Just Say No NaNo



In college, we playwrights would get together and have what we called bake-offs. This was an idea we’d gotten from playwright Paula Vogel. We would gather on a Friday, set some arbitrary rules (all the plays, for example, would involve a pile of five-dollar bills, a literary allusion, and a bottle of rubbing alcohol), and then go to our respective corners. We’d write all weekend, get back together on Monday, and read each other’s plays. Then we’d choose our favorites and stage them. All the plays were 10-minutes long. This was great fun. We all felt inspired and glowed with stardust. I don’t remember any of the plays that came out of this exercise.

This and similar experiences defined my writing life for years. I wrote in fits of jubilant inspiration, despaired of any given piece within a revision or two, abandoned everything, quit writing for months at a time, eventually started thinking about writing again (in wholly unrealistic terms: fame, glory, girls, etc.), got inspired again, bought a new ostentatiously understated notebook. Rinse, repeat.

I mean no disrespect to the good and generous people who do/support/orchestrate NaNoWriMo every year at this time, but it’s not something I think is especially good for writers or writing. What was missing from my writing life in those years was not inspiration, accountability, or even diligence; it was patience, and I think that NaNo teaches a version of writing that eschews patience.

A few years after college, I had an idea for a novel. So, of course, I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico (I tried to book passage on a freighter between Tampa and the Yucatán peninsula, but that proved impractical). I found a place to live with a guy called Pablo, tried to learn Spanish. I had brought four or five books in English, and I read them over and over. Between September and December, I wrote nothing. I wandered around the city, took buses, carried a notebook, looked for something unnameable. It was terribly lonesome, and the ascetic part of me loved it. In January, my girlfriend (now wife) came down for a visit. We went to Chiapas, Guatemala, Belize. When she left, I was lonelier than ever. All I wanted was to pack up and head north, but I was determined not to leave the country until I had a draft of the damned novel. It took me two months, but I wrote the whole thing. Probably 90K words, eight to ten hours a day, six days a week. Then I got on a bus and headed north. My brother picked me up at the border.

The whole long trip north, I felt like a writer. I had literary dirt under my fingernails, a draft under my belt. Whenever anybody asked, I said I was an escritor. People seemed genuinely impressed, and I felt great. Until I reread what I had written. The novel was a disaster. Still is. I’ve hardly touched it since, and I didn’t write much of anything for the next few years until I decided to put together applications for grad school.

This is why I take issue with NaNoWriMo. Not because I’m some kind of literary snob. Not because I think literature is some sacred bauble that I must hold just out of reach of the fan-fiction-loving plebeians. I take issue because I think that the lesson that most beginning writers need—the lesson that, not incidentally, I needed and still need—is a lesson in patience. They (and I) need to hear that art doesn’t happen in glittery fits of inspiration or in gut-busting fits of endurance. Inspiration feels grand, and endurance feels noble, but art happens in the long, slow grind of a lifetime. They don’t need accountability and applause, not that there’s anything wrong with those things. But what they really need is a long view of why writing is valuable (hint: it’s not because it’s fun) and how it happens (gradually). NaNo points young writers toward the cul-de-sac. Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, and many there be that go in there, but if we’re actually interested in encouraging beginning writers, in taking their writing and their aspirations seriously, we had better show them a more sustainable way, even if narrower and harder.

Sidenote: A few weeks ago, Åsa and I were discussing this, and she pointed out, rightly, that a good dose of write-till-your-metacarpals-crumple-like-beer-cans can be just the thing when writer’s block gets you. It can get you past the doldrums and into a shitty first draft, which you can revise. (You can’t, as she pointed out, revise a blank page).  But I still hold that this therapeutic approach to a specific project is radically different from the impulse behind NaNo, which is explicitly geared toward beginning writers and first-time novelists, not working writers hashing through a tough spot.


  • Jonathan Frey Jonathan Frey says:

    For a much funnier approach to this subject, see this really old post on HTMLgiant. The comments are especially worth the read.

  • Hi Jonathan, we really should stop meeting this way. I mean it!

    So you knew I had to comment on this one right? :-)

    NaNoWriMo is not something that is right for all writers, but works wonders for me. Here are the top ten reason for why I love NaNo:

    1)The first time I did it, I didn’t think I deserved being called a writer. Interacting online with thousands of other people who were just like me—working during the day, writing at night, dreaming of being an author—gave me the courage to come out of the just-fiddling-with-a-story stage and boldly declare that I WAS WRITING.

