The Writing Life; OR: Where Do I Go From Here?

Happy New Year! It’s January so I can still say that, right?

Last year I wrote about New Year’s Eve and Day being my favorite holidays and some of the things that I do to prepare for a brand new year. (Read about that here.) 
This year, I am solely focusing on my writing and in what direction I want it to go. Or, more apt, in what direction will I take it? 

I have a lot of ideas, aka too many ideas. I know I want to keep writing and publishing articles, stories, and essays. I also know I need to make more money. This is constantly on my mind. I think if I felt secure in my future health, I wouldn’t be so afraid of not having enough money. But with an insurance deductible of almost 9,000.00–that’s NINE THOUSAND– before my insurance pays one penny for ANYTHING, I really do need to think about the future what-ifs. As much as I don’t want to. But, wait a minute!! I have digressed and risk growing angrier at the lack of affordable healthcare in this country. Back to writing…

After a quick inventory of writing technique, craft, how-to, etc books, I realized I have over 170 (yes, you read that correctly) books on how to write. They have accumulated over the years. I’ve read many, skimmed all, and plan to read the rest someday…:) But, I remind myself often, reading about writing is not writing.
Here are just two shelves of my writing books:

image_ffed6e74-47e4-416c-acd6-5102454ac2c9.img_5603

(Note to self: You might want to dust those shelves soon… yikes! My mom made the donkey and a beloved friend’s mom made the kitty. The soldier is my dad.)

I enjoy what I do, but I think it’s time to take a closer look at what else I could be doing. One of my mentors keeps telling me it’s time to step up my game and start pitching and writing for national publications that are able to pay writers more. Actually, I’m hearing that from a couple of trusted friends and a former Creative Writing professor. I know it’s true. And yet, I know it’s scary. And here’s why: I like where I am. I’m comfortable writing for the publications that I write for. And I appreciate having the opportunity to write for them. And I do get paid to write. (Freelance writers, can you relate?)

I told Chuck that I feel like I am swinging on the trapeze, going back and forth from the platform to the middle, the mid-air part, the part halfway to the opposite platform. I swing back and forth, but I’m afraid to let go and grab the next bar that will take me across to the other side. So, I’m stuck in mid air. I’ve been here before. Many times. I was here in 2014 after resigning from a job position that I thought I would be in forever. I wanted to be there forever, but things change and I realized I could no longer be safe in that working environment. But what to do? The next right step then was signing up for Yoga Teacher Training. That year of training changed my life.
At YTT graduation in 2015, my instructor shared an inspirational essay (*included below) with our class. I pulled it out the other day because I needed to remember how scared I was then, and how brave it made me. And how I ended up following my dream of writing, and how beautifully everything unfolded before me, in time, and with a lot of work and commitment to learning the ins and outs of freelancing writing. I’m still learning every single day. Sometimes the hard way.

I think the single best piece of writing advice that I know comes from the author of one of my favorite books.  E. L. Konigsburg (‘From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’) has this to say about writing:

“The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don’t talk about doing it. Do it. Finish.” 

So, that’s it. I’m going to keep writing, keep stretching a little higher, keep trusting in the path as it is laid out before me. And soon, I know, I can feel it, I will let go of the first bar and grasp onto the second. Even if my legs tremble. Even if my palms sweat. Even if I keep one eye closed. Even if I have a couple (or a half dozen) false starts. I’m just going to do it. As a wise therapist told me years ago, “Look at your track record. Anything you’ve wanted to do and have been willing to work hard for, you’ve accomplished.” I’ll claim that.

Thank you all for being on this journey with me. I am always inspired by your words, creative pursuits, and ways of moving in the world.
Wish me luck. Hold me accountable. I’m happy to do the same for each of your endeavors.

*The Flying Trapeze
Sometimes, I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments, I’m hurdling across space between the trapeze bars.

Mostly, I spend my time hanging on for dear life to the trapeze bar of the moment. It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control. I know most of the right questions, and even some of the right answers. But once in a while, as I’m merrily, or not so merrily, swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see?

I see another trapeze bar looking at me. It’s empty. And I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on the present well-known bar, to move to the new one.

Each time it happens, I hope – no, I pray – that I won’t have to grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moments in time I must hurtle across space before I can grab the new bar. Each time I do this I am filled with terror. It doesn’t even matter that in all my previous hurtles I have always made it.

Each time I am afraid I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless basin between the bars.

But I do it anyway. I must.

Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call faith. No guarantees, no net, no insurance, but we do it anyway because hanging on to that old bar is no longer an option. And so, for what seems to be an eternity but actually lasts a microsecond, I soar across the dark void called “the past is over, the future is not yet here.” It’s called a transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing, and the bars are the illusions we dream up to not notice the void. Yes, with all the fear that can accompany transitions, they are still the most vibrant, growth-filled, passionate moments in our lives.

