Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Mindful Writing Mantra and Essay [Excerpt]: Guest Post by Salem State University Student


Letting Go Releases Ego

Ashley Sliva

Ashley Sliva is a student in the Bertolon School of Business at Salem State University. 

Sit and imagine what it would feel like if everything you knew about yourself was false. Imagine yourself as a newborn, with no ability to judge yourself self and just be. No knowledge of what's “right” in this world nor otherwise. Take a few deep breathes and picture this. 

Maybe it's comforting or even a bit scary. Sometimes we must have a mindset of letting go of what we know to be true to free ourselves from our inner self-judgment and critic. This is something I must remind myself of during the writing process. I created the writing mantra “letting go releases ego” to help my writing.

...The main topic of my mantra is impermanence. The letting goes aspect of my mantra relates to the fact that everything is impermanent and ever-changing. Writing will never be stagnant, and changes will occur and are acceptable. 

Accepting the changes involved with writing is essential to the process. Letting go of the thought we need to be perfect on our first try will block ego from being set free. Allowing ourselves to write with no motive but words on the page helps release our inner judgment. 

Too much judgment of our own ideas and work causes stalling and makes it difficult to continue and produce ideas. Accepting change is needed will produce a non-egotistical mindset, therefore, releasing misguided opinions of ourselves and writing. 

Mantras are a good reminder that in writing and life we must accept and embrace the change around us. This is something I find overly important in my life. Remembering that nothing is ever stagnant will allow ideas to flow. We may feel writing is bad, but we must remember it can only get better from here. If we see our writing love it, we’ll eventually find something we don't like. Nothing will stay one way forever: so there's no reason to become stuck on one or the other. 

...Repeating words while focusing on our body will ground us to the moment at hand. Releasing our mind from interfering thoughts allows a deeper sense of concentration on the present moment and continuous changes occurring. When we focus on changes going on in our body or environment the mind clears itself.

Mindful writing mantras relate to mindlessness and writing problems since the goal of a mantra is to become more present, which in return benefits one’s writing. We are all mindless for a majority of our day, so a reminder to stay mindful is extremely beneficial. Mantras can act as these reminders and specifically help us with our writing. 

Writing problems can vary tremendously; similarly, mantras vary with different words and meanings. Common writing problems include fear of judgment, fear of getting a bad grade, anticipated criticism, impatience with the process, feeling alone, and feeling as if you must be perfect the first time around.  Someone who has a hard time with procrastination with writing can use a mantra reminding themselves they are a confident writer and they do possess wisdom. Because writing mantras vary, anyone can create their own to best help their anxieties and difficulties with writing.

My writing mantra “letting go releases ego” is helping me through this very project. 

I have to remind myself while I begin to write that there's no judgment. My thoughts are valid regardless of what my ego is telling me. I may like the writing I put out now or feel the need to add more later. Accepting this fact ignites my writing and more words to be produced. Letting go of any expectation or outcome produces an empty clear mindset for me. Allowing myself to not correct my word directly after it's on the page feels refreshing and freeing. I know I’m able to add more anytime I’d like. 

Being nonevaluative towards my writing allows me to write more than I would’ve ever thought I could before. I’m used to writing, then reading over my work and fixing what I don't like. 

My mantra is teaching me I can just continue. Accepting the uncertainty of my writing allows more ideas to come to me. Letting go of my personal judgment of myself lessons my ego until it is fully released. A released ego results in me writing without an outcome. I can write for my enjoyment and not a grade. I can already envision how my writing mantra will help me with anything I’ll need to write in the future.

In my past writing experiences, the starting point is almost dreadful. 

I think back to high school and freshman year of college where I had to write about topics I didn’t care about. The emphasis was always on structure, grammar and length. It was never about the enjoyment aspect of writing or even teaching us how to enjoy it. This learning situation only placed a perfectionist mindset inside of me with my writing because I was just looking for a good grade as my outcome. 

I was never passionate about the topics of my writing, so I almost didn’t care. If I reached the number of pages and covered the main topics, I hardly wanted to reread my work because I just wasn’t that confident yet would judge every sentence. 

I trusted auto correct to perfect my grammar and punctuation because that’s what I was told was most important. 

If I had the education on the writing process that I do now, it would’ve made the world of difference. It was always a rushed process to me, not a mind-clearing relaxing process. Meditating and writing at first glance don’t seem to be related, but they truly go hand and hand. Having a writing mantra to help me write continues to remind me not to allow myself to think negatively about writing but enjoy the process.

If someone reads my writing mantra, initially, they might have many questions. 

I put an emphasis on accepting change to release one’s ego, but why let go? There are so many good things in life we’d never want to let go of. The point of letting go is so we never clutch. That positive feeling we clutch will never stay that positive. There's no way for the feeling to go but the opposite. It makes more sense to embrace letting go of the negatives in our life because no one wants to hold on to that. But just like how nothing stays perfect, nothing stays bad. 

This is closely related to writing because we all have good writing sessions and also bad. Embracing the bad helps us in the future learn from it and appreciate the good days but never clutch. The goal is to release our egos. Our egos can be strong and overly judgmental of whatever we do. 

When we learn to release the self-judgement, we accept the truths and present moment. Our ego produces many anxieties that result in suffering. When we remember these anxieties of the past and future really don't exist, we can focus on what's important, the present. 

We must accept what happens around us involving writing and life. Releasing negative thoughts about ourselves and others and being grateful every day are small steps to getting away from our self-judgment. 

*Calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Mindful Writing Mantra and Essay [Excerpt]: Guest Post by Salem State University Student


Let go of your fears, everything fades with time

Izzy Welch

Izzy (Isabel) Welch is a Political Science major and an English minor at Salem State University. Her writing has been published in Soundings East and elsewhere.


Both as a writer and a person, the idea of leaving behind a legacy is one that is burdensome but one that I have been pushed to embrace. With expectations of remaining a continuous over-achiever and earning the title of a gifted student, there is pressure to succeed in our performances. Although many of us, including myself, have fallen victim to these expectations, it is harmful to limit the work you produce to something that aims for perfection. Even still, the creations that itch to come forth within you shouldn’t have to be products meant for the rest of the world to see. 

Simply put, you should produce for the sake of your own happiness or other personal reasons.

Many of us feel the limitations that are self-imposed from the judgments about our own prose to the fears that others will mock our amateur writing skills. It’s easier said than done, but we must ignore those crippling thoughts as they keep us from actually growing as writers. Seriously, why should we waste our precious, limited time on this earth letting the voices of critics fill our heads and prevent us from exploring the wonderful medium of writing? 

None of this is permanent, from our works to our worries. Now, saying that everything goes away with time isn’t to say that your efforts are pointless, that would be equally harmful. With nihilistic beliefs like that comes the condemnation of existence, and this mantra is meant to dissuade this line of thought, not encourage it.

What is impermanence? How does impermanence manifest itself in your life? 

Impermanence refers to the state or fact of lasting for only a limited period of time, but it goes much deeper than that simple definition. It deals with everything changing. In order to approach impermanence from a perspective of mindfulness, one must partake in non-judgmental observation of the ever-changing present moment. In recognizing that change is the only constant, one may overcome their fears. The leaves that make inviting canopies, buried in the trees, will undergo transfigurations in the transitionary seasons and turn into fiery hues that slowly litter the ground. 

Even that change is short-lived, the insects and creatures that make their nests and take their nutrients from the leaves will use them for their own renewal. Those insects may meet their fate at the hands of such creatures they unwittingly run into, leaving behind their present form. Those creatures may be scooped up by larger prey or they may greet death through natural causes, fueling the earth with their organic matter. 

Many of us may mourn the inevitably of change and seek the autumn colors once the snow begins to descend and coat the ground. However, we mustn’t look back at what once was; instead, we must look at the ongoing changes around us. Everything that comes from the earth is capable of producing something meaningful and beautiful. Although that sentiment may sound daunting, it is a much simpler concept to grasp than one may initially think.

Leftovers from last week's Taco Tuesday, the love letters that were written to you by your first boyfriend who you can’t quite remember the name of, an Irish wool sweater your mom gave you several birthdays ago but became worn out with time, vegetables from the garden that have been sitting in the fridge for far too long, that thesis you stayed up all night to write (with bloodshot eyes, swollen from rubbing away the tears of frustration) for your senior year capstone class, that free cotton t-shirt you were given for running that 5k in college, an empty soda bottle you sipped on eagerly during last Fourth of July as the fireworks ignited above you, that pair of leather boots you bought yourself as a treat after you got your first adult job whose soles are now irreparably battered, a lab report you wrote for chemistry in tenth grade, your birth certificate, the first pair of clothes your grandmother knit for you, orange peels from when you tried (and subsequently failed) to try soccer out, the carton of spoiled milk you accidentally used for today’s cereal, a crumbled up bus ticket tucked away at the bottom of your purse under the rest of its contents, you.

Nothing stays the same, and nothing, including what was mentioned, is eternal--or else not in the way that one may initially think. 

Oftentimes, people worry about the pages they fill with their words, but they don’t have to serve the sole purpose of nourishing the mind (of course, they can if you want them to). Instead, you can rip out any unwanted work from the notebook they’re bound in and use it as fuel for a summer bonfire; you can watch the letters blow away with the embers along with the unwanted sentiments your writing captured. 

Even still, you can mix it in with your compost blend that will nurture new life that manifests in next spring’s garden. 

Whatever you decide to do with your writing or with your life, know that your contributions do have meaning, but the consequences won’t be as permanent as one may fear. If your heart aches, urging you to write, it is your duty to respect its wishes. Take whatever writing materials you have handy: a pen, a pencil, a pile of sticky notes, a few spare sheets of paper, and let your thoughts pour out heartily. 

After you complete the writing process, you have an abundance of options. You may try for publication, share it in hushed whispers with your closest friends, keep it for your own enjoyment and read it nightly by candlelight, crumble and discard it into the nearest waste bin, email it to an old professor you see as a valued mentor…. The possibilities are endless.

Your words may flow effortlessly through your fingers and onto the spiral notebook you use to capture your stories. Some days, you may find challenges in your craft and may scribble out sections you’d rather not revisit. Other times, you let your writing take numerous routes that leave plenty of room for possibility. You may write tales of spellbound love or heroic tales of woe. Such stories have the ability to remain private, and you may seal that notebook away to discourage prying eyes. On the other hand, you may endeavor to take the fearless leap to publish your work and face the lows of rejection or the ecstasy of publication. 

Either way, all work faces the same inescapable fate. The works of wordsmiths like William Shakespeare and Sylvia Plath have persisted for decades, but to say that they are eternal is misleading. Their works, just like yours and mine will fade. Leather-bound novels, poems written in messy, chicken-scratch scrawl tucked away on a piece of scrap paper, and last-minute essays with their recognizable three-hole punch will wither away with time. In time, these mediums will melt into the ground as they decompose. 

