Writing, The Glamorous Life & Finding Balance in the Madness of Branding

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

I will confess, being a writer is THE best job in the world. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t ALSO admit it can feel like we’ve been strapped to Hell’s Tilt-A-Whirl.  As writers of the Digital Age we have a much higher chance at success than any writer in history, but we also have more work than any writer in history.

And, to make matters worse, spouses, bills, kiddos with snotty noses, dust bunnies and car troubles don’t go away the day we decide to become professional writers.

In fact, Spawn used more toilet paper than a crew of high school football players rolling the house of a rival team’s quarterback. And he flooded the bathroom. And I still have to clean the mess, but the liquor stores aren’t open yet.

So yeah, that is the glamourous job of an author.


RDD Can Make Us Nuts

RDD is what I like to call Reality Deficit Disorder. Like the flu, this disease seems to explode January of every year, normally brought on by New Year’s Resolutions.

We vow to be 18% body fat, debt-free, have an immaculate house, build a perfect social platform with a bazillion fans, and win the Pulitzer…all by March. We seem to collectively go crazy and forget that we can only do so much.

Many writers experience RDD when it comes to social media. We sign up for Facebook, and build an author page, and link to LinkedIn, and pin on Pinterest until our pinners are dull from wear. We weep over Instagram and mortify our teenagers by trying to tackle Tumblr.

Vowing to do everything, eventually we do nothing. We become paralyzed in the face of all we’ve committed to do.

Time to Get Real

Thus, the first step to preventing being overwhelmed is to be realistic in our goals and expectations. If we’ve already blown that, the trick to pulling ourselves out of the tail-spin is to sit down, rework our priorities, and commit to being more realistic.

Goals are written on paper not stone.

Successful people don’t just make a list of goals ONCE. The list of goals is always a living document in need of modification, reordering, or even being scrapped altogether.

Persistence is a wonderful trait. Persistence is noble. But persistence can look a lot like stupid.

If our GOAL is to summit Mt. Everest and we are trudging up Mt. Shasta? Helloooo? Helps to be on the correct MOUNTAIN.

For instance, my life DRASTICALLY changed when I decided to unschool Spawn. Instead of having six hours a day, five days a week where it was QUIET because he was in preschool? I have him here ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.

Thus, I’ve had to rework my routine and sharpen my focus. In between lessons, I let him play X-Box. BUT, it is not uncommon for me to be writing and have to stop and yell:

“Conserve your ammo! Single-fire or burst fire! Those aren’t Hollywood guns! They actually run out of ammo and spraying like a ganbanger creates too much muzzle-walk….”

Okay, where was I? *stares at computer”

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 10.49.52 AM

Time to Face the Music

I tend to be a person of my word…to a fault. If I promise to do something I will half-kill myself to get it done if need be. But sometimes this is just plain DUMB. I’ve learned that most people will understand if we have to back out of something we’ve promised to do, but we MUST be honest with them and vow to make it right.

Look, Sally. I know I promised to blog every day for a year to raise money for all the starving children in Africa, but I am out of my depth. I overestimated what I can do given the demands of my schedule. I apologize. I was so caught up in wanting to help you, I didn’t think. Please forgive me. Is there anything I can do that might be a smaller job? Can I help you find other bloggers to fill my spot who do have time to blog every day for all the starving children in Africa?

Many times people will be forgiving (probably because they’ve oopsed a time or two themselves). If we just face the problem and offer to be a solution, more often than not, other people will be reasonable.

Whey they aren’t reasonable is when we just don’t show up, disappear or dump a mess in their laps without any offer of help to remedy the problem.

And, as a warning. Don’t do this stuff too often. Professionals always need to take time to think before they agree to doing things. I still struggle with this and I REALLY goofed a few times during those months with Shingles, so as I have one finger pointed at you guys, I have three pointing back at me.

Likely, this will be a lesson we continually learn and relearn throughout all our lives (especially Helpful Hannah personalities like mine :D). But we DO have to be careful or others won’t want to work with us because we are, essentially, flakes.

