Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Generally speaking, there are two professions that we speak of as a "practice": law and medicine. Lawyers practice law and doctors practice medicine. The whole practicing thing was something that really bothered me when I was younger. I mean much younger. It was just one of those thoughts in my head that wouldn't go away, "Why would I want to go to a doctor that's only practicing?" I wanted to go to one that was through practicing, if you get what I mean. It just wasn't something that inspired confidence.

And here is why I learned not to rely on my parents for information: I asked my mom why doctors only practiced (see, that's how young I was), and her answer left me feeling more dubious about the whole situation. Something about how it was medicine and you could only ever practice it. Sort of like that time my brother (who is six years younger than me) came out to eat with some of my college friends to a Chinese restaurant and he felt compelled to ask the server, "What's curry?" Of course, the real issue was that the server answered completely seriously, "Curry is curry." And that is why doctors only practice medicine.

Anyway, this whole thing about what is a practice and what's not crept into my thoughts recently. I mean, I suppose there was a time when a mechanic was just a mechanic. A mechanic could land at the top of his field and literally (or close enough) know everything there was to know about engines. That's probably not true anymore. You can't even find out what's wrong with a car these days without a computer to tell you. A plumber... well, plumbers probably still can know everything there is about plumbing, but in this age I wouldn't feel confident that things will stay that way.

But all of that's kind of beside the point, whatever the point it. No, wait, I do have a point! My point is that I want to be a practicing writer. Of course, my wife is telling me that this is not what this means, but, you know what, I looked this up in several different places, and none of them had a good definition of what it means to have a practice or why it's called a practice or anything. The only clear thing is that to have a practice, you have to be doing it. So I've decided I want to be a practicing writer.

I like the sound of it, and I am doing it, so I'm claiming it. The thing is, anyone can be an author. Okay, well, that's not true. It is true; anyone could be an author if that person decided to write something. But it only takes one book or short story or whatever to be an author. You can call yourself an author the rest of your life off of just the one thing even though you never write anything again. However, you have to be writing to call yourself a "practicing writer." If you're not doing it, you can't claim to be it. At best, you could say "I used to be a practicing writer," but that just doesn't carry the same implication, now, does it?

Of course, once you've become a doctor or a lawyer you can always say you are those things. I mean, you never hear anyone saying "I used to be a doctor." No, that person is still a doctor, just not practicing anymore. And I'm pretty sure lawyers never say "I used to be a lawyer" they've been disbarred or something. No, they're just not practicing anymore if they've gone on to other things.

So, yeah, I'm a "practicing writer." It's what I'm doing right now. Don't start on me about clients or patients or whatever; I'm calling it what I want to call it. We'll call it poetic license, and, since I'm a practicing writer, I get to do that.

Now... I just need to figure out how to implement this whole idea...

A winner has been established from the comments left on Monday's
The Merry Christmas To All (e)Book A Day Traveling Blogathon (of Doom!)
post, and that winner is... um, wait... those winners... Well, it's the guys from A Beer for the Shower. I guess they can cut it in half? Can you do that to a digital copy? Maybe they can just fight over it? Yeah, I'm for that. Let's dig a hole in  the ground and toss in one beer. The one that makes it out gets a copy of The House on the Corner. How does that sound?


  1. I rather like the sound of it Andrew and I think it suits you. And I do understand the gist of what you're saying, just don't ask me to define it. Have a happy Wednesday.

  2. Considering that writers constantly improve their skills every time they write something, I think we would be perfectly justified in calling ourselves 'practicing'. Good idea :)

  3. Let's hope they don't cut it in half!
    The only way to improve is to practice, so I agree with your reasoning.

  4. House on the Corner grudge match... Yikes.

    And if you want to call yourself a practicing writer, then you should. The logic is sound, so why not? I am going to start calling myself Empress of the Universe, just to see if it takes.

    (Sorry, I'm a weird this morning. I haven't had my croissants yet...)

  5. Andrew, you make not only a compelling case, but also an attractive one that goes hand in hand with my personal belief that writing is something that can never completely be mastered. No matter who you are or how much you've written, you're either still growing and learning, or you're a deluded cart wheel spinning uselessly in the mire.

    Thanks for the free book, senor. You can just send it to our beer email. And since I'm typing this, you can safely assume that bryan is dead. And I'm in need of a refill.


  6. "practice" is just a way to put on airs and make yourself seem important.

  7. Okay, I'm writing my book. "Queen Donna, Book Composer", or "Princess Donna, Practitioner of Language". Not sure which. But I'd best get back to practicing my writing, or it will be neither!

