I believe in spite as a motivator. Nothing has worked better for me than to prove myself to some entity who probably couldn’t care less about me. (NB: This is bad relationship advice. Ask my therapist.)
But spite is what got my through my undergrad in Computer Science. Fuck you, programming! You think I can’t do this? I’ll show you! And then I did it, even graduated with distinction and promptly never worked as a programmer again.
My first Nanowrimo? Nailed that motherfucker. Needed to prove to the world in general that yes, I can so write a shitty novel. (The world has yet to congratulate me for this effort.) My second Nanowrimo? My back proved to me that ergonomics are important. Fuck you, Sonal.
Consequently, I have a writing nemesis. Who actually doesn’t know that they are my nemesis, and probably doesn’t care a whit about me, but unfortunately that means I have to keep juicy details rather vague, since we are technically ‘friends’.
In fact, my nemesis is actually my second nemesis. The first gave me a patronizing speech about being the ‘cusp’ of being published, and so therefore I was not worthy. I was also unpublished, and nemesis #1 had never read my work, but somehow he had determined I was not on the cusp. He put great thought into this speech, as he was trying to generously help a lesser writer such as myself.
I send out work in earnest and shortly thereafter got my first publishing credit. Paid. In an anthology, meaning there was an actual book with my name on the cover. (The back cover, but still the cover.) I had a play produced. I published more stuff. Nemesis #1 has yet to publish anything. Go cusp yourself, asshole.
By contrast, Nemesis #2 never really did anything to me–aside from stumbling over their ego–but my belief is that their writing does not deserve the accolades it receives, and as such, I have chosen to focus all my writerly jealousies and venom onto this one not-necessarily-deserving person who (in all probability) would be happy for my successes. But I can still pretend they are inwardly seething. This has the advantage of leaving me free to be happy for everyone else’s success, so I’m okay with sacrificing this one person to the full force of my mental bad will.
Still, one thing Nemesis #2 does genuinely do better than I do is stay disciplined to produce more work. For a while, I told myself that this was because Nemesis’ life was better arranged in support of their writing, but this is no longer true. And so I am left with the fact that I suck at routine. Self-imposed goals and deadlines slip by. I buy donuts to reward myself but then eat the donut before writing anything. The tricks to force myself to stay on task keep wearing thin.
Even the trick of having a Nemesis. Because what I see more and more, is that my nemeses are reflections of myself. Although I have nicer hair.
Nemesis #1 was my own desparation to prove that I could really do this, and that I belong. And once I moved beyond that, I no longer thought of him. Nemesis #2 is my own desire to succeed. We are both driven, but they work harder. That is a problem I could solve, but haven’t yet.
And this realization makes it difficult to push on out of pure spite. So what’s left after that? The pure joy of accomplishment? I am not sure I know what it’s like to do something and not at least quietly say “Fuck you!” to someone.
Still. At some point, I suppose I should try and acheive something resembling maturity.