And so transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang out” in the transition zone—between the trapeze bars—allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens.

It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening.

Hurdling through the void, we just may learn to fly.

The copyright on my print copy of The Flying Trapeze says 2010 Integrative Nutrition
(5/10 Joshua Rosenthel) I apologize if this is incorrect and will correct, if needed.

 

 

 


49 thoughts on “The Writing Life; OR: Where Do I Go From Here?

  1. ‘From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’ was a favorite of mine, too! You can do this, Cheryl. Remember: I’m writing this from 8,000 miles away and we are two peas in a pod! I am so proud to know you!

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  2. I look forward to you next leap of faith. For what it is worth, although I was always fully occupied after I went freelance it was five years before I was able to feel sure that when one client’s work finished the telephone would ring again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I so relate 🙂 And I’m not a writer! Doesn’t it seem that anything that requires us to step into the unknown becomes a big deal – when in fact every second into the future is an unknown We just like to think we have control ….it’s an ego thing. I prevaricate like crazy at picking up that paintbrush. I go into my making room with the intention of laying out a canvas and mixing some paints and end up making a card because it’s easier and I need to make more. This has been going on for over a year. The reality is its sheer terror I’ve forgotten how to paint. The reality of that is I probably have and it might take a couple of shots to refind my mojo – but I haven’t lost it altogether, I’m just out of practise. I like when I read about those writers who just go to the office at 9 am and write until lunchtime, take a break and go back to work til their allotted knock off time. It’s the discipline and out of the discipline flows the talent. Talent is worth nothing if there is no discipline……… Now there’s a thought!

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    1. Thank you, Pauline, for sharing honestly. You’re right about ego and being in control. And that’s something I’ve always struggled with. Being out of control (which we always are!) scares me. I’m a worrier. And two things that stop creativity are fear and worry. That’s why I know if I just put my bum in the chair and start writing, the words flow. Discipline: I’ve got that in spades when I’m writing on deadline. But now to stretch out of my comfort zone…thank you so much for your words! xx

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  4. I’m reading this from my other persona, so sorry if it’s confusing. I really sympathize with you here. How to have a writing career and be able to afford to take care of yourself. And how to keep moving not just forward, but upward, in order to do so. I saw a friend today who opted to be a very very busy college instructor instead of writing (she’s a very talented writer) because she needed the insurance for her whole family and the regular paycheck as well. It breaks my heart that she isn’t writing, but I so understand.
    MAN, you have a LOT of writing books! I thought I had a lot with about one shelf full.
    I agree that you MUST go after the higher-paying national publications. And you won’t know if you don’t try. Of course, finding that match between what you are happy writing about and what those places want is something you will have to figure out, and I’m sure you’ve already thought a lot about that.
    Sending kick-ass vibes and big hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah perfectly said, Luanne: it’s not the moving forward part so much, as I’ve got that down pretty good! It’s the moving upward that’s trickier. What a way to think of it!! Yes, I really struggle with when to let go of the writing dream (like your friend), or how long to keep working the writing hustle. And it is a hustle! I’ve only been freelancing a little over two years. I’ve done well and had steady work. But, you are so right, as the others are; I need to take some time and pitch to the big leagues. I’ve been lucky so far to mostly write about gardens, nature, and the environment. That’s my focus. It is so difficult to write about something that is not interesting at all to me.
      I have TOO many writing books. I think for the longest time I kept thinking if I buy the right book, that will bring me all the big breaks. I think that’s called wishful thinking. Lol. I’ll take all the kick-ass vibes and hugs I can get! Let me know if you need some back someday! 🙂💕

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      1. You have done so well! Wow, only two years! Reach upward! It will still be a hustle, but one break leads to another. Plus IF you want to write a big book it will help to have those credits. That said, you are doing something I would never have the balls to do.

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      2. Yeah, I am kinda proud of my balls–lol:) It took a lot to say I’m gonna try this writing life thing no matter what happens. I leapt and truly was caught. It helps that Chuck is so supportive of my work. I think he feels bad that I worry about finances. Oh well. I AM working on a series of essays…maybe a book? Thank you, Luanne!

