How Meditation Can Help You Concentrate and Write

The earliest written record of meditation dates back to 1500 BCE India in the Hindu Vedas. Meditation has been practiced in many places in the east for health, religious, and spiritual purposes.

Mindfulness meditation is growing in popularity in America for its demonstrated health benefits, such as reducing high blood pressure, chronic pain, and anxiety. From walking meditation to spiritual meditation, there are many different types of meditation. 

Meditation involves:

  • Deep breathing 
  • Focused attention 
  • Quiet setting
  • Open attitude
  • Body awareness

Specific forms of meditation can involve:

  • Prayer 
  • A comfortable position 
  • Mantras (Chanting) 
  • Movement/Walking
  • Reading reflection 
  • Internally focused gratitude 

For a more in-depth understanding, read about the different forms of meditation here.

The ultimate goal of meditation is Mindfulness: to have awareness of your mind and body. When thoughts try to disturb you, let them pass while keeping your focus turned to your physical presence. This moment to regain focus and improve concentration makes it easier to focus your attention after the session ends. 

3 main problems writers face can be helped by meditation: 

  1. Procrastination 

You sit down in front of your desk, uncap your pen, then realize you didn’t pour a cup of coffee (you can’t write without coffee). You write the date on the top page only to stop again, this time, because there’s no background music. 

Feeling overwhelmed can take the form of procrastination. Meditation prompts you to shift your mental focus to your physical presence. As your body relaxes, your mind in turn relaxes, making concentration easier after the session.

  1. Being Uninspired 

Sometimes you are stuck with the project you’re working on. Sometimes you can’t decide on an idea, or stare at the page and have no idea what to write. 

Reading someone else’s writing before meditation is a great inspirational tool. In your session, you can reflect on style, meaning– whatever draws you to the piece. A free writing exercise after the session can help you draw from work you admire.

  1. Distractions 

It’s easy to be preoccupied by external distractions: the traffic outside your window, your phone buzzing. 

Each time you meditate, you practice your ability to concentrate. Like anything practiced, concentration becomes easier with time. Making mediation a routine leads to a better sense of concentration extending into your daily life. 

Mindful’s “How to Meditate” article includes a 1, 10, and 15-minute meditation session for beginners.

The app Headspace offers 10 free beginner sessions (customizable to 5, 10, or 20- minutes). To combat anxiety amid the pandemic, their “Navigating Change” course provides another 10 free sessions. 

If writing is a daily practice for you, try incorporating 10 minutes of meditation beforehand.

 So often our minds are preoccupied with the sensations defining our external worlds. When was the last time you took a ten-minute time-out for your mind? 

– Charleigh

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In Remembrance of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
March 15, 1933–September 18, 2020

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an advocate for equality and a force to be reckoned with. It’s our time to take up the mantle and continue the fight.

Here are 10 iconic quotes to remember RBG by:

  1. “My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”
  2. “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
  3. “Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”
  4. “Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment. These just zap energy and waste time.”
  5. “I don’t say women’s rights—I say the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.”
  6. “Feminism [is the] notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents and not be held back by man made barriers.”
  7. “If you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it. I had a life partner who thought my work was as important as his, and I think that made all the difference for me.”
  8. “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
  9. “People ask me sometimes… ‘When will there be enough women on the court?’ And my answer is: ‘When there are nine.’”

Lastly, RBG had this to say about her legacy:

  1. “To make life a little better for people less fortunate than you, that’s what I think a meaningful life is. One lives not just for oneself but for one’s community.”

We commemorate the late Supreme Court Justice and her 27-year tenure with words. However, we have a duty to go further. Now, it’s time to turn words into action.

Here are 5 unbiased and dependable resources to use and support:

  1. IssueVoter.org
  2. Vote411.org
  3. RockTheVote.org
  4. Politifact.com
  5. Vote.org

-Cassidy

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Advice: For Writers, From Writers

Alden Jones, writer and faculty member at Emerson College and The Newport MFA, recently launched her new memoir, The Wanting Was a Wilderness, with great success. The memoir, which began as a project examining Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 national best-seller, Wild, blends analysis and essay along with the telling of Jones’ own introspection. This month, I had the privilege of attending an author talk between Strayed and Jones. Listed below are tips these two accomplished authors have for writers of all genres.

