I blog about dark and sinister subjects—the perfect drug as a murder weapon, ten ways to create a bloodless murder, and zombie invasions—to name a few. I appreciate your enthusiastic responses and certainly your readership. Today, however, I’d like to address something a bit more personal.
For most of my life I’ve been a practicing pharmacist. Each day I would draw on my professional experience and use every tidbit of education to make appropriate clinical decisions.
Like so many other professionals, I was doing the work I was trained to do and loved every minute of it. I was also secure in the knowledge that I was very good at what I did and was making a difference in people’s lives.
So why did it rub me wrong when others would jokingly ask, “Practicing, huh? When do you think you’ll get it right?”
I laughed at the jokes, but inwardly I seethed. How could someone mock that by which I defined myself? One day, though, I took a mental step back to analyze those jokes. Was I any different in how I managed my career than the physician to whom I trust my health? After all, he “practices” medicine. Absurdly, I wondered, “Does he practice on me, maybe to get it right later with another patient?”
One summer in my youth I practiced getting better at baseball. I was never very good, but that summer I managed to hit consistently two out of three pitches. Could that translate to my doctor getting it right only two-thirds of the time regarding my health? And where did I fit into that equation? Was I one of the lucky two?
That kind of success rate in my pharmacy practice wouldn’t win me any fans. If I managed to get the right drug to the right person only two out of three times, all I’d gain would be a pile of lawsuits.
So why are many health professions called a PRACTICE? If I went to my financial advisor and asked if he were practicing his profession, he’d probably say, “I do better than practice. I get it right.” Is his profession any more exacting than pharmacy? And, if he doesn’t invest my money as wisely as expected, all I do is have less of a nest egg. In pharmacy, however, detrimental results are grief-ridden and often life-threatening.
Eventually I decided that the beauty of PRACTICING your profession is to always get better at it. Most people are good at their jobs and mistakes happen only rarely. I might get upset if my financial advisor makes a less than perfect judgment where to invest my hard earned money, but at the end of the day life still goes on.
When I practiced pharmacy, it was intense stuff—clinical trials, intravenous therapies, and life or death situations. If I had made less than perfect judgments regarding those therapies, there were real possibilities that someone would die as a result. There was no, “Oops, I’ll do better next time.”
The wisdom in understanding why some professions are called PRACTICES and others are known as WORK or ART is this. My work as a novelist is an expression of art. However, if I don’t get the story right the first time, it’s not a problem. No one dies (except maybe for one of my characters). I get a “do-over”—another edit, and more than one if necessary. Writers are lucky that way, except when the rewrites and edits go on and on. But that’s another whole blog.
The point is most people get it right the first time and have a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day. In the practice of a profession, however, not only do you want to get it right the first time, you continually practice to assure that it happens every time.
In the end, as much as I liked pharmacy practice, I love writing novels even more, and for one important reason. Instead of potentially burying my patients, I can bury the red herring and that’s a GOOD THING.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!