On Mediocrity And Being Good Enough

This one’s for Aaron Flynn, who’s trying to stay pure, and for Joel Brown over at Hub Arts, who seems to have a pretty good handle on balancing filthy lucre and creative drive.

One of the last times I talked to Aaron Flynn in person, before he moved off to the alternate universe where housing is not overpriced (i.e. Texas) he told me he didn’t ever want to be one of those people who got through life saying “it’s good enough.”

I said, that’s funny, because that sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Do something good enough every day until you die. Acceptable life. Aaron looked at me not just with pity, but with irritation in his eyes, as though I’d told a particularly offensive joke at his expense. Well, I have to admit it was hard to tell. We were in a car and it was dark, so I couldn’t see him clearly, and also I had just farted, so he could have been annoyed about that. But I think that it did not make him happy that I had so casually dismissed his life’s goal of constant, uncompromising artistic excellence.

But really – can anyone really hope to live a life free of artistic compromise? Isn’t artistic compromise often a great lesson?

This comes back to me defending mediocrity, which sounds scandalous but isn’t. What I mean is that Good Enough is, by definition, good enough. If I cut my finger chopping vegetables, I’d be thrilled to have absolutely perfect stitching that leaves no scar. But to be honest, as long as my finger doesn’t develop gangrene and fall off, I’m happy. When I say good enough, I mean it meets or exceeds my standards of acceptability. My corner pizza shop is not the best pizza in town, but it’s good enough that I eat there when I want a quick slice and I don’t complain about it. It’s tasty, it’s hot, it’s a buck fifty a slice. Good enough!

I don’t just mean that you have to pick your battles for excellence. I may accept merely adequate pizza for dinner, but should I be satisfied producing merely adequate writing? I think I should, because the alternative to going through saying “it’s good enough” is going through life saying “it’s not good enough.” Constantly striving to do better may lead to excellence, but it also means being dissatisfied at every turn.

I feel guilty and shameful saying that.

I’ve been raised to believe that being satisfied, leaving well enough alone, and doing just OK is a cop-out. I’m surrounded by perfectionists and strivers. But isn’t there something other than greatness to strive for? Happiness and satisfaction? Is that even possible?

2 thoughts on “On Mediocrity And Being Good Enough”

  1. Ah man don’t feel guilty about thinking this way. My attitude has accomplished very little so far except a lot of running full tilt with my pants half down. You make a very good case for doing a decent job and when the opportunity to do an amazing job comes along, seizing it. I just need to get the cob out of my ass, as they say in this great land.

    Like

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