A Literary Duel with my Greatest Oponent
In fiction, people occasionally have a Nemesis; an enemy that dogs their every move and opposes them at every turn. These grand enemies not only provide conflict for some of our greatest heroes; our heroes are often defined by the quality of these opponents. Sherlock Holmes has his Professor Moriarity. Luke Skywalker has his Darth Vader. James Bond has, well, buckets of them, but they’re mostly embodied in the organization known as S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Batman has the Joker (among many others). The Nemesis as a plot device has been used to drive storytelling for as long as there has been storytelling. However, as the actor Benedict Cumberbatch made quite obvious during his visit to Sesame Street, real people don’t actually have Nemeses.
The weird thing, though, is that I’ve been someone’s Nemesis before. Well, not really me, but a fictional version of me. Someone once became so convinced that I was doing everything in my power to ruin his life that he laid the full responsibility for his every defeat and failure at my feet. I could only imagine a little anime’ version of me sitting on his shoulder, constantly directing him to do the wrong thing and laughing at his misfortune. It didn’t matter that I simply don’t have the time and energy to be someone’s Nemesis… can you imagine? All the hours of planning, the phone calls and e-mails, the driving from place to place before he would get there to set up his next catastrophically bad decision… it would be a full time job. Never mind that I had no intention of doing any such things (which I didn’t), but the logistics alone would prevent someone of my limited means from engaging in the mind control and utter mastery of fate and destiny that such a task would take.
Granted; I’m stubborn, opinionated, often overly verbose, and strong-willed. I dress up like a supervillain for fun, and there’s ample evidence on YouTube of me struggling to take over the world, as well as trying to make evil “Quick and Easy Chicken Kiev.”
Still, even though it intruded into real life, the Nemesis version of me is entirely fictional. I’m not really a Supervillain; I just play one on YouTube. In fact, there is only really one person to whom I might be an actual Nemesis. There is only one person that I will honestly take the time to plague and ruin every chance that I get, because this person’s life consumes me, and I can’t stand to see it go on unchanged.
That person is myself. I am my own Nemesis.
Oh, I’m not setting any bombs up in my shower or taking my family hostage unless I meet my demands. That would be crazy. No, I wreck myself in far more subtle (but terribly effective) ways. Usually when I’m writing.
I work for myself, which gives me ample time to set up tasks in my office that I will most likely fail at. I often say that my boss is kind of a dick, and I’m not just whistling “Dixie,” there. I don’t believe I’ve set a reasonable task or deadline for myself in the past decade I’ve been my own employer; I certainly haven’t hesitated to let a project get so big that it overwhelms me. One time, I tried to write a light joke product for the RPG market that would be nothing more than some racy pictures and some numbers to roll dice against. It turned into a four hundred and fifty-four page book that has spawned over a hundred supplements.
In order to thwart my evil Nemesis (that being me), I need to constantly rise to these ridiculous challenges and try to produce not only the work that is required, but more work at a better quality, improving all the time so that I’m ready to take on the next deadly challenge.
Of course, then I (as my Nemesis) raise the bar even higher.
I’ll do things like leave myself a pile of cover images and titles with no other information whatsoever, and expect a whole book to spring whole-cloth from this “inspiration.” It’s worse than having a blank page, because a blank page, while daunting, has some “wiggle room.” It can go anywhere and do anything. Writing to the spec of a title (often one that I came up with over a month or two ago) is a shackle… the work MUST conform to this title and this cover. It’s absolutely diabolical.
I’ll give myself a word count (say, ten thousand) and a deadline (say, by this evening). These are occasionally reasonable, but usually they’re not. My deadlines are lethal traps (“write this supplement with statistics for a hundred different animals THIS WEEK! BWA HA HA HA HA!”), traps that often defeat me. Then they hang like weights on me until I finally work through them, having to deal with other projects the whole time.
It’s a duel; a duel to see if I can bring myself down or build myself up. Ultimately, I have to believe that my Nemesis (me) is doing this for the purpose of self-development. I have to hope that this is all some grand scheme to build my skills and speed, and develop me into something that performs to my highest level. After all, a Nemesis means conflict, and through the resolution of conflict we find experience and growth.
Then again, maybe my Nemesis is just being a dick.
Either way, the duel goes on. It’s not like I can give up and walk away from my greatest enemy; he’ll always be right here. Oh, but those times when I win one of our little skirmishes; those times that I complete a goal and kill a deadline, when I slay a dragon of unreasonable expectations and stand on it’s corpse… those times almost make it worth it.
Like writing a blog post, for example. Hey, wait a minute…
VICTORY! Suck it, evil me!