Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Sworn enemies are good for you
Did you all know that, in Greek mythology, Nemesis was a remorseless goddess who meted out divine and vengeful retribution upon those who succumbed to hubris? (Or, as my dear friend Al would say, upon those who "committed hubricide.")
Now, of course, nemesis means one's sworn enemy: "normally someone or something that is the exact opposite of oneself but is also somehow similar." (thank you for that choice phrasing, Wikipedia).
As my blog readers probably know -- and as my Twitter followers definitely know -- I now have a literary nemesis. So why do I like the idea of having a literary nemesis in the first place? Betsy Lerner recently blogged about the bête noire, but the nemesis concept as I see it is not merely about having a single target onto whom we can focus our creative envies. (Although I see the point of that as well. I have a legal bête noire, and that certainly helps me vent those career frustrations once in a while.)
My nemesis concept is about the next generation of writers. Look around, fellow author-bloggers. We're it. Some of us will be the hotshots, some will be the midlists, some will struggle, but we are in it.We're building a community, we're critiquing each other, we're commiserating together... and we're going to challenge each other as well. Sometimes we're going to compete. Sometimes we're going to get the short end of the publishing stick. We're going to have to keep it together through all that if we're taking the vocation seriously.
So, a nemesis is a partner-in-crime. Someone who will push you because his writing is so dang good that it drives you a little crazy (because deep in your writer's heart you secretly believe that he probably didn't have to edit at all, that his stories just sprang from his head fully-formed like Athena) and there it is, you have something specific to strive for, and then you banter a little online and oh joy it turns out you have a similar sense of humor, and if we make each other laugh then that must mean that if I work hard and edit well, then one day he'll be just a little bit jealous of something I wrote (and what a compliment that would be) because we sometimes think the same way and we both kind of get it, and because we're all insecure and crazy in this together anyway, but someday some of us are going to be somebodies and so we should all make friends now because if we get isolated and jealous for real it will just eat us up when we should be having fun and writing, dammit, and if you're not laughing along the way, then it's really not worth doing and yes, you're meant to read this as though it was all one breath.
So bring it. And pick someone who is "somehow similar" who will bring it right back.