No one expects us to be perfect, but they do expect us to be honest and kind. We can do that. Yes, it is scary. It’s tough facing when we’ve erred, but making mistakes is just part of the game and how we learn.

We will learn more from our mistakes/failures than we ever will our successes.

Time to Face the True Causes of Our Angst


Making too many commitments and then (mistakenly) believing we can’t change is one of the major causes of feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay to be flexible.

Fortune Cookie Moment: The stiff oak breaks in the strong wind, but the reed that bends endures.

Remember, the commitment you made to yourself, that list of goals? It can be redone. The commitments to others? Those can be changed too, IF we are brave enough to admit we goofed, or maybe life just CHANGED (Hey, I didn’t PLAN on being in an ER three times from Shingles) and then we must be courageous enough to make things right.

Go around the leaf.

~Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life”

Have you made a list of goals that is nothing short of ridiculous? How did you come to your senses? Did you feel guilty having to rework your list? Do you struggle with being over committed? Do you struggle telling people “no”?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


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  1. Err yes thinking I’m a bit mad for joining Create One a Day. I don’t think you can get away with creating one and not blogging it. We’ll see.

  2. A startling truth was revealed to me by a philosopher. I trekked up a mountain to meet this wise man. I asked: “Oh, Great One, what is the meaning of life?” He looked at me the way Great One’s do and said; “Before enlightenment, I did the laundry. After I was enlightened, I still did the laundry.”

    1. LOL. I love it!

  3. I’ve started adding things to my Google calendar, which emails me at 5am every morning so I know just WTH I’m doing for the day. It’s surprisingly working for me.

    1. Hey I like that tip, thank you. Think I need help with organising.

  4. My wife and I sat down years ago and made a decision that we would pay little attention to each other’s birthday, anniversaries, holidays, presents, cards, and just about everything else that offers up a need for regret and forgiveness should they be missed. Instead we spontaneously create times to share food, quiet time, walks, talks, and what else either of us might need. We are still careful to observe the special times for children: birthdays, Christmas, et al; but, other adults we try and explain our philosophy.

    We share our time, our food, our home with our friends and our family when we feel like it; or should we receive a notion from them that they have a need. (I will fault to making a big to-do out of thanksgiving, and marking Christmas,Easter and a few other days as special, and needing special attention, but not some commitment to spend – the exception being children)

    We have yearly goals, some separate, some the same. We have a daily routine. And we are always on the lookout for something special without the constant fear of having missed some occasion. We take every day as precious. I am cognizant at most times of something I might do to please my wife and family; not cause the occasion demands; because I want to.

    What does that have to do with the above? I believe that such constant demands on our wishing not to offend or forget takes valuable time away for a necessary routine that allows us to strive for those goals that we set.

    As always, great blog!

  5. I think giving yourself permission to change things (as they are not set in stone) is the biggest obstacle for many.

  6. As usual, it seems as if you’ve written this blog just for little old me! My BIGGEST problem in life is my passion/lack of focus. Not only do I want to finish my novel/build my author platform, but I want to resume posting on my fitnesswhore blog, launch a nutrition blog, produce a documentary about mental illness, get started on an exciting project for mom’s called SpaStork, write copy for a friend’s new site, be a mom, run a house, and lose 10 lbs. Not to poke fun at mental illness, but sometimes I feel like I belong in the boobie hatch, my mind is racing so fast with all of these “projects!” Living in Los Angeles, among several friends who are making a living off their non-author blogs, it’s tempting to dance to the beat of the cutsey moniker drummer, and hide behind a fashion/fitness/food branded blog forever. Putting me, steph mignon, out there like I have been takes guts and goals. I’ve wanted to write fiction first and foremost since age 10, so why oh why can’t I just keep my eye on that prize!?

    1. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, Steph. Also, what happened to the “first and foremost?”
      List all the projects in order of importance. Put fiction writing on the top of the list and work your way down. When you’ve compiled the list, cross off everything but the top 2. Start there. And I want the chance to review your fiction, not 5 years from now but in six months. And by the way, if you try to eat an elephant in one gulp, you’ll choke to death. Think of me as your Dutch uncle.