As a writer of nonfiction, what do you do if your family does not approve of the story you want to tell?

Both writers suggest that as always, do the most you can when telling your story to protect the privacy of others. Changing names of characters is a great place to start, as well as leaving out details that do not further the story. For this very reason, some writers even choose to publish under a pseudonym.

Though your story may encompass others, remember it is still your story to tell. So long as you respect the anonymity of others, both writers agree it’s a personal choice whether you risk uprooting tensions with your family. 

How do you write about something painful? 

When asked this question, Jones explains writing about pain helps her to “reclaim” the experience. Writing can be healing. (She jokes every writer needs a therapist!) 

If it is too painful to write about it now, jot down the details you need to recount the story if you can, and return to it at another time. Ultimately, do what is best for your wellbeing. If you find writing to reopen an old wound, consider writing about another subject.  

How do you handle book criticism? 

When asked this, Strayed simply stated, “It Hurts!” Despite her 2012 success, criticism affects Cheryl no different than any other writer. Her strategy to combat negativity is simple: scroll past the review, ignore the tweet. Don’t even read them. 

Though gaining an outside perspective on your work is crucial, sometimes that perspective is not constructive. Sometimes, we have to be our own best advocates. 

You can find Alden Jones’ The Wanting Was a Wilderness here: 

https://bookshop.org/books/the-wanting-was-a-wilderness-cheryl-strayed-s-wild-and-the-art-of-memoir-afterwords/9780999431665

Get in line to get yours soon– it’s on backorder everywhere! The link above helps support local bookstores. 

-Charleigh 

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3 Tips to Get Back into the Habit of Reading

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me reading is one of their favorite hobbies, only for that person to admit they haven’t cracked open a book for months, I would have enough change to buy another novel that would sit unread on my shelf for months.

During times of media overload, where burning out from staring at screens are far from rare occurrences, a book can be a welcome break. But this points to a clear question: How do we rediscover the habit of reading?

In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg breaks down why good and bad habits have a tendency to linger. The habit loop, as Duhigg describes it, consists of 3 main steps. The first step of the habit loop involves encountering a trigger to cue an action. This leads into the second step, which is performing the specified action. Performing this action merits the reward, the last step in the habit loop.

Here’s an example of a habit loop:

  1. Cue: a Twitter notification pops up on your screen
  2. Action: You open Twitter and see who liked your Tweet
  3. Reward: A jolt of dopamine and sense of accomplishment encourages repetition

You can read Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit here.

Here are 3 tips to use the habit loop to confidently call yourself a bookworm:

  1. Set an alarm to signal it’s prime reading time

Contrary to popular belief, technology doesn’t have to be the enemy of reading. Setting a repeating alarm on your phone or other device is a simple, effective way to hold yourself accountable and stay dedicated to reading. The more you sit down to read after the alarm sounds, the stronger the cue becomes.

  1. Reward yourself when you reach a reading goal

If reading feels more like work instead of a reward in itself, then take a page out of my book and have a treat after hitting a milestone. When you finish a chapter, turn to a specific page, or read for a certain stretch of time, try enjoying a favorite snack, pouring a cup of tea, and getting cozy for the next reading stint. Remember, books pair well with self-care.


  1. Set a reading schedule

Just like its name implies, the habit loop repeats itself. To avoid losing steam and actually finish that book you’ve been meaning to dig into, set aside chunks of time throughout the week. Even the busiest readers can squeeze in 20-30 minutes of reading before starting the workday or turning in for the night. Making reading a consistent part of your routine is a sure-fire way to build a reading habit that sticks.

-Cassidy

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The Women That Got Me Here: Why I Will Remember My Time at CambridgeEditors Forever

As my internship with CambridgeEditors comes to an end, I wanted to reflect on the women who inspired me to get here. In high school English classes, I was primarily introduced to white, male authors, who I enjoyed but had no connection to. As my career and passion for the literary world progresses, I feel it is only appropriate to discuss the female authors that made me want to keep going. 

