It being January, my thoughts naturally turn to beginnings. New month, new year, new projects. I love new calendars and shiny new diaries. Everything is rife with possibilities. Number One is great. Being first, the best, the leader. Who doesn’t want that? And yet… isn’t there a lot to be said for Number Two, too?
The Godfather II is far superior to the first film, The Godfather.
Second-in-command is often the one to get the job done while Number One is taking all the bows.
Two people together are usually better than one alone.
Second chances are more valuable than the first ones. So are second thoughts.
And, oh yes, a second draft of a story is always a damn sight better than the first draft.
I recently completed work on a short story that had been commissioned. I had, I thought, a good premise, but the story didn’t want to go where I tried to send it. I had a strong characters, a fairly decent plot, and a subplot. After six weeks of frustrated writing, I realised the subplot was the better story. Out with the first idea and on with the second. I finished the rewrite in six days. Second choice isn’t necessarily second-best.
Sometimes number one is a pill. We imbue it with a magic it doesn’t deserve. We stress ourselves out trying to achieve it. So give yourself a break. I’m not saying settle for mediocrity or don’t try your best, just don’t beat yourself up if you come in second. As someone once said, It’s an honour just being nominated.
The problem with ones and firsts is if we don’t reach them we self-flagellate. More, we figure that the opportunity has gone and we give up. You have a new year resolution to go on a diet on January 1st, but there’s still all that holiday cake and chocolate lying around the house. By January 2nd you figure you’ve already failed and decide to cancel the diet till next year. But what’s wrong with starting on January 2nd? Or 3rd, 30th, or even mid-March? The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, they say. Does it really matter when you take that first step? By the time you reach your destination, the starting point will be forgotten anyway.
There seems to be a part of human beings that needs that magic that Firsts seem to possess. Or perhaps there’s a sense of collective purpose with half the planet hearing the first of the year as some sort of starters’ pistol. The danger is, of course, once we miss the crack of that start, we let the opportunity for new endeavours evaporate. But why? Is a task begun on January 2nd any less valuable?
So what I’m saying is if you had a project planned for this year and you’re feeling down because you didn’t start “on time”, forget the magic of the First and make your own magic. After all, today is the 10th — what’s that but a 1st with a zero attached?
What are you waiting for? Just do it!
And just because they say you’re slow
That doesn’t mean that you’re slow, you know
And even if you’re never first
Compared to someone who’s last
They’re sure to think you are fast
The World is a Circle ~ Burt Bacharach