      1. Hi Frank! You make elephants sound so delicious! 6 months, eh? I can do that. I really can. Thank you so much for the kick in the chops. I’m in the home stretch on my first draft, and it’s comments like these that help me see the trees through the forest, or the entree after the appetizer in this case (ha)!

    • lynettemirie on January 26, 2015 at 11:27 am
    • Reply

    I came to the realization during a 3 week hospital stay with the shingle virus in my airways (off all places) that I had to rethink my priorities. I backed out of some commitments at home and at church with no regrets or looking back. Now in rewriting my first novel, I made a goal of only 300 words per day. Doesn’t sound like much, but translates into 30,000 words in 100 days – totally doable! Most days I write more but with no pressure.

  7. Your fortune cookie just helped me figure out my MC’s mental state in book 4!!!! OMG Um where does a writer get inspiration, EVERYWHERE!!!
    Balance isn’t walking a balance beam, its surfing! And yeah I’ve taken on a few extra projects this year because damn it I want to live my life and I am always going to be crazy busy. Some days it’s fine and other I want to punch myself in the face. But I’m figuring it out and asking for help.
    Also you helped me realize that i can go back to some of the blogs I wrote that I loved and re-do them, for the new people, to add things I’ve learned since then. So thanks for that too!

    1. Alicia, the modern world has made us all feel that if we’re not “crazy busy” then we’re lazy. Even ads tell you “you lead a busy life” “in this hectic world”, etc. Creative loafing is something I do when I watch football on Sundays. I do a lot of “what ifs” with my screenplays. I create posters using Microsoft Word. Images that ignite thoughts and ideas. Remember, surfing is on the surface. Try getting to the heart of things. Peel back the onion. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.

  8. Great, practical wisdom. And that fortune cookie quote is worth framing.

  9. So lovely. I love the RDD. I’ve had that my whole life, I’m afraid. I am sometimes afraid that if I change my goals midway through the year, I’m cheating – like I don’t trust myself to succeed, so I just change the goals and take the easy way out. I never really thought about it as a fluid set of goals, that we change, life changes, priorities, people – it all changes.

    • Rachel Thompson on January 26, 2015 at 12:00 pm
    • Reply

    Goal setting is one of those pseudo psychology things ,like a Zig Ziegler pitch, or get rich-in-real estate books, or Dale Carnegie’s books. What they are selling is hope and a way to trick your mind. They don’t teach you why your personality type is not conducive toward business, but they get you to mimic how success junkies work. It doesn’t work on ill inclined people most of the time. Goal setting is too nebular. What’s better is make a business plan and commit to it. See business as business. No Jedi mind tricks necessary. Like Yoda says, “do or do not, there is no try.” What that means is mastering the craft and the business. You can’t positive-think your way into a writing business. It’s hard work.

    1. Um, I never mentioned positive thinking our way into anything. But a business plan is by definition a set of goals. Having written many, a business with no mission statement or clear objectives (goals) is doomed to fail. There are short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. One -week objectives, one-month, one year, and on and on. If we don’t set where we want to be, how do we measure progress? We have no unit of measure to know if we are going a wrong way.

      Businesses and writers regularly need to do a SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) analysis to see if goals should be scrapped or changed. For example, changing my daily writing goals to accommodate Spawn being home full time. If I’d kept the same pace as I had when he was gone much of the day, I would have ended up in a loony bin.

      How can we expect get what we want if we have no idea what it is? Or write it down and plan it out? The mind is a powerful enemy or ally. It must be disciplined. Why get-rich-quick schemes don’t work is they hinge on thinking a way will produce the dream magically. We still have to work. Many people who don’t WANT to work and desire a shortcut. They believe these plans alone will give them what they want.

      And, I might add, that if a writer isn’t good at business, mimicking successful business entrepreneurs and learning from them is no less hare-brained than reading famous and successful authors or craft books or seeing how they work, research, spend their time.

      I read business books constantly and then cross-apply what I learn. I ignore what doesn’t fit my goals or my personality. And I get what you are saying. I read the 4 Hour Work Week and it is NOT my beer. But, I did learn some great tips for setting boundaries and maximizing my efforts. I use what works and dump the rest.

