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 . . .!
Having worked in academia and in organisational development in all sectors of the NHS for many years I (Mirren) am very familiar with giving feedback. There are recommended techniques and formulas. For example, Pendleton’s rules focus on the appraisee:
• ensure that she is ready to receive feedback;
• ask for her observations first before you share yours;
• focus on what has gone well;
• rather than count her faults, jointly identify and agree areas for improvement.
That’s all fine and well. I’ve been appraised many times and been handled both gently and harshly. One boss who didn’t like me airing my views in an open forum because they differed from his, almost reduced me to tears when he asked for ‘a quiet word’.
Recently, however, I’ve experienced feedback of a different kind. Not about the quality of my work, or my level of understanding or development. More about how I look and sound.
Jones and I agreed we needed some more recent photographs. So it started with a professional photo-shoot. John from Alyth Photography came to the house, brought a flattering background cloth, positioned me so that my best side was apparently on-show and taught me to stand with my body at an angle and my face to the front to minimise my width! I can’t fault his work but I was shocked at the final result. Was that matronly woman really me? Great photo! everyone said. Shows that even positive feedback can hurt!
Kirkmichael Summer Festival hosted a ‘Meet the Author event’ last month.