It all started with Joyce Carol Oates and her hauntingly beautiful writing, particularly in her short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” and her novel We Were the Mulvaneys. With her portrayal of teenage culture in a young woman’s life and discussions of sexual harassment and assault, Oates helped me understand that my feelings are not only valid but important. An incredibly prolific author, Oates has written plays, poetry, short fiction, and fifty eight novels. She is in her early eighties, and as she continues to write, she continues to amaze me. 

Next came Zadie Smith. Her first novel, White Teeth, portrayed a Bangladeshi family and a biracial family living in London in the 70s. She discussed the Bangladeshi family’s strong ties to Islam, and by doing so she made me realize that my Palestinian heritage was something to be written about. After the booming success of White Teeth, Smith went on to write topical essays for the New Yorker, short fiction, and multiple novels. 

My love for Oates’s depiction of womanhood and Smith’s emphasis on the importance of heritage led me to perhaps my most favorite author of all time, Louise Erdrich. A Native American author, Erdrich’s novels typically take place on reservations; my favorite book by her, The Round House, is set on the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. The novel explores rape against Native women, coming of age stories, and the desire for justice in the Native American community. Erdrich has continued to write multiple novels and currently owns Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore in Minneapolis focusing on Native American Literature. 

I am deeply grateful for the women who inspired me to study literature, and I am equally grateful for the women I was privileged enough to work with this summer: my fellow intern, Amala, Founder of CambridgeEditors, Dr. Weiner, and CambridgeEditors’ Administrative and Editor Manager, Lexie. My summer of collaborating with three of the most intelligent and determined women I know will forever hold a place in my heart, and I will always look back on it fondly. As Joyce Carol Oates said in After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away, “See, people come into your life for a reason. They might not know it themselves, why. You might not know it. But there’s a reason. There has to be.” 

Kelsey Allen

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Rachel Carson’s “Spring Without Voices” and the Rise of Environmental Literature

Throughout quarantine, many have turned to nature for a place of comfort and solace. We go to parks for socially distanced picnics, run on wood-chipped trails, and fill our bedrooms with pothos and ferns. When the pandemic is over and we are able to return to a semblance of normal, it is important to remember that nature was always there for us; it is finally time for us to be there for her. 

Environmental literature has been warning us about our decaying world for decades, and it is time to listen. Rachel Carson’s environmental science book Silent Spring was among the first and most important of its kind; Carson laments over the United States’s use of synthetic pesticides and how they have resulted in severe damage to our environment. From DDT to Parathion, Carson explains how insecticides have poisoned every aspect of nature, starting with spraying it onto our crops to killing millions of non-target organisms such as birds and fish. Describing how these insecticides wiped out multiple animal populations, Carson wrote, “It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh” (2). 

Carson’s words are particularly relevant to our current climate; in the same way that spring was marked by the sounds of birds, summer was once defined by warm, late nights, beach gatherings, and barbecues. As we watch our first pandemic summer come to an end, we must think about how we have relied on nature and what we can do to prevent further destruction. 

We must not only carry on Rachel Carson’s legacy but be wary of the fact that her book still rings true sixty years later. Authors like Rebecca Solnit instill hope in those that are disillusioned by peoples’ lack of care for our environment. In “Letter to a Young Climate Activist on the First Day of the New Decade,” Solnit explains how we need to rise out of our state of disillusionment in order to make change. This begins by understanding the beauty and worthiness of nature. 

So, the next time you go to your local park or stare at the birds outside your window, remember, as Rebecca Solnit says, “We owe it to the whales, to every songbird in every tree, to frogs and trout and fireflies.”

Kelsey Allen

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CambridgeEditors: A Home Unlike Any Other

When I first began at CambridgeEditors, otherwise known as CE, I was especially excited by the prospect of working with Lexie Axon and Dr. Harte Weiner. I was certain it would be an extraordinary experience; however, I was wrong — it surpassed all my expectations. 