    2)My first NaNo was in a new town where I only knew people from work. Attending the kick-off party and write-ins instantly connected with me local writers of all levels. Five years later, I’m still keeping in touch with most of them and we meet up every November.

    3)I live a busy life, I make time for writing but often other things have to take priority. When I NaNo, I don’t feel guilty for prioritizing writing because it is only for one month.

    4)Being completely immersed in writing, talking about writing, hanging out with other writers (online and in person) for one full month invigorates me and keeps me going for the rest of the year.

    5)My family respects my writing and don’t think of it as a hobby, but that doesn’t mean they always understand why I have to seclude myself for long periods of time. During the month of November, they are very patient about leaving me alone and allow me to wonder about mumbling about fictional characters who I talk about as if they are my friends. Because, they know that after Thanksgiving, I’ll be back to a more normal version of myself.

    6)I’m a procrastinator by nature. NaNo keeps me accountable of my word count. It also gives me a deadline. I am not able to write without deadline. Setting my own deadlines doesn’t work. I need a contest entry, a submission date, or a funky sticker that says “NaNoWriMo Finisher.”

    7)All my writer friends are doing it (except Jonathan), so I do it too. And yes, if they told me to jump of a fictional bridge, I probably would.

    8)Jonathan already said this, but here it is again. I get words on the page, lots of words on the page and it may take me a year or more to edit them into a polished manuscript, but I can edit the words on the page. I cannot edit a blank page.

    9)I’m the type of person who gets things done best if I can completely immerse myself in something for long blocks of time. Writing an hour a day doesn’t work as well for me as writing for 5 hours straight. This is always how I get first drafts done. I’m very good at editing for an hour a day. Incorporating editing into my daily life is not hard. Incorporating writing is. (See #8)

    10)One of the manuscripts I started during NaNoWriMo and then spent a long, long time editing was recently requested by an executive editor at a major publishing house.

    • Jonathan Frey Jonathan Frey says:

      I’m delighted that you did respond. I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t an element of Asa(and other NaNo fan)-baiting in this post. I’m interested in having this conversation largely because I hear this positive testimony from people like you, but intellectually, there’s this dissonance between what I think I want to communicate to beginning writers like my own creative writing students (what, also, I wish had been communicated to me as a beginning writer) and what I hear NaNo communicating, albeit indirectly.

      But before I get too far along–congrats on the positive response from the editor! That’s fantastic (not surprising) news.

      What I hear you saying above is that NaNo propels you into writing, but that you bring a level of patience and perseverance to the table on your own. It’s that last piece, the post-Dec 1 perseverance that gets you from a sloppy first draft to a positive reception from a major house, that I think NaNo doesn’t merely not emphasize; NaNo de-emphasizes it. So I wonder if you’re not the notable exception, the writer who already understood patience and so was impervious to the risks of the NaNo experiment. I worry about the beginning writer who doesn’t have that and whose potential and enthusiasm will, as mine did as a younger writer, turn into despair, and in whom NaNo might engender a mindset that makes it difficult to persevere when setbacks hit.

      • When you say NaNo de-emphasizes the amount of edits necessary to make a NaNo piece a show piece, do you mean the NaNo organizers or participants? Every motivational email and other communications I get from the website before and during NaNo talks about how you lock your internal editor away during November, but then let them out again on Dec. 1. Maybe I’m hanging out with more serious writers during my NaNo sessions, but it’s understood that what you produce during November needs a lot of work when the month is up.

        • Jonathan Frey Jonathan Frey says:

          I mean the NaNo experience itself, the project and the way it’s framed. I’m thinking pedagogically here, thinking about what is–implicitly–communicated by the idea of a big race to 50K words in a month.

          As you know, a teacher has to recognize that the things that happen in the classroom contain both intended and unintended messages, and we have to consider both. I know that NaNo the organization works hard to compensate for this potential liability (the unintended message), but I think it may be too deeply embedded in the project itself.