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    1. Thank you, Jill! It’s funny you say that. As I was writing this post, I kept thinking this seems more like a journal entry. Ha! I think I was trying to work things out on my blog. And you know what? It helped. I swear I have the best and most smart blogging friends. Every comment was so helpful and gave me a different way to think about this. And also made me feel less alone in this dilemma. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

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  5. Lovely post, Cheryl, I could relate to so much of it. If you haven’t already read Ann Patchett’s essay, “The Getaway Car,” I think you’d like it. It’s one of the best things I’ve read about writing–and I have almost as many writing books as you do! It’s in her lovely book of essays entitled “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage.” I think it may be available elsewhere, too. Inspiring and energizing every time I read it. Hope this year is bountiful in your writing endeavors (and other endeavors, too).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Shobhna. Your choice of the words “full wellbeing” really made me pause and think. It really is all about what brings a true sense of wellbeing to our lives. More money? Doubtful. More work? Perhaps. Work we love and a decent livelihood? Yes, I think so. It’s a balance. I must remember my wellbeing, too. Thank you. ❤️🙏🏼

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  6. I can totally relate, but I also feel that you’ve already taken a good hard swing toward the next bar. I did all sorts of highly-paid technical writing after an early career in finance, and it was soul-deadening! As I moved on to a second career teaching college writing (very intro – freshman comp, basically), I tried to motivate myself to write more again, in a more pleasant way on more interesting topics. All I got out of that is my blog, which I have refused to “sell,” and 3/4 of a novel, which I guess is akin to your dangling in mid-air on your freelance writing. I’m just too scared to finish it and try to market it. You have leapt a little more; at least you know the market and have some real jobs under your belt. I look forward to following your progress on this front!

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    1. Soul-deadening: I think that’s a lot of my fear. It’s so complicated to think about. People do jobs all the time they don’t care for. So, maybe I shouldn’t complain. When I do I get frustrated with myself. Argh! Haha!! I love writing on a lot of subjects, but some I can just not stand. Or they are not my strong suit:) Thank you for sharing your writing and work experiences. I’ve thought about teaching, but almost everyone I know who teaches and wants to write seriously says, don’t do it. Thanks for your honesty and encouragement. Best of luck to you and your travel dilemma.

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  7. *”And so, for what seems to be an eternity but actually lasts a microsecond, I soar across the dark void called ‘the past is over, the future is not yet here.’ It’s called a transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs.”*

    Wow. So incredibly relevant to my life as I sit here reading your post. I really enjoy your writing and I hope you continue to share it with us.

    Thank you Christine Park Lafayette, NY

    On Wed, Jan 29, 2020 at 11:16 AM Giving Voice to My Astonishment wrote:

    > Cheryl Capaldo Traylor posted: “Happy New Year! It’s January so I can > still say that, right? Last year I wrote about New Year’s Eve and Day being > my favorite holidays and some of the things that I do to prepare for a > brand new year. (Read about that here.) This year, I am solely focus” >

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is so great! I love the image of the trapeze. And ditto to what people are urging you to do. You’re practically there already, just reach out and grab that bar. 😉 Remember, there is a net. And butt in chair will do it. But man, $9k?! That is freaking criminal. I feel for you. Calling that a “deductible” is just insane.

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  9. What a thoughtful post, Cheryl. It must be that time of year…I just finished writing my post for next week and it’s about transitions and next steps. Love the trapeze metaphor. It seems to me you are doing great. Just keep going. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from TAF, it’s that. And don’t forget to give yourself an attagirl here and there!

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  10. I am right there with you, Cheryl. I am in a transition now, and it is painful and challenging and is making me push myself in ways I’d really rather not. But I will never find the magic of my own creativity – to return to it, re-discover it, and find new magic – if I don’t keep going. You know, I know, and I suspect most reading your blog know, there is no turning back. We don’t want to ever be where we once were, and we sure as hell don’t want to stay here – just swinging back and forth endlessly, wondering if we’ll ever have the courage to let go of the bar. That in-between space looks wider every time we think of letting go, but it is also the only way to go. (And at the same time, it’s so important that we be patient with ourselves.)
    You go for it; we’re all already applauding.

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    1. Reading your comment brightened my day, Jeanne. You are so right: there is no turning back. And today I managed to loosen my grip in two smallish ways. I did two things that I hope will bring more closer to the next bar. I have lots of patience with others; I need to have the same for myself. Thank you so much. I’m glad to know I have great traveling companions on this creative journey. Onward! xx

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  11. Love what you shared and your vulnerability in doing so. Words that came to mind when reading your post, “God often does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” There is no doubt in my mind, things will unfold and you will be exactly where you need to be. All is well.

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      1. There are no coincidences and reading about your mantra gave me a smile. All will be, and is well right now…because, as I’m learning, no matter what it is or how it appears, it really is all good; there are no bad experiences — only good ones or lessons. 🙂

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  12. Oh Cheryl, I can relate to a lot of this. It’s funny, my most tumultuous time was around 2013 and 2014, where I had to let go of wasn’t working anymore, namely teaching art, and being part of a cooperative shop where I was churning out prints and cards for not much money. I had then to decide where I wanted to take myself next – and I needed some therapy to process this ‘transition’ which came upon my really fast! I chose writing, which I’d been working on and progressing my skills, and to carry on painting, plus trying out new things and endeavours, so my volunteering commenced here. Money is so hard to make in the arts, but I’d rather have that life than one making more money and hating it. Getting some sort of balance between the two is the ideal, I’m still working on that one!