      And despite my piles of laundry, flooded bathroom and messy house, I FOUND time to blog. I didn’t positive think a thousand words into existence and have not positive thought 5 written books and almost a thousand blogs. I did that by setting goals, working hard, being patient and DOING.

      I also did that by setting goals with time limits. Deadlines. And YES, you are correct, writing is hard work, but goals make it more manageable 😉

  10. I love RDD…thank you for this post. Think I spent all last year realizing this too. Wish I was perfect. Had many goals but then took a paying job too and expected that I’d still keep up with said goals. Well, realizing that “goal” list is a work in progress and can be changed is a big lesson I have had to learn to live with. But keeping a running list so we don’t forget those goals are still important, and not to be completely forgotten,is a good way to go. I haven’t had as much time to read posts these days but am so glad I found this one…again, thanks!

  11. Just wanted to stop by and say congrats on being included in the list of the 50 best writing blogs! Well deserved!

    1. Which list, Hon? I knew about the Top 100. Is there another I missed? If so, thanks for the heads-up 😀 .

      1. Ha ha! Just lost ten minutes of my day trying to figure out where I’d seen the list! It came from here: http://positivewriter.com/best-writing-blogs/

        1. Awww, thank you, Hon ((HUGS))

    • Vanessa Porta on January 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for your blog. For your honesty and for putting “things” in perspective. Coincidentally, I’m writing about mistakes and failures in this chapter of my novel. Your insight is spot on. Thank you again.

  12. If you have questions regarding the value of little boys, you might want to watch this at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwDRZMoJtkk

    I don’t make New Years resolutions. I’m still working on the old ones. The haven’t proven to be failures, yet.

    Rick Perth

  13. I’m so glad I read your blog this morning! I’m on a leave now from my ‘real job’ a a Technical Writer and am working on a writing project for a contest but instead spent my last several hours in bed, watching Hoda Kotb & Jenna Bush Hager eat donuts and French fries in a ‘Which food has the least calories?” contest.

  14. What a great post! I am one of those people who do too much and struggle not to feel overwhelmed. I just have so many interests!

    I’ve decided this is my year to be GREAT. (Last year was my year to finally finish my book series). Outside of working FT, my *small* goals include: Finish editing the plots of ALL five books (only 500k words, right?), finish editing the first book completely, develop a business plan for publishing, finally test for my black belt in March, do an Easter voice recital, AND actually try to stay on top of my house cleaning!

      • Jennifer Boyer on January 26, 2015 at 6:41 pm
      • Reply

      Amazing…seems like just the american way!!!!

  15. Heh. Of course I did! Otherwise I wouldn’t be the writer that I am. At least two blog posts a week (one at the writing site, the other at the music site), personal journal, daily words (I use 750Words.com…these may or may not actually count for actual WIPs I’m working on), an hour or so daily of Current WIP Work, and a bit of artwork and music playing now and again. You might say I’m a bit…busy.

    [Hint: I may be using some of my Day Job time for some of the lighter things. The awesome thing about working from home, but don’t tell my boss! 😉 ]

    To be honest, though, I actually work BETTER when I have a crapton of goals, which is why I do this to myself year upon year. :p

  16. I hear ya. I made a great plan for this new year, even moderately realistic. I scheduled the time so that I could actually see what would be possible and what wouldn’t. I was so proud of myself because I scheduled 15 minutes per day for exercise and 15 minutes for spiritual reading/meditation so that I stay moderately sane and an hour a day for reading to/snuggling kids before bed, 3 and a half hours of the best energy time for high-concentration writing and and and all good stuff and reasonably balanced. It lasted one week. I did very well. It was a VERY happy week. Then my computer died spectacularly and I got sick and my husband had to work on the weekend and we had to visit the in-laws because we hadn’t been in 3 months and we had promised and promised… Grrr… So, it happens. Even with good realistic plans. I decided to excuse myself from exercise until I’m not sick anymore and instead I go back to bed after getting the kids off to preschool and read for 15 minutes. Ahhh, I feel better already. Still did my writing today but two of the hours got taken up with some very necessary and productive research. That happens too. I’m not going in for a rat race here. This writing thing will either pay off eventually and allow me to make a living at it or it won’t. Then I’ll go back to scraping a living together some other way and writing will be something I get to do 15 minutes per day. But I’m not going to live like a maniac while I try because that would defeat the whole purpose and while I could technically produce, the quality would not be worth much.