My first day on the job had my stomach full of butterflies creating a storm. The very first assignment I had was to write a blog post which had me stumped for a while. I remember cross-checking with Lexie about the topic, and in a span of two hours, I had written two paragraphs. Each sentence underwent my backspace bar as I agonized over every single word. When I finally submitted it, I was happy with it but not completely satisfied, something all writers feel about their work.

However, as the frequency of the blog posts increased, I found myself eager to express myself, and soon, the keyboard couldn’t keep up with my thoughts. The feedback given by Lexie and Dr. Weiner was invaluable and they showed me how just one word can enhance an entire paragraph! Not only did my writing style improve considerably, but my experiences as a reader too, evolved. 

Each day was unique and challenging. I worked on social media posts and even tried my hand at marketing. As I could work at my own pace, I was able to explore my creativity and take the projects in the direction that felt best for the company. The Zoom meetings were tremendously fun, and we were always in danger of going overtime! We would go off-topic several times and end up talking about how the WiFi sucks or if we could tackle another project on our already overflowing plate.

For me, the only disappointment was that I never got a chance to visit the actual office space with that customary cup of coffee and being surrounded by the wonderful dogs. Nevertheless, Lexie and Dr. Weiner always made me feel like a part of CE even if we were miles apart! I still cannot fathom how three months just flew by. But I do know that I will carry with me every single moment spent here, albeit virtually!

At the end of each day, we would submit a running list of our tasks; and to conclude this, here’s my running list: 

Completed

  • 10 blog posts, around a dozen FB posts, and clean-up of the WordPress site
  • A lifelong connection with Dr. Weiner, Lexie, and Kelsey, my fellow intern!
  • An unforgettable experience at CE

To Do

  • Thank CE for making me feel at home, especially in these tough times
  • Say goodbye to the wonderful team (for now)!

Amala Reddie

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Anne With An E: A Reflection on Representation

Film and TV adaptations of novels have always remained popular with the masses. In recent times, however, adaptations have evolved to suit modern sensibilities and issues. One such impressive adaptation is Anne With An E, based on the timeless classic Anne of Green Gables written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. 

While the show retained most of the essential characters and storylines, it also introduced new characters and themes such as sexism, LGBTQ+ discrimination, racism, and feminism through Anne’s adventures in Avonlea. 

For instance, in season 2, the show featured two LGBTQ+ characters and also explored the friendship between Bash, a native from Trinidad, and Gilbert, Anne’s school rival and eventual love interest. Creator Moira Walley-Beckett emphasized the importance of this representation and stated that, “When I was first conceiving Anne With an E, I was troubled by the lack of diversity in the book, especially since Canada is such a diverse nation, both then and now.”

In season 3, the story took a bleak turn and dived into the dark parts of Canadian history — the Indian residential schools. In the first episode, Anne is shown to befriend a young Native called Ka’kwet while the rest of Avonlea is wary of the so-called “savages.” Ka’kwet’s family is convinced to send her to the residential school in hopes of a better education. However, she is forced to adopt a Christian name, cut her hair and speak only English, all under the guise of civilization. 

In one harrowing scene, Anne visits the school where the nun greets her while choir practice is in session. Though she is forbidden to see Ka’kwet, she unwittingly remarks on the joys of hearing the choir, proclaiming that “singing is a great fortifier of the spirit.” The camera then shows Ka’kwet and the children singing desolately, with a vacant gaze reflecting their broken spirits. 

From a representation standpoint, the series achieved a great milestone where the characters were portrayed by Indigenous actors and actresses who had the opportunity to narrate their story on a global platform. It also allowed an accurate depiction of the trauma faced by the children as they essentially lost their sense of identity and culture, the repercussions of which are felt even today.

Unfortunately, the show was cancelled before it could further expand this storyline and Ka’kwet’s story is left on a cliffhanger. However, it isn’t hard to imagine the outcome and sadly, it isn’t one that guarantees a happy ending. 