Whether it’s something you’re proud of or an incoherent jumble of words, those pages will litter the earth and eventually transform into something separately wonderful from the piece you created, which should provide you with a sense of peace. 

The next time you anxiously bite your lips after you hand your professor an essay you pulled an energy drink-fueled all-nighter to create, try to consider the impermanence of it all. Writing doesn’t need to be anything spectacular, it simply is, but I think there’s something spectacular about all things having the same fate. Nothing remains the same, everything is transforming all the time- whether we realize that or not.

Even as I write now, I can feel the judgments and fears seeping into my head, but I let them flow in and out like waves. What if I’m doing this assignment wrong? What if my peers have written something completely unlike this? I’m sure other students in the class have far more writing experience, will they judge me for this piece when they read it, even before the final product? Can I even make the word count on this assignment? I hope I can seamlessly blend in the course material to this without it sounding clunky. Should I be more clear about what pieces and materials I’m referencing so the professor knows I’m adhering to the guidelines of this assignment? Is this piece going to become something worthy of publication? Do I even want anyone else to read this piece aside from my professor and peers? Do I even want my professor and peers to read this? I hope this becomes something I can be proud of. The idea of writing an assignment like this for a prestigious writer and accomplished professor is a daunting prospect. Isn’t it presumptuous to say that my works will end up in the same place as seemingly immortalized literary figures? I don’t know how to make this piece more cohesive. I think I’m running out of brilliant ideas to include. Am I being too repetitive or am I just being thorough? Are there too many metaphors in this piece? Will the readers understand the connections that I’m attempting to make? I wonder if some students in the class are totally confident in their writing abilities. Is this project too unorganized? How do people write things that flow so smoothly?

There are countless questions I ask myself and thoughts that linger when I begin a writing piece, including some of the ones I mentioned that are relevant to this assignment, but I don’t try to restrict them because I know that these feelings will pass. 

So instead, I simply acknowledge them and let them go. I feel the urge to write poetry about my surroundings, and lines for each stanza come to me easily; and it reassures me knowing whatever I write- for this essay, the poem, or any other future work I produce is impermanent. I can delete words, sentences, even entire passages from this piece. 

If I want to, after I turn this paper in, I can let it drown in a sea of computer files on my desktop. 

Both in my creative writing pieces and academic ones, that seems to be a common occurrence. I’m sure many other writers may relate- even you maybe! But sometimes, pieces resurface when I browse my computer, and I can look at it with a totally different lens. New ideas spring from my head, and I think of new additions and changes I can make.

The other week, I went to a local tea store, and I picked out an interesting variety called blooming flower tea, but they’re also commonly known as a flowering tea. I made some in preparation for writing this piece, and I noticed that as the hot water warmed the mug, the flower began to open up for an artificial blossoming, almost as if its dehydrated state was mercilessly restricting it from entering its final form. 

Once the tea was ready for consumption, the bud, in its burgeoned state, was a lovely shade of fuchsia, and some of the formerly dried petals drowned at the bottom of the mug. 

Even when I finished the tea, the flower still retained its beauty although its original purpose had been fulfilled. I thought about impermanence and how life allows for constant change since the present is ever-changing. With every sip, the tea no longer was. Once its contents warmed me inside, the flower lay there, aching to enter a new phase and seek out its new purpose. 

Normally, I would have thrown it out, but I was moved by the idea of change from simmering on ideas related to groundlessness and impermanence all evening. In my mind, the flower had served a purpose when its intoxicating aroma diffused into the steamy water in order to fuel my body, but it wasn’t done. 

So, I scooped it out from the mug, leaves and all, and brought it outside near the marsh so it could decompose. Perhaps if the weather weren’t so cold, it would’ve had the potential to grow into a new bloom. From this experience, I reaffirmed the idea that there are so many unrealized possibilities that mindfulness allows us to see--both in writing and in all other life undertakings.

Even the most experienced writers, artists, poets, among other sorts of creators face difficulties in actualizing their ideas. Oftentimes, I take my own experiences and apply them to my writing as many authors do as well. I find that I’m able to produce more authentic pieces when I draw from my own struggles, mishaps, and adventures. This is most frequently the case in my poetry. 

Regularly when I attempt to produce works of my own, I think of a quote from the book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, “I imagine things I am powerless to execute.” In my own experience, I concoct brilliant ideas at random points in my life. Almost like an epiphany, I’ll be standing at the stovetop- guarding my stovetop and preventing my food from being overcooked or lying in bed half-awake when the perfect idea strikes me. I’ll just down the idea quickly in my notebook or act on the sudden urge to write, and I type out a few words, but I find myself stumped. I can’t seem to do the idea justice. 

Presumably, Brontë may have taken this idea from her own life in relation to the novel’s protagonist who utters these words of resignation. Despite this, Brontë went on to produce works that have lasted centuries. 

This is not to say every attempt one makes will be successful, but the urge to devise works of your own is not inevitably fruitless. No attempt is fruitless. Each endeavor bears a bounty of fruits fit for something, even the so-called rotten ones. One would say that the act of attempting is a success in and of itself. Although I may find challenges in writing, you may always change your work as it’s a fluid medium.

First, let’s set the scene: On April 21, 1816, Charlotte Brontë was born, and chance led her to write her works that would influence countless generations. Notably, the Brontës were set apart from everyone else, as the children were completely isolated and had few social interactions with the outside world. The only known connections they had as children were with their father’s parishioners. However, all of the children, including Charlotte herself, were given free rein of the moors that existed beyond their home in Haworth, located in the United Kingdom. 

