Tuesday, April 01, 2014

To Write or Not to Write - Eleanor Shepherd

            During April, as The Word Guild bloggers, we will tell you a little about who we are and what we write.           
My writing history began in the sixth grade, when my English teacher, Miss Dunsmore, assigned an essay topic each week.  I loved the challenge of writing on a variety of subjects and was affirmed by the marks I received for my essays.  Miss Dunsmore’s comments on my papers gave me the impression that I could write.
I was not totally shocked as I came from a writing family.  My father published nine books and I have today in my possession the fragments of several other books that he worked on but never completed.  My older brother had articles published by our denomination when he was in his twenties.  I looked forward to being able to write for the enjoyment of others when I grew up.  As an avid reader, I greatly appreciated writers.
            During high school, unlike many of my peers I preferred essay exam questions to multiple-choice, because this gave me an opportunity to exercise my creative writing skills.      
            However, the picture changed during my first year, at university.  I signed up for a creative writing course, thinking that would be something I could enjoy and be an opportunity to hone my skills. What a disaster!  I still feel queasy when in my mind I see the green walls and square windows of the dreary classroom.  There were about twenty of us in the class.  The book I chose to review was Human Destiny by Pierre Lecomte du Nouy.  That book review was a major assignment for the course and I received the lowest mark that I had ever received in my academic studies up until that point.  I was devastated!  When I went to talk to the professor about it, what I heard her say was that there was no way I was a writer.  My self-image was completed altered by that experience. I assumed that she, being a professor, knew my capabilities much better than I. If she said I was not a writer I was not a writer. 
            During the rest of my university studies writing essays was agony for me. When I tried to prepare a paper, her assessment would immediately come to mind, creating such confusion and turmoil I would not know where to start.  By grit and determination I produced something and was amazed when other English professors gave me high grades for my assignments for their courses.  Nothing made sense any more.  One thing I was sure of and that was I would not write again. 

            For ten years I did not write.  However, the desire never completely went away.  In the back of my mind there were thoughts and ideas I longed to explore through writing.  Finally, the opportunity arose.  By this time I had been commissioned and ordained as a Salvation Army officer pastor.  One requirement for ongoing training after leaving The Salvation Army College for Officer Training was completion of other courses during five years. I thought that even if I could not write, perhaps I might be able to learn, so I signed up for a Journalism course.  To my surprize and delight, each assignment received a good grade and some very positive comments. 
            As I was finishing the course, we had a visit from the person responsible for the Canadian denominational publications for women.  When she learned I was studying journalism, she asked if she might see some things I had written.  Timidly I showed her a couple of articles.  She asked permission to publish them in one of the periodicals.  With amazement, I sent them to her, excited at the possibility that I might really be a writer. 

            Over the next few years, I submitted to our denominational publications other work that I had produced for that course.  Eventually, I was assigned topics for our publications.  Then I learned about Writers’ Conferences and began to attend these.  From that I went to submitting my writing to other magazines and markets I discovered in the Market Guides.  Books followed later.  Today with joy, I consider myself a writer and am grateful to share my journey, aware that I owe it all to those who encouraged me. 

Word Guild Awards
Word Guild Awards


Peter Black said...

Thank you for sharing your writing journey, Eleanor.
Hmm, the twists and turns in the road you travelled were not without ups-and-downs either. I'm glad you arrived at where you are, and continue to bless and encourage many along their path through your thoughtful, sensitive writings.
And what a wonderful writing heritage you have!

Glynis said...

No kidding. Like Peter said, you had plenty of twists and turns and ups and downs. Good for you for following your heart rather than the fleeting words of someone who did not see your passion. Hooray for Miss Dunsmore! Blessings, Eleanor. Great post to start off our April sharing.

Sally said...

I'll share more of my own story later this month on my own post, but I too experienced being shut down by a so-called expert when I was just a newbie songwriter. His comments stole a number of years away from me, but the Lord redeemed my calling in 2010 when I started songwriting again with a new passion and purpose! Thank you for sharing your story and God bless you as you continue to rise to His call on your life!

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thank you for these encouraging affirmations. It is great to know that others have walked a similar path or understand the journey. Blessings on each of you.

Marian said...

Sobering to think about the power of words spoken by teachers and mentors.

Popular Posts