  17. Terrific piece! I’m LMAO too! Balance? Way wrong field of endeavour!

    Take it from one who is devoutly warped balance is the last thing you want. I suggest creating what you need as order from the chaotic ones around you. Better them than you right?

    Saturday morning past this took place…
    As I was getting my coffee this morn at my usual coffee spot I had some conversation with the Barista about some writing. She said to me with a stern look, “you’re an evil human being”.

    I said, “Thank You!”.

    I pointed out there are people that make this stuff up and I’m one of them.

    I take great pride in image cultivation. Especially my own. Then again I make up my own words and expect people to know them so I do have my fair advantage.

    Where people get stuck sometimes is in that giving 110% thingy. Well there aint no such thingy. I give 100%. Some days that 100% is more than the norm and some days it is less.

    I help. I’m also straight with people when they ask for a favour or for help. My usual response is to someone asking is, “If I can”. Now maybe I can’t and the reason is because I just don’t want to and I’ll tell them that too. As a standard rule, never do anything for anyone that you wouldn’t do for yourself. Saves time and angst. My angst. You are welcome to any you care to take on.

    When I bog down while at the word I developed a coping skill that always makes me feel better.

    May the paper cuts always be on the fingers of others!

    • Angie on January 26, 2015 at 5:28 pm
    • Reply

    Reblogged this on Love, Laughter, and Life and commented:
    Oh, the times I’ve had to eat crow, so to speak. If only I could really think things out first to determine the level of commitment and amount of time required, I think my stress-o-meter level would drop drastically.

    • Jennifer Boyer on January 26, 2015 at 6:36 pm
    • Reply

    I can honestly say, I matured to understand the importance of saying No. To over commit leaves me feeling worst than saying no, you must be honest with yourself and know what you are capable of. I Also am very flexible with myself which allows me shifty goals as i move forward.

  18. Reblogged this on Rantings of a Closet Vamp Princess and commented:
    Great article with good perspective. I encourage all writers to check it out!

    • Meghan Skye on January 26, 2015 at 9:48 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for keeping it real, I mean, somebody has to and clearly it’s not me. Perhaps the dopamine buzz will be palliative for this disorder which digs in deep and is recurring.

  19. Reblogged this on Books, Coffee, and Crafts News Emporium.

  20. Oh how I needed this post. So guilty. Guilty guilty guilty. Of wanting to do all the things, and then not being successful at it. I have actually created some concrete goals with deadlines and people to hold me accountable, but my timeline is speeding by me. Not doing well with balancing the day job and the work for my dream job right now. Ebbs and flows, but I’d like to make this more steady this year. Always a work in progress. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

  21. I LOVE to say no. No is currency I use to buy time. Like a toddler throwing a tantrum, it makes me feel empowered. No. Not having it! Are you kidding? Nada. Nix…there are so many ways to decline. I judge the strength of my demur by how many words the requester gets out before stopping mid sentence to beg my forgiveness for even thinking of asking (I’m sorry, I forgot that you don’t bake, head committees, play Bunco except with your most intimate friends, once a year, and only if free food Is involved…) and yes, I still have friends. Thanks for the opportunity for a fun rant before i turn off the light love your blog.

  22. My New Year’s resolutions for this year seem surprisingly achievable, at least so far. But putting those aside, I’m a hoarder for smaller goals. I should learn this and learn that, finish a project and start a new one, play more, read more, write more. Sometimes they get a bit overwhelming and I end up dumping a bunch, although usually they creep back later. Creating detailed lists of goals and how to achieve them, and how to schedule them, is definitely something I should do. I suppose the only good thing about them is that they’re all commitments to myself, so I don’t have to face other people and tell them “no” which I don’t like to do (but I’ve gotten better at it lately).