Now, envision Charlotte, adorned in typical Victorian-era garb, slumped over a desk, trying to place her thoughts on the parchment that sat in front of her. Much like ourselves, she must have dealt with limitations in her writing, albeit different ones. 

What sort of pressures do you think she must have wrestled with considering her unique circumstances? 

What thoughts plagued her and kept her from embracing her true potential? 

Do you believe she was able to overcome them by eventually getting published? 

Do our life experiences form preconceptions and fears that limit our ability to write? 

If you answered ‘yes’ to the last question, do you believe this applied to Charlotte? What do you think distinguishes success between writers?

Oftentimes, as writers and human beings, we get caught up in the past. Addressing this on a more basic level, we may think about past experiences in writing, and that keeps us from writing mindfully. Ellen Langer’s “Creative Uncertainty” illustrates that change is constant. Noting an example of a brook, she mentions that even if two people decided to return to the “same” brook at a later point, it would be impossible. One may retrace their steps to the same point, but the waters may run more rapidly or the stream may be less steady. 

With this lesson, I find that we may use it to look inwardly as writers. Even if one has been published previously, it doesn’t guarantee that in future publication endeavors; likewise, if you had been denied, it doesn’t mean that your future prospects are hopeless. We are changing as writers constantly! What you produced yesterday is not exactly the same style, format, or content as what will result from your hard work in the future. Even if your brook runs dry today, begging to end its thirst, you need not worry. Some days may consist of seemingly eternal emptiness, and just when you feel like you’ll never get your reprieve, one day, the brook becomes satiated once again. 

Sometimes, however, the water only relieves you slightly, with little crumbs just barely getting you along. If you aren’t feeling fulfilled with the current state of your writing brook, you must remember the dynamic nature it carries. Although the steady and easy times you have creating content may not be permanent, neither are the challenges you face. It is simply a matter of accepting that the creative flow is uncertain and may change at any moment.

In writing this piece about my mantra, I have found uncertainty and change to be the only reliable constant. 

At the beginning of writing this assignment, I conjured up an abundance of ideas (which came easily to me), and they translated onto the page with ease. In fact, I found that I had a challenging time stopping myself from writing, even when I had hit the necessary word counts. With these past successes, I have felt ongoing pressures to have the same sort of rapid flow, but I know that the time isn’t right for this. 

For now, I have found success in writing when the right ideas strike me and putting my work aside when I can feel myself waning. I have to remind myself that I am not the same writer I was yesterday- or even five minutes ago. There is always room for growth, and I shouldn’t set impossible expectations for myself. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with constant reminders of the success of others, but even the greatest of writers endure the same challenges. Often in works of literature, the struggles of the writers themselves are reflected between the pages of the books we’re holding right now. Just know, you’re not alone in these difficulties.

Buddhist monks who have studied concepts relating to mindfulness and meditation have a deep understanding of what causes suffering. Coincidentally, the roots of suffering are deeply intertwined with factors that limit our true potential as writers. Speaking from experience, I find that I’m limited by grasping at straws and fixating on (what should be) irrelevant; but as humans, we crave security, and we hold onto the false illusion that reality isn’t constantly changing in order to make us feel safe. 

Obviously, from everything that has been said before, embracing groundlessness is a necessary step in achieving enlightenment in every sense of the word. We must not hold onto anything, even if the ground underneath our feet feels steady, we mustn’t rely on it. The security it gives us must be seen as an illusion, at any moment, it could give way, revealing that it had always been a trap door. Better yet, it became one when we weren’t paying attention to the changes going on around us and within us. 

Really, we shouldn’t be taking anything on in blind faith or relying on our perceived realities. Acceptance is crucial in unlocking untapped writing abilities as it allows us to embrace uncertainty and ambiguity. Speaking from experience, being aware of constant change is terrifying, but one may view it as an opportunity to grow.

My preferred method of creative expression is poetry. In writing poetry, I find that I’m able to express my thoughts and life experiences concisely. Usually, when I’m having a challenging time getting over my preconceptions in writing, I’ll dump my current ideas onto a page and watch it slowly morph into numerous lines and stanzas. I also find it comforting knowing that I can conceal some of my deeper, more personal thoughts within the metaphors interlaced between the lines. 

With every poem I create, I notice that while the messages may be similar, everything else may vary. Even in trying to recreate lost work, I’ve never been able to get back the exact same poem, but I found that’s worked in my favor. I am able to recall the parts that I liked, as they stuck in my memory, while my least favorite sections remain lost. 

With every creation of mine, I find new examples of alliteration to incorporate, or new metaphors that take the theme a step farther, or the shape and sizes of the poem completely change into something unrecognizable from my past work. I recognize that I may not be satisfied with everything I produce, but that’s okay. 

Even though I can find it frustrating, spending time agonizing over a piece, just to find it inadequate, just being able to lay my fears aside and write will help me become a better writer. 

To whoever reads this: take these metaphors, my internal dialogue, the work of mindful individuals, amongst the other information in this piece as a lesson to follow--both in your writing and personal life. 

It is important not to strive for perfection as impermanence will allow for all things to transform and eventually become something wonderful. Next time you encounter such fears, breathe in and out and repeat to yourself: Let go of your fears, everything fades with time.

*Enso created by Izzy Welch


Monday, December 27, 2021

Mindful Writing Mantra and Essay [Excerpt]: Guest Post by Salem State University Student


Breathing is Writing
Dakota Coutu

Dakota Coutu is a junior at Salem State University majoring in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. While she not an English major, she finds writing to be a great way to express herself.