Nevertheless, the journey of Ka’kwet opened up a whole new conversation as a vast majority of viewers revealed their lack of awareness and shock on the issue. Many also expressed their eagerness to learn more about the residential schools. It only proves to show that in understanding issues of white supremacy and racism, awareness, representation, and education can go a long way.

Amala Reddie

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Celebrating Toni Morrison On the Anniversary of Her Death (And Every Day)

August 5, 2020 was the one year anniversary of iconic novelist and essayist Toni Morrison’s death. For many people, Toni Morrison was their first introduction into Black literature; in fact, many parents have challenged her infamous novel Beloved, deeming it violent and sexually explicit. Despite attempts to ban her work, Toni Morrison’s writing and legacy lives on. 

The New York Times described Morrison as the “towering novelist of the Black experience,” The first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Toni Morrison wrote novels, essays, and short stories that are essential to our understanding of American Literature. She accurately portrayed the Black experience while highlighting her writing with a dream-like essence; this can be seen in Beloved, with her portrayal of the trauma and haunting legacy slavery has left on the novel’s main character, Sethe. She describes this trauma through a word she coined herself: rememory. Morrison writes: “Some things you forget. Other things you never do…Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it’s gone, but the place–the picture of it–stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world.”

Toni Morrison spent her lifetime educating the people around her, from teaching at Princeton University for seventeen years to releasing novels, short fiction, and children’s books up until her death. Some of these works include Home, God Help the Child, “Sweetness,” and Please, Louise. Young writers such as Britt Bennett and Colson Whitehead consider Morrison to be a strong influence on their best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novels. Despite her tragic death, Morrison continues to have an impact on American literature, and she will continue to do so until the end of time. 

Kelsey Allen

Photo courtesy of The New Yorker

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Going Back in Time with Midnight Sun

The first time I heard of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer was when I was a teen and life’s biggest issues were completing my homework and playing with friends. Twilight soon became an integral part of my life along with Harry Potter, and I still prefer the latter. However, I was drawn to the absurd yet compelling love story between Edward and Bella, for it gave me a sense of what romance was supposed to look like; something that was still relatively unexplored in Harry Potter, as it was never the central theme in the adventure and prophecy-centric series.

Now, nearly a decade later, Midnight Sun, finally hit our shelves. A retelling of Twilight from the perspective of Edward Cullen, the book was slated to be released in 2009 but was shelved when the first twelve chapters were leaked, and Meyer put it on indefinite hold until it was finished and ready for the world.

Amazon.com: Midnight Sun (9780316707046): Meyer, Stephenie: Books

Reading Midnight Sun was a nostalgic experience as I was transported back to when I had first begun reading Twilight. However, 23-year-old me was left relatively unimpressed by the novel —nearly twice the size of the original — for my idea of romance has evolved in the last few years. What once appealed to me as a young child now emerged as problematic and unhealthy. 

Moreover, the plot does not offer anything new to the storyline or Edward’s motives. The additional dialogue and scenes only serve to feed Edward’s obsession with Bella which also is less compelling than in the predecessor. 

That’s not to say that Meyer has not attempted to address some of Edward’s questionable behavior, which had become a controversial topic over the years. In one such attempt regarding Edward watching Bella sleep at night, she writes, “I was repulsed by myself as I watched her toss again. How was I any better than any sick peeping tom? I wasn’t any better. I was much, much worse.” Although a good effort on Meyer’s part, it still doesn’t detract from the fact that stalking should not be romanticized. 

In my opinion, the only fascinating and redeeming feature of this novel is that there are more interactions with the other vampire characters who are immensely multifaceted in their own right, especially Rosalie. Even though we got a peek into Rosalie’s life in the third book Eclipse, her exchanges with Edward in Midnight Sun give a better insight into the flawed complexity and guilt of her character, adding a new layer of her jealousy toward Bella who has everything she wants but cannot have. One can’t help but root for Rosalie in this situation (something I never imagined I would do)! 

In summation, Midnight Sun is a read meant for the die-hard fans who will surely enjoy seeing their favorite characters back in action. For me, it was a journey through time and how I have changed as a person and as a reader. 

Amala Reddie

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