Day 27: The Best of No Other
A few, actually, but today we’re tackling this one:
Does the thought that you are not likely to become the number one best in your field discourage you or affect you in any way?
* * *
The “best” forgo sleep and food, they sacrifice so much for the sake of their art, they loose time. It falls from their pockets and sinks between the cushions of the couch, just disappearing. Hours zoom, days fly, weeks float away as they continuously push to be the best possible version of themselves that they can be. They put in effort. There’s also a little luck, but most of all, they put in effort.
Like a mother giving birth they push and and scream and swear, they go primal and fight through pain and blood to bring about the work they feels must be brought into the world.
But they do it to beat no one but themselves.
I’ve never worried about being at the top of my field. I’m not sure those who are at the top of my field have worried either.
* * *
I’m so tired. My wife is tired, too. It kills me to see her so exhausted and helpless. My eyes beg for darkness and my mind aches to be thrown into slumber. But I’m here. I’m here forcing my fingers to find the keys so I can do what I said I would, so I can do what makes me me. I fight through all this pain, this lump in the back of my head, this heavy horrible lump of the sandman’s doughy hand pushing against my skull all because I want to be better than me. I go through this anguish because my art requires it of me. Because I love what I do and I know it’ll look after me when I need it most. I might now be tired and sick and sore, but my art still requires I sit my ass down and get to it, earn its respect. And when I need it to be here for me, it surely will be, it’ll provide for me inspiration and joy, and if I’m lucky enough, provide food and shelter for my family.
This is all I worry about, that I am the best version of me. I’ve no interest in being the best when placed on the scales of others, let alone a collective group of people who all agree on the one person that happens to satisfy a disparate range of opinions. It could easily be said that those at the top of the music charts are the best musicians.. But.. Well, you know what I’m going to say.
* * *
I used best in the opening of this essay in a group sense. The top of the field, the most accomplished one hundred or one thousand. But they’re the best only on my scale. Yours would be different. They’re my heroes. My inspirers. Those who respond to their muses in ways I admire and appreciate.
But what if we were to talk about the best in the singular?
To be the best is to work until there is no more ‘better’ to be had when compared to others. What happens then? Once you’ve mounted the heads of your enemies on the spikes in front of your castle, then what? What do you do when there’s no more enemies to spike?
But … Oh, but if the enemy is an internal one, if the one to beat is you, you will find an endless army of dragons.
And to be honest, I have no interest in beating out those who inspire me the most. I simply wish to do their work, their ideas and effort and the flames that it inspired in my heart honor by making something in kind. Something worthy of the time they spent so that I’m able to look at their work and etch out a smile.
To do that, I have to be the best version of me I can possibly be. The people I most admire are those who are wholly themselves. They are truly honest in who they are and produce work that shows they have pushed themselves as far as they can possibly go. Not as far as anyone expects them to go, not in the direction anyone hopes they will go, but towards their own, personal, innate and unique goals and level of skill.
I’m not sure many creatives worry about rising to the top as much as they wish to rise above themselves. We can look at others whom we declare the best and how they’ve worked and mimic what we appreciate, discarding what we do not, but we cannot simply look upon the best and hope to be who or where they are.
They’re the best versions of themselves that they can be. They’re also lucky enough that the best of who they are is also what the rest of us considers to be the best of what their field can be.
* * *
While I wish to produce the best possible work so that I might entertain and inspire others, I do not do so that they might one day, hopefully, consider me the best of my field. It’s not a term I think really works. Creative works aren’t produced or rated on a scale. My best is different to yours, and thankfully, they’re both different to the person sitting next to either of us. Best, like favorite, is the language and concern of the amateur, the professional just wants to be better, though not of another, but themselves alone..
All I’m desperately trying to do is be professional. I’ll let the amateurs worry about being the best.