“You’re a boring whore! Fix it.” The barked criticism came like a slap in the face. The director of Les Miserables was right, though. I was a boring whore.
Actors need to immerse themselves in their roles, shed inhibitions and squelch embarrassment. I was not managing to do this while rehearsing the Lovely Ladies prostitute scene. My performance was overly self-conscious and restrained.
Three days later I found myself at a medical education conference, attending a session discussing learning plans. A popular tool in adult education generally, and a training requirement for all GP registrars, learning plans are actively disliked by many. Done purposely and thoughtfully, they can be of great benefit; completed hastily or reluctantly because they are compulsory, they are next to useless.
I have to confess that, as a registrar, my own learning plans were dashed off with little thought, submitted and then promptly forgotten. I’d never thought this technique would work for me.
At the conference, the attending educators were instructed to each write a learning plan that addressed an aspect of their non-medical lives. We were asked to choose something that we genuinely wanted to improve. I instantly knew what I’d write about, and completed the task with seriousness and sincerity.
The facilitator randomly picked a few participants to read out their learning plans. The topics were predictable: “I want to exercise each morning”, “I want to get at least seven hours of sleep a night” and the like. Yes, you can see where this is leading …
I should have anticipated being called upon, but when the “We have time for one more, how about you?” came, along with direct eye contact and a kindly smile, I momentarily panicked. Surveying the room of mostly middle-aged, male faces, many of whom I didn’t know, I considered making something up on the spot. Instead, I stood up, took a deep breath and read out: “I want to be a more exciting whore.”
I then outlined my proposed methods for achieving this objective and how I intended to measure my progress. Without explanation, I then sat down.
Silence. Not a sound. Most eyes were glued to me, the others looking anywhere but. The atmosphere was thick with shock, amusement, confusion, suspense and fascination.
I didn’t leave them hanging for too long. After my disclosure as to why I chose the topic and the context in which I was “whoring”, there were audible sighs of relief and a sprinkling of laughter throughout the room.
It was memorable for those present. Four years later, I still get the occasional question about my “whoring” when I run into certain educators at conferences.
I am pleased to report that my learning plan well and truly achieved its aim. I enacted my plan exactly as written and practised diligently. I knew I had been successful when the director instructed me to “Tone it down a bit. This is a family show, you know!”
I now feel a lot more comfortable extolling the benefits of learning plans to unconvinced registrars. I tell them: “I used to think that I wasn’t a learning plan-type person either but I’ve discovered that if you choose a relevant and important objective and spend time and effort working out how to achieve it, the technique can really work.”
I tend to leave out: “It didn’t do much for my medicine, but it turned me into a fabulous whore.”
First Published in Australian Doctor on 21st July, 2011: On Becoming a Better Whore