    Breathing is writing. Breathing is fulfilling. Breathing is nourishment. Breathing is making room for new words. Every breathe allows for new words to escape from your body and onto the page in front of you. 

    When you inhale, you coat your thoughts and lungs with new thoughts and ideas. Those thoughts and ideas enter your blood stream and throughout your body. Creating new words to put onto paper. When you exhale your breathe leaves your body and is blown against the page in front of you coating it with the words from your inhale.

    Mindfulness is “non-judgmental observation of the everchanging present moment”- John Kabat Zinn. Mindfulness is awareness. When one becomes mindful, they become non-judgmental. Mindfulness takes a lot of practice, and it is easy to forget to be mindful. When writers experience mindfulness, they may find that it is easier to write. This is because we take control over our monkey mind. The monkey mind is what causes us to become distracted and what causes writing suffering. The monkey mind makes judgments about us, and those judgments can positively or negatively influence our writing. 

What exactly is the monkey mind?

 Our monkey mind is our self-talk. It is the voice inside of our head. Our monkey mind can help us write but it can also be a big distraction for writing. Our monkey mind is responsible for our audience ghosts and our preconceptions. Our monkey mind takes us through mind weeds and mind waves. 

    According to Shunryu Suzuki, mind waves are thoughts that come and go. You notice them but you let them pass without judgment. Suzuki says that if you can be aware of your mind waves and let them go without bothering you, you will become calmer and feel more peaceful. This calmness can help tame the monkey mind and keep you on track for what you want to write about. 

    Mind weeds are when you do not let the mind wave simply pass. You attach yourself to the wave and you allow it to take you somewhere. You plant a seed that is nourished by the wave: this is when your monkey mind enters into storylines. Storylines can be extremely helpful for writers, but they can also be distracting. 

    It can be helpful for writers when it is a storyline of the topic that you are writing. It can give you new ideas and content to write about. However, if the monkey mind takes you on a mind weed that is not about your topic, it can be detrimental in your writing because it is a distraction. 

    Audience ghosts are not real, but they plague many writers. 

    Even writers who have written their entire lives and are professional writers have audience ghosts. Audience ghosts make writing very difficult for many writers and can even prevent writing in some cases. Audience ghosts are usually the person who you are writing for; however, a ghost can also be someone that you have written for in the past. This person has a lot of influence over your writing. 

    When you host an audience ghost, you will find that you are writing for them instead of yourself. Your audience ghost expects perfection, but it takes time to get to perfection. 

    This is why so many writers find it hard to write. They are expecting perfection before even writing any drafts because their audience ghost expects perfection. When you start to think about your audience ghost, you are no longer in the present, and that can hurt your writing. 

     If you can focus on just your breathing, your audience ghost goes away. You are no longer thinking about the future reader. Or maybe even a past reader who has given you a bad experience with writing. Your thoughts become focused on the here and now. When your monkey mind starts to think about your audience ghost you start to question your writing and it slows you down, maybe even stopping you. 

    The mantra Breathing Is Writing reminds you to focus on your own breathing. We are always breathing and when we focus on our breathing we are always in the present. The present is constantly changing meaning there are always things that you can write about. Each breath is like a clean slate making room for new words. You let your fears and insecurities go about your audience ghosts and you are able to focus on the present moment.  

* Enso created by Dakota Coutu.


Friday, December 24, 2021

Mindful Writing Mantra and Essay [Excerpt]: Guest Post by Salem State University Student


  Writing is.

    Mae Fraser

Macy (Mae) Fraser is an English major and History minor with a Concentration in Creative Writing at Salem State University. Mae serves as Poetry Reader for Soundings East, Social Media Editor for Under the Madness Magazine, Co-Vice President for the Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society, and a tutor at the university Writing Center. Mae created her mantra, "Writing is.," as part of her capstone project for ENL 221: Mindful Writing this semester.

Fill in the blank: writing is _____.

Don’t worry about getting it right or wrong; there is no right or wrong answer. Just answer with what feels right to you and only you.

What does it mean to write? What is writing? What is your definition of it? 

Oxford says it’s “The activity or skill of marking coherent words on paper and composing text.” calls it “the written form”.

Merriam-Webster defines it as “the act or process of one who writes”.

But what do you say about it? What is writing to you?

Writing is…

Writing is…

Writing is…

Writing is…

Writing is something to everyone, yet writing does not have one, true meaning. It has a dictionary definition, but that’s not the extent of the meaning of writing. Writing is what you make it, not what it makes you. Mindfully writing means you control the narrative (literally). Writing is a language we all are fluent in.

Writing is the whisper of the wind as you walk the length of the beach, the beige concrete wall that’s stood a protector, for all your life and beyond, separating you from the cold, foaming seas yards of sand away from solid ground. Writing is the hum of your refrigerator late at night when you’re trying to sleep, but the sounds of the late night and early morning keep you up with it’s symphony of mechanical whirring and electrical currents buzzing.

Writing is the screaming and crying of long past memories that come crawling back into your psyche, but instead of losing yourself to the overwhelming dread, pain, and suffering, you bend it to your will and make it art. Writing is the voyage home after years of being away. Writing is marching, protesting, and fighting for your values.

Writing is your lions cry, your freedom speech, your ode to your ancestors. Writing is your soliloquy: to write or not to write, that is the question. Writing is the ask and the answer. Writing is the thing with feathers. Writing is yours to take and master or to take and shatter. It is up to you what you do with it. Writing is the dragon you must slay. Writing is the world, absolutely filled to the brim with opportunity.

Writing is our experience, our process, our legacy.

