A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Whichamacallit of the...Huh?

John Fowles' highfalutin' phrase 'the relativity of recompense' has stuck in my mind for decades. That's a mighty fancy handle, yes, but the idea behind it is well worth remembering. And it can help you in your life or in the business of writing.

Here's what it means in plain English: While we can't control all that happens, we can adjust our perspective to see the good side of things as they are.

1) You wake up one day, suddenly fifty or sixty, and realize with horror that your dream of writing has fallen by the wayside. Fowles wouldn't have denied the advantages of succeeding while still young. But he would have listed the relative windfalls of succeeding later on in life: You'll have cleared much crap out of your system and be able to bring a rich harvest of life experience to bear upon your work...You'll be driven in powerful ways no twenty-year-old can equal...You'll be far less likely to make fatal mistakes with agents, editors or your fellow writers.
2) You've just quit smoking at age 40. On the one hand you feel justiably proud. On the other, you're tormented by all the times you've failed before and the twenty odd years you spent smoking. Once again, Fowles wouldn't have counseled denial. Yes, it would have been terrific if you'd never started at all or had succeeded the first time you quit. Then again, you've learned something from every prior attempt. You have an arsenal of skills to use against a formidable foe. And today you have something else you wouldn't have had twenty years ago: online support groups you can reach in minutes. One last point: when you were twenty, with a forever before you, you were beaten by the part of you that whispered that you could always quit tomorrow. Today you know that you don't have forever--and that you don't need the pain of failing and starting all over again.

Today Hotmail is down. I went into a funk. But then I did a mental pivot: I now had time to write this post and return to the rewrite of the third Boss MacTavin novel.

Try tipping your own hats today to the Fowles' wondrous Whichamallit of the Huh.

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