013}

Still, the same supplement is decreeing Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries as "clever and capacious" -- I personally found her first novel, The Rehearsal, too obscure. But then there are others far cleverer than me who know better (that word again!) and I haven't even read the book nor have I written a Booker Prize-winner at the age of 28, so I should probably pipe down, shouldn't I? Yep.

And when did I start taking up pastimes in the (vain) hope of excelling at them?

Why can’t I just swim/sing/walk distances/play the piano/write and enjoy all these things without feeling as though I need some benchmark of accomplishment to make them worth my while?

So many questions.

Maybe, just maybe, better is a relative value anyway. Maybe I should just focus my efforts on being the best that I can be at anything, rather than better than anyone else (at the risk of verging on paraphrasing the One Tree Hill theme song...).

{via Pinterest}

It's not about pitching ourselves against others, it's about pitching against ourselves.

Pushing ourselves to go further.

Not exactly radical thinking, I know, but maybe I can come around to it nonetheless. Hopefully in time to make some valuable New Year's Resolutions.


  1. There's only one you. I don't know of anyone who's better at that than you! ;)

  2. Thank you, Jess! That, at least, I am sure of! xxx