  • Pete says:

    I did NaNoWriMo for about five years, and got one full novel manuscript, two partial manuscripts and two short stories (later published) for my efforts. (I edited one of the partials for several years, and it’s now finished and making the rounds with publishers.) One problem with NaNoWriMo is that it instills the idea that the job is finished at 50,000 words (or in my case, November 30 – I never hit the 50K goal), instead of being finished when the first draft is completed. After November I always had such a letdown that I couldn’t stand the idea of writing the novel (or anything else) for several months afterward. By the time I would start up again, much of my excitement and inspiration were long dissipated, which is one reason it took me more than five long years to finish that one novel. I think NaNoWriMo is useful in getting young writers in the habit of writing every day, but not so much in terms of creating a finished book, or even a first draft.

    • Jonathan Frey Jonathan Frey says:

      Thanks, Pete. You describe nicely the effect I’m getting at. I think it’s important to add that the job isn’t even finished with the first draft. Rather, it’s finished at the end of the fifth, ninth, or–in the case of Hemingway’s conclusion to Farewell to Arms–thirty-first draft. And it’s that kind of perseverance that I think NaNo may risk discouraging, if your and my experiences are any judge.

    • I agree with you Pete. I also think NaNo makes writers out of young people. Many of the write-ins I’ve attended have young readers trying their hand at writing for the first time. It’s inspiring to see them transferring their love of books into love of prose.

  • Kathryn says:

    As someone who has participate four or five years now (and as someone involved enough that I started my local group and ran it for a few years), I have to disagree. Like Asa says, it doesn’t work for everyone, but the idea behind it is not inherently a bad one. NaNo, for me, legitimized writing. I was a chemical engineering major the first time I participated. By the second year, I had switched to writing.

    I took four years off then, first to work on my MFA apps, then to get my MFA, then to work on my thesis and sort of go through MFA detox. But I’m back this year, and I’ve found that it’s helping me with quite a few aspects of my writing despite the fact that I’m working on a piece of writing that I know is bad. It’s helping me reestablish my writing schedule (one I’ve held on and off since graduating), and it’s really helping me with plotting.

    Sure, patience is important, but, judging by the writers I’m mostly surrounded by this month, the big problem isn’t patience; it’s feeling legitimate. It’s seeing writing as something worthwhile enough to make time for. It’s about putting aside those one-days and working on them now. It’s about forming community, and about being held accountable to something larger than you.

    That said, do I write like this all year? Of course not. Is NaNo all the writing I’m doing this month? Of course not. But NaNo taught me to get down to business, EWU taught me balance. Writers need both.

    Some people don’t understand this, but that’s okay. Maybe they don’t need (or want) to. That doesn’t mean they can’t write. My sister admitted to me the other day that she has the idea for an entire book in her mind. After some coaxing, I got her to talk a bit about her idea, and it’s extensive, and detailed, and original. But she won’t write it down because she thinks it would be bad because she isn’t a “real” writer like me. And that makes me so sad.

    I guess I get tired of all the vitriol against NaNo every year (not that I found this post nasty, but with what I’ve seen over the years, that’s the best way to describe it). We can’t all be “serious” writers (if that’s even a worthwhile word to insert into the conversation), but that doesn’t mean that we can’t all aspire to write—in this case, to write novels, or parts of novels, or what have you. So many of us “serious” writer love writers and writing, but then act in ways that create artificial barriers to those who want to practice the art. I found myself doing the same thing at my local NaNo kickoff party, mentally putting myself on a higher level than the others there, but I don’t think it’s productive to do that.

    But anyway, enough here. Had these words been in my novel, I’d be halfway to my word count for the evening! Sigh.

    • “…the big problem isn’t patience; it’s feeling legitimate. It’s seeing writing as something worthwhile enough to make time for. It’s about putting aside those one-days and working on them now. It’s about forming community, and about being held accountable to something larger than you.”

      Well said Kathryn and exactly what I feel but couldn’t phrase as eloquently.

    • Jonathan Frey Jonathan Frey says:

      This question of feeling legitimate is compelling. It’s probably the best argument for NaNo and similarly designed writing projects. But it doesn’t actually address my concern. I, like you, Kathryn, am concerned that creative writing be accessible to beginning writers, but I’m not convinced that NaNo is actually very generous or helpful to those beginning writers.

      This doesn’t have anything to do with serious/not serious writing. This has to do with helping beginning writers produce the best writing that they can. I’m all for access. I don’t like fan fiction, but if someone is going to write fan fiction, I feel responsible to take that person seriously–and that means taking their fan fiction seriously. (This doesn’t mean that I won’t also tell them why I’m not a fan fiction fan, but I won’t be a self-important asshole about it, and if they insist that’s what they want to do, I’ll help).

      I’ve seen the anti-NaNo vitriol too, and think it’s unhelpful. But I also think that it’s important, in the interest of granting real, meaningful access to beginning writers, to question whether or not NaNo is leading them toward something fruitful or if it’s just pacifying them while actually blocking their access to a more meaningful engagement with writing.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

      • I think it comes down to what the trade-off is Jonathan. Does the huge amount of people that NaNo brings to writing outweigh the negative aspect of inexperienced writers thinking they can write a publishable book in a month? I think it does, because eventually those naive writers will figure out the extra work required to produce good work.

        The people I interact with during NaNo, in person and online, are there for the experience of writing. Most of them have written for some time and they know the editing that’s involved afterward if they want to produce quality work.

        During my 5 years of NaNo-ing, I haven’t met anybody that think they can create a book by just vomiting words on the page for a month. Do you see this in your class?

        For many of the younger writers, it’s more about the social aspect than it is about the writing–or atleast it’s about both. They’re psyched about interacting with other writers more than they care about having a finished book.

        • Jonathan Frey Jonathan Frey says:

          I do see this impulse in my students. And it’s not limited to the young students. I remember it being present, in some form, among my MFA colleagues. I still see shards of it in myself.

          It manifests as this strange belief that there’s something magical or alchemical about the drafting process, and it leads to a fear that the next draft will somehow destroy the shining inner light of the previous. That’s part of what brings me to this subject and to my conclusion that NaNo feeds a fear-driven and short-sighted view of what writing is.

          But you’re right, ultimately, that it’s a trade-off. And I guess, for me, it comes down to the idea that I would rather provide meaningful access to writing to as many people as will have it, instead of providing a potentially larger number of people with access to what may well be a dead-end street.

          • “…something magical or alchemical about the drafting process, and it leads to a fear that the next draft will somehow destroy the shining inner light of the previous.”

            That’s very beautiful and very much how I thought about writing when I first started. I think it’s a sign of a beginning writer. Eventually we become more comfortable with “killing our darlings,” or at least plucking them out and putting them in a piece where they work better.

            A writer that feels this way would probably have a hard time revising no matter how long the first draft took.

      • Kathryn says:

        I think one of the issues here is stemming from the idea of what it means to be a beginning writer. Does it mean someone who, like me, is going to take it on to the level of advanced writer (hah. I just called myself advanced…)? Does it mean casual writers?

        I’ve seen people take real things from NaNo, and I’ve seen it not work for others. I guess I don’t like big overarching statements of “it’s good” or “it’s bad” because it’s both.

        • Jonathan Frey Jonathan Frey says:

          This is a great point. I guess that I’m assuming that “beginning writers” do, indeed, want to go on toward becoming more advanced writers. This feels, to me, more respectful of their ambitions.

          Also, you’re absolutely right that it’s more complex than just good or bad. And I probably overstate my case a bit in the post itself in interest of having this discussion, a desire based–as I mention in the above comment–on some bothersome trends I see in my creative writing students and in the younger version of myself. So, thanks for indulging me.

  • tanya debuff wallette says:

    Hmmm. I guess I have sort of a different outlook on all this. I’ve recently gotten a promotion at my work-at-home job, which is great, but which is also a ton more work, and I find myself, for the last 3 months, working 12 to 15 hour days. After and during that, I have 3 children to care for. Lately I’ve been jotting down notes on index cards, things that I want to write about but can’t because I’m working. Over the last few months this pile has gotten quite high, and so I decided NaMeWriMo was a great opportunity to force myself to make time to sit down after that 15 hour day and write. And I’m behind already, but I don’t care because it’s still more than I was able to prioritize before. I’m also of the opinion, like Asa, that anything that gets a writer writing is good, though the work that comes out of it might be anything but, at first.

  • Anna says:

    I thought this post was interesting, but I do have to say that as a first-time NaNo participant, I disagree that this is simply a “bad thing” for writers, beginning or otherwise.

    I have a degree in Professional Writing, but since I started college in 2005 I have been editing almost exclusively. I took a few creative writing classes in college, and I hated them. The too-narrow assignments, the endless reading aloud of our work without real discussion, the grading.

    I was disappointed by these experiences because for almost all of my childhood I considered myself to be a very good writer. Up until high school I loved writing fiction. When I was nine I hand-wrote a 100-page novel that has so far remained my longest work to date. I didn’t feel self-conscious about it. I just loved writing.

    As the years went on, the way I felt about my own writing took a turn for the negative. I had fits and starts at writing some kind of longer piece, a novel, something, but at the end of the day (or week) when I looked back I was disgusted with what I found on the page. I even felt this way about my own journals, which I’d kept fairly faithfully from the age of five onward. By the end of high school I was no longer journaling. By the end of college I was no longer writing unless it was for an assignment. My attempts at writing have been underscored by a lot of waiting: waiting until I finished a writing class, waiting until I really understood the idea of my plot, waiting until I thought that what I put down was decent work.

    I signed up for NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago because I thought I might want to write a novel, but I couldn’t do it for fear that what I would have at the end of the month would be something embarrassing that I could never show to others.

    But this year, I found myself working from home with more free time than usual (although of course, in the way of the Universe, freelance assignments have been flooding in since the beginning of November). I decided to write a novel. I wasn’t even sure, beyond a vague idea, what it was going to be about.

    On this, the 11th day in with almost 19,000 words down, I can’t tell you how relieved I feel. As an editor and reader of ridiculous amounts of fiction, I know that my story isn’t necessarily a good one, although the premise could be interesting. I know that the writing will not be publishable on December 1st and that, in fact, it will probably never be a piece that I show to anyone. But the other fact is that I have desperately needed to do this for years. I have needed to do it quickly, in a month-long burst of inspiration, without fear of doing it wrong or doing it badly. After I finished writing last night, I could hardly sleep because of what’s going to happen next to my characters.

    Maybe it’s true that great literary masterpieces are only created after a long, hard sludge through a lifetime. But I don’t really care. At this point, I don’t dream of being published. I’m just glad to be writing at all. It’s like finally letting out a breath I’ve been holding.

    Do young writers (of fiction, particularly) need guidance? At some point, yes, although beyond reading me stories, nobody guided me in writing when I wrote my 100-pager that featured a cast of 20+ orphans. Do beginning writers need teachers and feedback? I think in some cases, yes. But I think the last thing they need is for (yet another) someone to try and define why writing is valuable (who can really do that?) or tell them that the only way to do writing is patiently and slowly and with difficulty.

    I think that writing can be a struggle. I think that writing can also happen in bursts of joyful creativity. What’s sustainable for some writers is the NaNoWriMo model, and what’s sustainable for others is a slow trudge through text over many years. The writers that want to take the next step, to become “advanced,” to edit their manuscripts into something a publisher won’t laugh at, they’ll do that as it comes to them. But some of us just need to breathe for the first time in years. Some of us just need to stop being patient and timid and trapped by our own insecurities for the first time in years. And that’s what NaNoWriMo is for.

    What counts as meaningful is different for everyone. What counts as tapping into the best writing possible is different for everyone. The desire or lack of desire to take work public is different for everyone. It’s just nice to have a place to start.

  • “…without fear of doing it wrong or doing it badly. After I finished writing last night, I could hardly sleep because of what’s going to happen next to my characters.”

    Anna, this really resonates with what happens during certain points during my NaNo month. And I so look forward to those bursts of pure inspiration, of pure joy of writing. In those moments, I don’t care if the prose is good or bad, I just ride the high of creativity and let my mind fill with the possibilities of the story.

    I went to a talk by Candace Haven (http://www.candacehavens.com) at a writing conference this summer. She leads the “Fast Draft” workshops, which are all about spewing out a draft in two weeks. (Sorry Jonathan, there are things even more extreme than NaNo out there. But after the two weeks, Candace also talks about “revision hell.”)

    One of the reasons she believes in writing the first draft so quickly is because in your sleep-deprived, yet super focused mind, new channels of creativity opens up. You kind of enter a different realm of possibilities that is not available if you weren’t so immersed in your story. It’s also understood that your first draft is very far from the version of your story that should ever be shown to other people.

  • AkiKaza says:

    The thing is, NaNo makes you *write.* It makes you do those very things you didn’t do while you were wandering around Mexico all those months. It makes you stop saying “I’m gonna write that novel one day” and actually DO it. Writing is not something you can be patient with. Writers *write.* If you sit around and wait for that burst of inspiration to come find you, you’ll never get anything done. I’m sure you’ve figured that out.

    Yes, there needs to be a sense of patience – you have to be patient and get through the whole thing, you have to be patient and do your editing, if you send it out you have to be patient and wait for someone to accept it. You’re write, you must be patient. But you can’t do ANY of this until you have a novel under your belt. And if you try to be patient and wait until the perfect idea hits, if you just sit around not writing, then you’ll never get there.

    And yeah, the first draft is going to be shit. And we *know* that when we’re writing. The first draft of everything is shit. And that’s what everything afterwards is for – rewriting, editing, revising, all so you can polish the crap you spewed out on the pages and make it into something readable, possibly even glorious.

    But, once again, you can’t do any of that until you’ve written something. And that’s what NaNo teaches you – to *write.*

    “I take issue because I think that the lesson that most beginning writers need—the lesson that, not incidentally, I needed and still need—is a lesson in patience. They (and I) need to hear that art doesn’t happen in glittery fits of inspiration or in gut-busting fits of endurance. Inspiration feels grand, and endurance feels noble, but art happens in the long, slow grind of a lifetime.”

    Sometime are *does* happen in “glittery fits of inspiration” – if you write enough. If you keep going at it, something magical might happen – your plot might take an unexpected twist, or you finally figure out how to fill in that plot hole, or a new random character might pop up and introduce an interesting subplot that helps to further the story – but none of that will every happen if you just sit around waiting for it.

    “…the impulse behind NaNo, which is explicitly geared toward beginning writers and first-time novelists, not working writers hashing through a tough spot.”

    This is highly untrue, and demonstrably false. NaNo is *not* “geared towards” beginning writers and first-time novelists, although these kinds of people do tend to flock to it because it helps them do that one thing they want to do, which is write. But many “professional” and veteran authors use NaNo as well. Many published authors have written their first drafts during NaNo. Several returning writers use NaNo to get that first draft out of the way, so that they can actually turn it into something readable. It is definitely not for only amateurs, but for anyone who wants to use it to jump-start on their writing.

    It seems to me like writing just isn’t your thing. You dawdled around for a long time thinking about writing, reading about writing, doing anything *but* writing. How are you supposed to be a writer if you never write?

    But then you say this:
    “All I wanted was to pack up and head north, but I was determined not to leave the country until I had a draft of the damned novel. It took me two months, but I wrote the whole thing. Probably 90K words, eight to ten hours a day, six days a week.”

    You were determined not to leave until you had a draft finished. And that’s what you did. You wrote every day for about two months and you came out with a finished draft. You did exactly what NaNo helps a whole lot of other people to do, so why is it hard to understand what it does? You did your own NaNo. And that takes incredible amounts of patience, which you apparently have. But I think the patience you’re imagining comes with writing is completely different. From what I understand, either you’re saying be patient and wait for inspiration to strike, or be patient and write well and diligently from beginning to end. Well, while I can say that those techniques may work for some people, they don’t for a lot of us. Some of us just need an incentive to get the words down on the page. Yeah, they’re gonna be shit, but look what you’ve *done.* You’ve written 50k in a month (or in your case, 90k in 2). That’s more words of original fiction than most people will ever write in their entire lives. Isn’t that something to be proud of in itself?

    And not everyone who does NaNo is going to be so serious about it. Some just want to try their hand at a novel. Some do it as a hobby. Some find out that they really like writing through it. Others use it to jump start projects that they’ve been meaning to get to. The thing is, it teaches you the MOST important lesson of being a writer, and that is actually writing something. Not sitting around waiting for it to come to you, but to go out and do it. And I think you’ve learned that too.

    NaNo has a lot to offer people. But those who think it is the be all end all are incredibly misguided, and they will find out soon enough. There are a lot more things that go into being a writer, but you’ve gotta actually write something to get there first ;)

    (Note that I wasn’t trying to be rude or disrespectful, I know some of my comments may come off that way, but I don’t mean to, I’m just explaining myself based on what you’ve written here. I mean no offense, I promise!)

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