The Importance of Being Mediocre

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The Alternative Writing Workshop is a gas. The way it works may seem a little complicated to those of you who are used to doing nothing more complex than calculating quantum physics wave functions, but here it is: h2g2ers write stories, essays, or poems. They submit them to the AWW. Other h2g2ers read these works of genius, and comment. Often the discussions are wide-ranging and lively. You always learn something, even if it's only the explanation to a bad pun like 'enjambement session'.
Minorvogonpoet wants to tell us about being mediocre. We're not buying this, because we have read her work – which is anything but.

The Importance of Being Mediocre

A man in green with a feather in one hand and drawing a theatre curtain with the other

I am a daydreamer. I can imagine, if I let myself, winning a literary prize. There I am, wearing a glittery dress, attending the prize-giving event in a swanky London hotel. I am surrounded by writers, publishers and authors, but the name read out for best novel is mine. I give a gracious speech, praising the other writers and thanking my agent and publisher, and I bask in the limelight. I know that it's not going to happen, of course, but I can dream.

And haven't we all had daydreams like this? This must be key to the appeal of programmes like 'The X Factor' or 'Masterchef.' The man singing in his bath in Birmingham wants to win 'X Factor', and the woman cooking for her children in Chorley wants to win 'Masterchef.' Or vice versa. But it seems to me that programmes like this may increase the level of dissatisfaction in society.

If you think of the X-Factor competition in the UK, hundreds of thousands of people audition. Some of those do it for a laugh, or because their mates are entering, but there must be some who really want to be stars. And, by the nature of things, most of them are going to be disappointed. Just do the maths.

What is more, we can ask whether stardom actually makes people happier. We are all familiar with stories of rock and film stars whose lives crash and burn. Concert musicians and athletes alike need to train for hours a day to reach the top of their professions and stay there. And if we do get to be famous, there may be a journalist or a photographer waiting for news of some indiscretion that will ruin our reputations.

So, I would argue that it is better not to yearn after stardom, but to be content with being mediocre. This does not rule out success, of course. I know people who take lovely wildlife photos, or play the saxophone in a band, or make delicious wedding cakes. They may not be good enough to be outstanding, but they are good enough to please their friends and neighbours.

If we are content with being mediocre, it means that we don't have to sacrifice other things to our chosen path. We can fit our singing, or writing, or painting, round our family lives. And if our painting goes out of fashion, or our latest blockbuster is a flop, our family doesn't starve, because we have other jobs.

It is safe being mediocre. We are surrounded by other mediocrities and nobody expects too much of us. If I get the recipe wrong while making a pie for my family, we all laugh and it doesn't matter. If that was my 'Masterchef' audition, it would be a disaster. So let's not be ashamed of our mediocrity; let's flaunt it. Perhaps it is time for a new campaign: 'mediocre and proud'.

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