Writing is… prewriting, waiting, and creating.

Writing is creation. Our minds are the expansive universe, not an end in sight. We pull from our everyday lives in order to make something out of nothing, a magician pulling a rabbit out of an empty hat. We must leave our bodies behind and become groundless, accept the things that come and use them for our art. Everything changes, everything can become brand new in the eyes of the beholder, so we must watch it, but not interact. Watch for the inevitable change; watch it, and let it grow, a strong rose appearing from the snow atop it. Let the carpet be pulled from beneath our feet; the fall could reveal more than the standing could. A fall from grace holds so much power.

Writing is waiting, whether it is to wait to write, to wait for the bus, or to wait for omens. It takes time to get the writing out—but you should never let that stop you. Writing is waiting to be ready to write. We must wait, and our writing will wait right beside us. Inhales and exhales later will we be truly ready to write. The delay is necessary; if we don’t wait long enough, we will become ensnared by storylines not interconnected to the one we wish to write. Our minds will wander, forever lost to the supposed grandeur of other lands. The essential delay is to ready us for combat, ready us for prophecies that will become unfolded.

Writing is the ebb and flow of our bodies and of time.

Writing is not letting procrastination win. Procrastination is not inherently a bad thing, but it can cause bad things. Subpar papers, half-assed poems, or half-written scripts of some unintelligible garbage. Allow yourself time to be your best self as a writer, but remember to be kind to yourself as well. Writing is allowing yourself time and the good things that come with writing.

Writing is knowing that you are creative even when the ideas aren’t there. It’s part of that delay, that waiting period to write. Despite waiting, you are creative even when you think you are not. Uncertainty always remains inside of us, sometimes making an appearance, but never should you let it affect your writing. Take that uncertainty and create something with it when the time comes to write again. Let it inspire you instead of hindering you. Use your creative intuition, let it build up inside of you until you feel as if you are going to burst. Create without boundaries.

Writing is creating something that is uniquely yours.

Writing is… being imperfect, banishing demons, and getting rid of preconceptions.

Writing is not perfect; it’s not meant to be. Imperfection is not a thing to be scared of. You are under no obligation to be perfect, nor are you under any obligation to be like the ones before you. You admire the writers, the mentors, the teachers, and the ones that inspire you, but you are you, not them. You are made of bits and pieces of people who have circulated through your life; some might remain, some might have gone, but you will always be there.

You are eternal. You are not the authors you read, but you are inspired by their weaving of stories like spider webs and their eloquence that makes metaphors into mountains. You are not your mentors or your teachers, but you are the product of essential learning and creative excellence. You are not the ones you love, but you feel their support and love like a warm embrace after hours of losing your way.

Writing is here when you need it most. When the babble of everyday worries—did I leave the water running? Where are my keys currently or did I drop them in the garage again?—comes in waves and turns into ensnaring weeds when you pay attention to their presence—oh god, did the door blow open again? Are my animals getting hit on High Street or Lafayette Road? Which would be worse and why am I thinking about this when I’m trying to pay attention to a lecture an hour away from home?—your words are there to comfort you.

Writing is your home, a comforting sight in which your greatest ideas flow. No such anxieties can filter through the wall you have created for yourself, but there is always a split, allowing the flow of ideas to infiltrate and inspire. Your haven is your writing, absorbing the blows that come to you, one by one, by the threat of rejection and perfection. Your writing is a churning machine that turns your demons to dust and let ideas run rampant. The ideas flow through your mind, washing over the weeds and the waves like they never existed. Those who try to stand in your way wash away, decimated into nothingness, with the strong force of the raging river your ideas have become. Writing is your sanctuary.

Writing is what you make your worries and your nervous energies into. Your worries become epic tales of warriors who, too, go through the trials and tribulations of the typical person, and must gather the strength to defeat what is hellbent on destroying them. Hellhounds run after you, but your writing is there to protect you. The doubt you feel becomes the scales of a dragon protecting a damsel no longer in distress in your twist on the classic fantasy tale.

Anxiety becomes a contemporary romance where your wildest dreams are lived out in rose-gold silk and poetry serenades at 3 am. Writing is your slam poetry dreams come alive on the stage, or at the smoky coffee shop, or even in front of your friends on the long car ride home from a long journey.

The warmth of the guiding light from your past is supposed to help you as your journey continues, not to hinder you or cause you harm. It scares away the demons and monsters that cause you pain; you can stop the monsters under your bed and in your closet that have always come out to play. Writing is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal.

Writing is the call to action. When you hear your demons arrive to take a hold of your mind, summoned from the boiling pits below the hardwood floors and the concrete base of your sanctuary, may the words you use protect you and be your soldier. They are meant to be attack the demons, slick black with ink, who take your artisanship away. They slice at sentences, rip apart scenes that took you hours to create vivid images of, desecrate the temple you have made for yourself.

The notebooks of unfinished poetry and unfathomed fantasy novels crumble away at the burning touch of the audience you’re embarrassing yourself in front of. You feel as if a trap door will carry you to your doom in a moment, where the demons lie in wait once more to feed off the fear and anguish they themselves have caused you. The demon you hear the most will appear at your shoulder, whisper the worst words a writer can hear, and try to persuade you.

You’re not a writer. You’re just some imposter. Let me fix that for you, since you can’t obviously write that for yourself, let alone write it for an audience.