    Anyway, here’s me thinking you’ve made the right decision, and you’ll be ready for new ‘moves’ when they crop up. I came across this poem a while back which is eerily close to your lovely metaphor. Here it is:

    “Come to the edge,” he said.
    “We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
    “Come to the edge,” he said.
    “We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
    “Come to the edge,” he said.
    And so they came.
    And he pushed them.
    And they flew.”

    Guillaume Apollinaire

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    1. Thank you, Lynne. I love that poem! I hadn’t read it in a while and had forgotten about it. It’s perfect. You wrote: “Money is so hard to make in the arts, but I’d rather have that life than one making more money and hating it.” AND that’s exactly how I feel. After I resigned from my long-time job, I was wondering lost. Someone close to me suggested I get a job at the local grocery store. I had just got my Masters Degree from Duke University. I was crushed that they felt that was where I belonged after I pursued my education for 7 long years. But I believed in myself and held out until I could think of how to get my writing career on track. I am so glad that I didn’t just jump at something safe, but soulless. I found my way then, and I know I will keep finding my way now. The arts are a bit tricky to maneuver, but like you, I’ll take happiness and less money over hating a job with more money ANY DAY. Thanks SO much for your comment. It helps to know I’m in good company:) x

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  13. Oh, Cheryl, I love this post and the essay you shared. These lines especially: “And so transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang out” in the transition zone—between the trapeze bars—allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens.” I’ve always considered myself to be a “risk-adverse” kind of person, except for that time when I was 21 and I bought a van and drove cross-country and that other time I drove cross-country (with my husband) to start a new and uncertain life and then again when we both quit well-paying jobs to take lesser paying jobs for the sake of our mental health. I’ve been reminding myself and my husband of these times when we did take risks and while we had fears, we also had faith we were doing the right thing.

    I have to agree that you should try for national publications, especially since you are being encouraged to do so. My butt would be so bruised if I kicked myself for all the times I turned away from supportive advice 🙂 And I often feel frustrated that I didn’t pursue freelance editing more earnestly when I had the opportunity, It might have saved me from spending so many years as an impostor–not a writing impostor but the persona I throw on every morning before I go to work. You’ve inspired me to think more about … a lot of things 😉

    And this country truly needs a single-payer plan, something affordable for all. I recently read about Canada’s system and while it might not be perfect, the Canadians being interviewed insisted they would not exchange their system for the US. They might have to wait longer for some appointments and procedures, but during their care and at the end their health bill is $0. Actually, they don’t even get billed. Yes, they pay more in taxes but what is that compared to peace of mind and knowing you can focused on your health rather than worrying about how you’ll pay the premiums or deductions? I’ll step off my soapbox now 😉

    Well, one last thing: I’m happy that you are comfortable with what you are doing, what you have achieved. Feel encouraged to reach higher and farther, but if the fun stops, pull back. Enjoy your life.

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  14. Thank you SO much, Marie! For all of that! I truly believe that life is way too short to be unhappy. And it shouldn’t be thaaaat hard to do something I love and get paid well to do it. It’s a crime that we have to choose between good/affordable healthcare and work we love. I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I believe writing is my calling. I have wanted to be a writer since I was 5-6. I’m going to keep going, but your last two sentences are my North Star. 🙂

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  15. I’ve got to come in with something else, Cheryl! You mention your masters degree and how you wanted to feed that into your future rather than get a job in a store. Well, same here! I did an open university degree over 6 years, part time learning, got a first through art history and literature – best thing I ever did, that lead to a writing course, which led to me writing. So that education altered my future for the absolute best! i dabbled with the idea of a counselling diploma too, after doing a starter course, but had to choose writing in the end, but that interest in counsselling feeds into my writing. I’m talking about me, and not you at this point, but it echoes your own path a little, and that education of yours means a LOT, so writing fits with that – and all of that is about enjoying life with personal meaning. Writing is where you obviously get your meaning and that is a HUGE thing. We are programmed to think we must make money and of course it is a big necessity, combining the two is surely possible, I agree, so wishing you all the best with your direction and resolve :>)

    PS the only ‘real’ job I could now be possibly fit for is care work, which i would rather do than working in a store. Thank you for sharing, Cheryl, it means a lot to all of us in this position!

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    1. Your words mean so much, Lynne. It’s good just to be understood. I think only other creatives can understand how creativity and meaning work together. I know that if my family were desperate, I could and would take a job doing anything. I feel it’s a shame that folks have to choose between a life of meaning and fulfillment and decent healthcare or good standard of living. This post and comments really helped me in immeasurable ways. I’m so glad I wrote it. I hope it may have helped others as it did me. It really helped me think with more clarity and feel like, hey it’s ok that I am the way I am:) Thank you. x

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