  23. And people call me energetic. I’m supercharged just reading your post, Kristen!

    I could never have unschooled my kids–I would have LOTS of time to write from the resulting prison cell I might have earned me… 😉

    Ah goals: I’ve learned to keep them far more manageable–and to keep the paper with stuff checked off vs. always write a new sheet!

  24. This is such a great post. Timely, too. 😉 Posted about it at MuseTracks. http://wp.me/plfG2-2xQ

    • Rachel Thompson on January 27, 2015 at 9:40 am
    • Reply

    RDD Reality Deficit Disorder very interesting phrase, cleaver indeed. Is that related the actual psychological terms know as Normality Bias and Cognitive Dissonance? I made up a phrase for this too, I call it Cognitive Disassociation. I study psychology, history, comparative religions and many other aspect of humanities in order to understand and incorporate authentic humanness into characters.
    On one level or the other, fiction is about the human condition and we writers are all students of it, weather we see it or not. One human truism I’ve discovered, relative to RDD, is this: People rather believe than know. ( I can show statistics and studies) If a fact undermines a belief, the majority of people will reject the fact and defend the belief. Knowing how people actually tick is fabulous for writing fiction and understanding the real world. Recognizing RDD in one’s self is a giant step toward reality.

    1. Yeah, and I think this goes to what we were discussing about some of the success gurus. Claiming “I AM A MILLIONAIRE” is ludicrous. Deep down we know that is a bold lie and most people can’t sustain this kind of grand delusion long-term, no matter ho revved up a book or a conference gets them. But, walking around calling ourselves failures is counterproductive. But, it IS realistic for me to claim, “I am getting better every day. I am a finisher.” Then add in the WORK that backs up the new “belief.” My favorite saying is, “I am not yet where I want to be but sure not where I used to be.” 😀

  25. As always a delightfully timely read. I was caught out by the expression “Muzzle Walk”. I think I understand it in context…but I couldn’t find a source to verify the meaning. Can you give me a clue?

    1. When firing a gun, the force of the bullet is powerful because it’s essentially a contained explosion. Physics. So if you only fire one bullet at a time or a short burst, you (the shooter) can correct for the force that is “walking” the barrel off target. Firing a crap load of bullets negatively impacts accuracy. Make sense?

      So this proclivity for the muzzle to get off target is referred to as “muzzle walk.”

      1. That’s a nice detail. I fired weapons in the Army and I never heard the term. I like this kind of specific lingo. Even if I have to struggle to figure it out. Thanks.

  26. There must be many of us out here in cyberspace who are thinking alike. I published a post this morning on doing the Feng Shui thing with my spaces online. I’ve kept Twitter. Although I’m still a klutz with the number key (#), I beginning to really like the limit of 140 characters/spaces. And my following list is growing.

  27. *Sigh* have you been looking over my shoulder? I need to walk around more leaves instead of trying to crawl over them…thanks for making me realize I am not alone in my craziness 🙂

  28. How did you know all of my New Year Resolutions? And why are you so certain I will fail? March is almost five weeks away!

    1. How’s that Pulitzer going? 😀

  29. Writing requires imagination & tendency to read tends of book which you can’t achieve when you’re a teenager (speaking about 90% of the world’s population).

  30. On one hand, it’s refreshing to hear a writer who’s been in the game longer than me have the same problems, on the other… it’s a bit daunting to know I’ll still be facing the same obstacles later. Eek. Good to know so many other people are in the same boat.

  31. I have two equal and opposing problems: the tendency to make ambitious plans, and the tendency to be lazy. Unfortunately I’m never quite certain how hard I should be pushing myself. What is a realistic expectation?

  1. […] then this week’s link is just for you. Author (and funny gal!) Kristen Lamb wrote an enlightening and entertaining blog on what she calls Reality Deficit Disorder. Bless […]

  2. […] feel like giving up, Jody Hedlund discusses how to handle bad book reviews, Kristen Lamb deals with Reality Deficit Disorder, Kathryn Craft gives you permission to quit, and Nancy Panuccio redefines writing […]

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