The words weigh on your shoulders, those troubled thoughts and whispered wisps of falsehood filling up the bag on your shoulders, and you just feel like f a l l i n g …

But with the light of your words and your positive perceptions, those demons will turn to ash. Writing is the words that become your sword, your shield, and your armor. Your words can build cities and tumble armies. You are the master of your own artistry, not those demons who haunt your mind. Your demons don’t stand a chance against your lamentations and cavalier rhymes. They will perish as your radiant luminescence stands up and regards them as nothing more than annoying flies getting in your way.

Disregard the demons as they come, and you and your writing shall come forth and remember when you weren’t strong enough to hold them back. Now, you’re fortified with the knowledge that your writing is yours and no one else’s. You are your writing, and your writing is you.

Writing is the sword and shield at your disposal. May you slay your demons who try to intercept your greatest work.

Writing is… the everchanging present moment, endless writing, and groundlessness.

Writing is everchanging. Writing is the metamorphosis as told by Ovid or the becoming of a butterfly. The present moment is vastly changing minute by minute, second by second, moment by moment. Writing is not one and done; even the tiniest of edits makes it changed. Another reason to why writing perfection is never achievable; our work is never finished. Things change as the seasons do, as the leaves do when fall quickly arrives, leaving no room for the transition of summer into autumn. Writing is never-ending revision, spaced out between minutes, months, millennia, until you deem it to be done.

Writing is a love letter to language, dripping with sweet, succulent words meant for intermingled lovers or loved ones. Our bones and flesh become one with the pen; it becomes an extension of our beings, the ink that flows the embodiment of our souls, of our hearts. With every flick of the wrist and of the pen, our thoughts flow, unobstructed, into permanency. By noticing ourselves, we become our writing and our writing becomes us. We fall into rhythm, a beating of a faraway drum, our writing marching right beside us as we carry on into our writing, our lives, and our process.

Writing is freedom. Writing is taking the parts we don’t like and destroying it, ripping it to shreds so no one—not even ourselves—can read the inner workings of our own psyches. We take the words that don’t work and the fragmented sentences and the poems we wish we could wash the sin out of and light it up, red, orange, and yellow flames engulfing the ink, freeing us from the chains of preconceptions and internal doubt. Doubt in our writing and in ourselves needs to be razed, burned away without any trace. Our freedom from our preconceptions and our demons will allow true transformation and inspiration to begin. Finally.

Writing is typing or writing away the negativities, the endangering energies we encounter when we overthink. Don’t overthink, over-write. Write until the pen runs dry and your hand is in on fire. Write until your computer dies out, a light blinking, blinking, gone. Your light will never be gone; only the threats that haunt you will be released into the ether, always at risk for coming back, but far enough away that their presence cannot be welcomed back in unknowingly. You have the power to banish them forever or keep them around for inspiration; do what you will with the demons that follow you.

Writing is the perception of yourself and those around you.

Writing is… the process.

Writing is letting yourself work. Let the words come, even if they are just fragments or words, the charcoals of a fire not yet lit or the foundation of a skeleton of a house yet to be built. It takes time, the writing process, but you write at your own pace, take the time to run through plans over and over for weeks and weeks, rewrite the same sentence five different times, and finish when you feel like finishing.

Writing is the stages of getting ready, doing the thing, and finishing it. Three stages with multiple substages, a vortex of anxieties just waiting to happen. If we do it right, by waiting for our inspiration to come and preparing ourselves, we will come out unscathed. There is no right way to write, but there are ways to make sure it comes out right for you. Writing is the manipulation of words and ideas to make it truly, uniquely you. Take your time, speed-run your poem, trust the process, exert all of your writing ability. Writing is yours to take a hold of and do what you’d like with it.

Writing is your chance to create, inspire, and learn.

Writing is… revising and editing.

Writing is revising with an open mind. Editing and revising is part of the process, but it all comes later. If you edit and revise while you right, you will find yourself spiraling into your demons’ pit. You’ll spend more time editing than writing. Your misfired aim for perfection comes with a price. Revising is the last step; for now, focus on the writing and give yourself time to focus on the revising later. Revising only gets in your way; it is a dangerous method to give in to the process of editing too early. You’ll spiral until fear and worry is all that’s left.

Writing is not getting caught up in the weeds of editing. If we let go of the revising, forget what comes later and get everything down on the page right now, then we will grow. Our skills will flourish and our minds will be at ease because we took our time, paced our writing. There is no such thing as tidying up your writing as you go. Release all of the words onto the page and pick up the things that need to be discarded later. Your writing will thank you.

Writing is letting the ideas come and go as you develop your writing more and more. Stuff will come and go, but do not tangle yourself up in the web of deleting, deleting, deleting. Your progress is made by letting your writing expand until it can’t anymore. Only then can you cut back the weeds and the other things that grow from your writing. It’s a long process that is worth the wait.

Writing is… giving feedback and being kind to yourself and others.

Writing is allowing yourself to give and receiving feedback. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings; it’s just human nature, but you have to give good feedback in order for others to succeed as much as you do. Writing is taking the feedback and actively using it, combining your observations with others in order to get the full picture. You stare hard at your writing, day after day, week after week, and your eyes grow so heavy from staring that you forget the extra comma here or the messed-up sentence over there. New perspectives enhance your writing and enhance your world view of language and all of its intricacies.

Writing is not falling into old habits. Once you learn how to do something, keep at it. Don’t let yourself fall back into the old ‘truths’ that you once knew. Refresh your writing with something new, and don’t rely on the dangerous methods you are trying to shake. They might feel like a comfort, but something sinister lies underneath. With each passing moment, there is more to learn and expand from; evaluate, make it a habit, and stick with it.

