Because it is summertime and my kids are absolutely omnipresent, I hear myself doing quite a lot of bossing around: Go practice your typing! Go practice your violin! Go practice being a not-sullen preteen! Go practice not stinking up the house with your stinky feet! Meanwhile I am practicing patience, sanity maintenance and juggling work + kids, all of which are tricky when I don’t have much quiet in my head and the temperature is 30 degrees hotter than any Seattleite can stand. So I also practice sunscreen application and iced coffee concoctions.
All this recent practicing has led me to consider how and what we practice in our professional lives. My friend, Heather, practices medicine. My friend, Matt, practices hot yoga. Robin practices law (though she’s a Good Witch, not a Bad Witch). Tony has a meditation practice. And I suppose I could say today, I am practicing Loving My Neighbor, a hard task as my neighbors are responsible for this mess in my driveway.
(That young man is jealous of the guy in the 9-foot hole where it’s a pleasant 62 degrees.)
To explain: our neighbors decided to replace the sewer line, including our shared line, Just In Case. Therefore, I am required to shell out thousands of dollars that I had not planned to shell. I also have lost access to my driveway and garage for two weeks which would be no big deal except that it’s just too hot out there, and everything’s difficult when it’s too hot. But I will keep trying to love my neighbors because I am called to practice Neighbor-Loving.
With so much practicing going on, I wonder why I don’t say that I practice writing. If we did think of ourselves as practicers of the craft of writing, would it be easier to remember that writing fiction is an art, and no one ever masters an art? Not even a best-selling author can write a book without struggling, plotting, plodding, revising, starting over, doubting, more revising, more doubting. Writing is a craft we must practice, not a science we can master.
If we are practicers of writing, we can also redefine writerly “success.” While our culture defines success by numbers (selling a million copies, making a million dollars, writing a million books) and by trophies (how many writing grants, publications, contest prizes and book awards someone has earned), that definition can cause not-wealthy, untrophied writers to feel rather crummy. Book sales, writing grants and fiction awards are important, but does accumulating a certain number mean we have made it? And what is that certain number? And when we reach that number, do we climb up a laurel and rest there until we die? [Read more…]