  8. Congratulations to the winner. I like how P.T. defined "practice". As for me, I think we are all practicing authors. Although you could also wear the hat "practicing punctuation nazi." I say that in jest only. :)

  9. I just got here. Who the hell did Brandon kill?


  10. I love this. Really. I had a similar moment with dance about a year ago -- I had been dancing for years, and I went six months without going to a single class or practicing on my own or teaching or anything. And I said something about it to my boyfriend, and he said, very gently, "Why are you identifying as a dancer if you've stopped dancing?" I realized that I was still thinking of myself as a dancer, as if the identity itself existed in the absence of, yes, the practice, and the identity was what what important - as if what mattered wasn't dancing but being able to say "Oh yes, I'm a dancer"!

    I went back to practicing right after that. I'll be a perpetual student, no matter how good I get. And that's what the idea of "practicing" is all about, right? Instead of saying OKAY I WON MEDICINE I KNOW EVERYTHING NOW or OKAY I WON WRITING I CAN STOP TRYING BECAUSE I AM EPIC LEVEL, you're saying "I'm pretty good at this, but I can always get better." And for the most part, the true greats are those who do exactly that, who are always expanding and fine-tuning and growing their knowledge and abilities.

    Of course, there are exceptions. Like Rimbaud, who hit age 19 and was all like "Okay, I won poetry, I'm done writing now, let's go runs guns to Abyssinia."

  11. Anne: It's all about the gist; I'm a firm believer in that.

    Bonnee: Well, we hope we're improving anyway!

    Alex: How could anyone not agree with my reasoning?

    M.J.: Hey! I'm already the Emperor of the Universe, so you just back right off!
    And where's my croissant?

    ABftS(1): So, later, when I'm the complete master of writing, you're saying that I'll be a wheel? I think I know of at least one really famous wheel...

    PT: Hey, if you can't be important, you should, at least, seem important!

    Donna: Practitioner of Language. I like that one.

    Michael: Hey! I haven't talked about punctuation in... weeks! Maybe months! Besides, I want to be a Punctuation Fascist.

    ABftS(2): Oh, man! Bryan's a zombie!

    Jericha: Epic level? There's an epic level?

  12. Leave it to you to come up with something that never occurred to me before but seems totally obvious now. I wonder what it is about those two most esteemed professions that incurs the word "practice".

    I think from now on, I'll be referring to myself as a practicing writer, too.

  13. Wow, you got a visit from Brandon! The apocalypse is beginning to seem more and more possible.

    Hey, in Japan toilets have plenty of computer chips!

    I will jump on that horse and be a practicing writer, too. Woo-hoo!

  14. Jeanne: I wonder why it's -only- those two.

    Shannon: Yeah, I know! I'm sure it's because of that zombie book they wrote.

  15. I got a laugh at the concept of "practicing" from the Doctor perspective. Shoot I always wonder how they name new diseases. My grandpa would often say, "Back in the day they called that stubbed toe" whenever a new one came out! The older I get I often think the same thing, "Did we have that disease back in the day? and then the ever Why Not? Putting it into the perspective of writing sounds a little like Practice Makes Perfect!
    Enjoyed reading your posting.

  16. I tried looking up why lawyers practice, too, and found only unsatisfying answers.

    I heard what you heard: that it's because nobody ever can be assured they have it right: "Practice makes perfect," but in medicine and law, things are always changing, so we can't be perfect. (Present commenters excluded, of course.)

    As for giving yourself a title, when I had my own practice, and it was just me, an opposing lawyer and I were once talking. He'd just been named a "Deputy District Attorney," and I said "The problem with being a sole practitioner is that I don't have any titles."

    He said: "You could give yourself a title, if you wanted."

    So I said: "Yeah, I could. I'll just call myself the Emperor."

  17. G_G: Why do they rename them? I don't get the point...

    Briane: Yeah, I hate when there are only unsatisfying answers. Why do we call it something when no one knows why or even what it means?
    Emperor what?

  18. I like the sound of that. I might start using it as well!

  19. Writing is an art and since working toward the continual goal of improving one's art is practice then writing is practice.

    It's like when my family used to do our juggling act. My father insisted that we practice the same act regularly so we wouldn't get out of shape so that when we did perform, those performances wouldn't look like we were amateurs. When we were actually before an audience we might not call it "practice", but in cases where we might be performing our act every day or more then once a day our performances became better. Technically, the actual performances served the same function as practicing in our living room so it was not much different than practice other than we were getting paid.

    The repetitiveness of an action is essentially practice whether we think of our doing so as a learning or skill strengthening exercise or we are actually doing it on the job. Hopefully we are becoming better either way.

    And in this comment I guess I was practicing free-writing in a sense. It became longer than I expected.

    A Faraway View

  20. Bess: You should!

    Lee: I could juggle once. I spent a day learning how, figured I'd mastered it, and have never juggled again. Because I can't, now. I certainly can't say I'm a juggler.

  21. Now I want to start a Writing Practice. I could get some partners and put our last names on a building!

  22. Callie: I've sort of thought about that before. Kind of like the guy that invented Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys and all of that.