Writing is being kind to yourself. You are not a failure for not being published yet or writing differently than others. Your writing is a beautiful landscape, unique to you and only you. Writing is remembering that we are not machines programmed to pumping out papers and poems and journals every few months. We are human; a combination of flesh, blood, and words. Do not beat yourself up over the smallest things in your writing. Your writing will only grow when you do.

Writing is not discouraging others. While we want to work on ourselves, we also have to help others when they ask for it. Give them the same kindness—while being constructively critical—that you would expect from them. Kindness pushes out the demons—for you and other writers. Keeping the demons out and letting the words take their place is the main goal for all. Love and kindness go far in the world of writing.

Writing is reminding yourself you are not less of a writer for receiving constructive feedback. Some things don’t vibe well, and that’s okay. Fix that stanza or rewrite that scene with the confidence that people love what you do, but remember that everything needs a little bit of fixing up once in a while. Progress is what we should aim for, not perfection. Writing is embracing that ideal and taking or leaving the feedback as we please. We write for us, but it doesn’t hurt to know what goes on in others’ minds.

Writing is the perception of yourself and those around you.

Writing is… avoiding mindlessness and embracing mindfulness.

Writing is not being mindless. Writing is the constant reminder that you are here and now and not anywhere else. You are in the present moment which ticks by second by second, yet you still remain in it. You aren’t your worries and you are going to be worrying. Embrace the moment and write. Don’t overthink the words, or the demons may make their return, but do not forget to consider the impact of your words. Each word weighs something as soon as it is written or typed; consider your words as they come.

If you are mindless when writing, you will forget the importance of writing. You are forgetting the very thing you are doing if you are not present with your writing. The act of writing itself is in the present moment. Write from your heart and remember to be mindful of your writing. Write until you need to wait to write again. Everything about writing is on your terms, so write fearlessly and write unconditionally.

Writing is yours to control.

Writing is…

Writing has not one true definition. Writing is the ebb and flow of time, noticing the things around you more vividly, and seeing the world in a new light. Your perspective may or may not change, but be mindful of the things around you and see what kind of difference it may make in your world view. Remember to see, learn, and grow with every passing mindful moment. Remember, too, that writing is what you make it.

Writing is personalized. It is yours to take and use to your wildest imaginations. We all have writing, and we all have our personal definitions of what writing is. Writing is yours, mine, ours. Writing is what we believe it to be. Writing is waiting; writing is the process; writing is imperfection; writing is finishing or never finishing; writing is knowing that your writing is everchanging and that you are, too.

Writing is… writing.


*calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Mindful Writing Mantra and Essay [Excerpt]: Guest Post by Salem State University Student


Do Not Worry as You Wait

Rachel Pullino

Rachel Pullino is studying English with a focus in creative writing at Salem State University. Writing has always been her greatest passion. This is her first time publicly sharing her work outside of a classroom. This excerpt is from a longer piece for Mindful Writing, in which she created a writing mantra to aid in preventing mindless delay.
"'Waiting is checking both ways before you cross the street. Standing in line at your favorite ice cream shop because it is hot and sweaty, and you deserve a treat. Staring into the beams of the microwave as you heat up last night's leftovers and loathing the green numbers ticking down at an inhumanly slow pace. Waiting is knowing that it is okay to give yourself a break and let what may, come.
Waiting is the worst nightmare of many neurotic writers. We all want to be the best we can be at this very moment and no more or less. Success needs to bleed out of us like life does with each passing moment and if we run out of blood along the way, hook us up on an IV. However, it is okay to not worry while you wait. It is okay to acknowledge that time is necessary for greatness, and we are not mechanical. Do not worry as you wait. Greatness will come as it must and you will be you now and forevermore.'
-- Rachel Pullino, December 2, 2021, halfway through this project.
This particular thought process is what led me to the development of my mantra: Do not worry as you wait. Alongside the masterful work of Don Murray in “The Essential Delay,” my personal writing troubles were essential in the development of this mantra. Waiting has always felt torturous to me. It was not until I read “The Essential Delay” that I saw the pleasure in waiting for things. I am notoriously impatient and like everything to come immediately, yet something about Don Murray’s words spoke to me in a life-changing way. 

As a writer, like the majority of them, I have been plagued by the idea of writer’s block. There has always been an internal pressure on me to continually write great things of even greater quality, and I have drowned in it for the past 6 years. In these past 3 to 4 months, I have written more and written better than I ever have in my life. 

What I believe the cause of that is, is the fact that I have let myself take space in between projects now. Knowing I can and allowing myself to breathe in between poems, short stories, and essays, has shortened my waiting period by a ridiculous amount. In a way, prior to even creating this mantra, I have been telling it to myself for weeks. Now feels like the perfect time to finally share it.

It should not be difficult for writers to be aware of the fact that they are composed of flesh and ideas. 
However, in the writing process, especially with deadlines present, it can feel overwhelming to not be an endless writing machine. The periods between essays and stories and poems can feel lonely, overbearing, and unproductive, but the waiting period is far more beneficial than it seems. 

I have created the mantra, “do not worry as you wait,” to bring some ease to this space in between projects during the pre-writing stage. As writers, sometimes we forget that we are human and need space to take care of our minds as to not over-extend them. Ideas and concepts and full-fledged stories come to us in due time, and it is okay to let them find their way to you instead of seeking them out. 

In Don Murray’s, “The Essential Delay,” he writes in-depth about the waiting period and why it is not only necessary but beneficial. His work in this piece inspired my mantra, which in the short time of its official creation has already been heavily beneficial to me as not only a creative writer but a student during finals.

*calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh