What exactly is a ‘writer’?

When people ask me (Mirren) what I do, I tend to say ‘I’m a Medical Practice Manager’ and sometimes I might add, ‘Oh, and I do a bit of writing too.’

As I begin to think about retiring from my day job, and concentrating more of my time and energies on writing, I wonder whether one day I’ll answer simply, ‘I’m a writer.’

The doubt resides in the question – What does being a writer actually mean?

That I am a published author? That I write books? That I spend the majority of my waking hours creating written pieces of work? Or that other people think my writing is good?

The facts are that with my co-author Elaine (Jones), I have had two non-fiction books published by a mainstream medical publisher, have independently published a debut novel and have another with a complete first draft. And still I wonder if I am a writer . . .!

Today I emptied my cupboards of 13 years of teaching materials: lesson plans, handouts, activities, presentations, academic papers, questionnaires, tools, reports and study guides. All created, designed and written by me or in collaboration with others – often Elaine. Reams of paper, hours of work, millions of words, bags of creative effort. All in written form.

This de-cluttering was a painful process. So much history, so much personal investment. It is hard to accept that what was once all-consuming, is now no longer possible or relevant.

Paulo Coelho will never know how much he helped me with this quote – Writing means sharing. It is part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas and opinions.

Everything that went before was about sharing via a tutor/student relationship. About enabling, facilitating, giving insight, supporting, instructing, communicating information, ideas and opinions.

In future, the subject matter will be different, the relationships less personal, but the intention very similar. I’ll still be sharing thoughts, ideas and opinions. And that will make me very happy.

So much so, that I’ll be agreeing with Gloria Steinem, who said, Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.

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