more home office musings…

January 23, 2019 2:14pm
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I know I’ve shared in the past how it’s common for me to have dreams about office space – not the movie, mind you, but the place in which I do my work!

Last night I had a brief one about moving into a new space, oddly enough right next to the warehouse that I used to work at back in my hometown, and the defining factor seemed to be that it was big … like a huge canvas with infinite possibilities.

I think it’s fun to think about what you would do with a new space, whether it’s a house or an office or whatever. Plus, right now my own house is filled with an insane amount of clutter, so this idea of starting fresh with a completely empty room is particularly exciting!

To some extent, I think that a clean space can also be good for creativity, too.

I’ve been slowly working at cleaning up my home office, and though I’ve still got a ways to go, it’s amazing just what being able to walk through the room and see my desk has done for improving my desire to actually want to sit down and write in my office again. Before you could technically get to my keyboard – if you had to – but it certainly wasn’t someplace that I wanted to spend hours on end, but a couple of evenings with garbage bags and the shredder have already been a huge help!

I’m also exploring some ideas for little enhancements I can do to freshen up the place … things like adding a second DAKboard solely for my to-do list and some new shelves for my rapidly growing collection of Funko Pop figures. Eventually I really want to build out something to help track my word counts across various projects – maybe that’s something I could feed into DAKboard via a widget or whatever they call it.

It’s amazing how surrounding yourself with those kinds of fun and interesting things that you enjoy can influence the work that you’re trying to do, too. 😉

ONE MILLION WORDS BLOGGED!!!

January 18, 2019 10:17am
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And so here we are, some seventeen years since my very first blog post went up back in 2002…

A million words … wow!

This is a number that I’ve been chasing for years – typically whenever I’d hit another groove and get back into blogging every day, I’d think to myself, “This is going to be the big year!”

And then it wasn’t. 😛

2012 was apparently a very good year for blogging when I averaged 1.4 posts per day and 156,606 words total!

Surprisingly, despite occasionally being a bit long winded, my average post length is only 284 words, which just shows that those little posts that you knock out in 15 minutes can really add up over time. 😉

One stat that I found particularly interesting was my most popular tags by word count…

  1. rants – 153,136 (293 posts)
  2. geek stuff – 90,574 (258 posts)
  3. summary posts – 79,726 (130 posts)
  4. creative-type stuff – 79,380 (195 posts)
  5. politics – 75,683 (184 posts)
  6. movies – 71,840 (187 posts)
  7. diet & exercise – 65,736 (161 posts)
  8. dreams – 49,736 (86 posts)
  9. video games – 48,056 (198 posts)
  10. technology – 41,673 (141 posts)

Note: All of these stats come from the WP Word Count plugin by Link Software – the pro version is less than twenty bucks for unlimited sites … I’ve been using it for years and I love it!

One more of interest – looking at the blogging platforms that helped me to write those ONE MILLION words…

  • Fusion PHP (2002) – 9,747 (<1%)
  • LiveJournal (2003 – 2011) – 462,133 (46%)
  • WordPress (2011 – CURRENT) – 528,670 (53%)

It’s just amazing to me to look back over everything that I’ve blogged about over the years – mind you, I don’t really make any money or anything from this site, but it’s immensely valuable to me because it really serves as a journal where I’ve publicly shared so many of the most important moments from my life…

…and of course, plenty of nonsensical, rambling or otherwise just plain weird moments and thoughts and ideas, too!

So what’s next???

The short answer is – I have no idea!

No more than I could’ve predicted any of what got me to this point, anyways. One of my favorite things about my blog is that by not locking in to a particular theme or topic, it frees me to write about anything and everything! One day I might feel inspired to write about video games or a movie that I just saw, and others I might be feeling a bit more nostalgic or want to share vacation photos or even, dare I say, share some thoughts about politics!

*shudder*

One thing I will say is that with my first one million behind me, I hope that this inspires me to write more … you know, so that maybe I can get to two million before I’m ready to retire! 😉

Blogging is something that I really enjoy because it’s personal, and yet it’s a way to share a little bit of me in a medium that I’m very comfortable with considering just how much of an antisocial, introverted hermit that I am. 😛

Over the next million words, I’m looking forward to sharing even more milestones, and ranting about things that bug me, and bragging about my kids, and everything else that has made the last million words so enjoyable. :mrgreen:

Only 998,905 words to go…

As one often does at the beginning of a new year, I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity and ways that I can get more things done to make this year my absolute best yet.

It started with returning to using a to-do list app – in this case, Todoist – and along with the tracking and accountability, it’s also lead me to change how I look at my work not only to keep myself more upbeat and positive in hopes that it shows through in the things that I do, but also in carrying that perspective through to work that I maybe didn’t get done or needed to postpone to avoid The Negative Cloud of Failure from holding me back even further…

My new strategy is something that I’m definitely piecing together a little bit at a time, but here’s where I’m at right now…

  1. Always remember that postponing a task isn’t failure. Work sometimes gets delayed for a variety of reasons, and it doesn’t do any good to dwell on them. Plus, sometimes a task scheduled for today gets bumped for something else that ended up being more important – life goes on!
  2. Start and end my day knowing my priorities. I’m trying to get in the habit of making Todoist my first stop online, even before social media or email, because it helps me to mentally plan my day. I like to end there, too, as it gives me a chance to review what tasks are leftover and reconsider their priorities as I reschedule them.
  3. Keep my number of tasks manageable. The last time I used Todoist, it eventually got backlogged with literally years worth of old tasks until it became daunting and frankly depressing to see my list of incomplete tasks growing more than shrinking. So instead, I try not to put every little thing there, and if a single day has more than about half a dozen tasks, I know that I need to trim it up to keep from getting overwhelmed.
  4. Have multiple kinds of work available. I’m not always in the mood for working on certain kinds of tasks, so instead of spinning my wheels all day, I’ve found it’s helpful to keep a variety in my pipeline so I can work on things that excite me as productivity fuel as much as possible!
  5. Look at work as smaller pieces instead of one big task. A great example – my home office has been the place to dump everything for almost a year, so it’s a real mess. I’m trying to clean it up, but it’s certainly not a task I can tackle in an evening. Instead, I’ll put something like Office Cleaning, part 4 as a task on my list and when I get to it, I’ll spend some time filing or cleaning up a portion – something I can do in an hour or two. And only when I get #4 completed do I add #5 to the list – that way I’m not constantly tripping over tasks.

One other thing I’m thinking of doing is setting up a dedicated monitor by my desk that just displays my current task list (I like the Next 7 Days option in Todoist because it gives me a glimpse of a week or so at a time).

I could either just have a browser with the Todoist website open directly, or I see that DAKboard now offers integration with Todoist as well and I’ve really come to like them for my digital calendar.

Right now I tend to keep it open in a browser tab at all times, but I think something more front and center might also help to keep me more accountable when I feel like killing time around Facebook or Twitter instead of knocking out a quick blog post or something! Especially when you’ve got tasks of various sizes, being able to look at your to-do list and think, “Hey – that will take me about 20 minutes and I’ve got half an hour right now, so why don’t I do it instead of watching videos on YouTube?!” is great for being able to feel more productive at the end of the day because you were more productive!

Over time I’d like to slowly expand my usage to be able to track more long term goals and ideas – for example, right now I’ve got a project in Todoist for things I want to read/watch/listen to but didn’t have time to when I stumbled across them. It’s easy enough to just copy & paste a website link, but for ideas I’d like to add more context and notes if I have them – kind of like what you might do in Evernote or a totally different app.

think you can do that in the paid version of Todoist, and if my newfound momentum keeps up for weeks and months, I can see how it could easily be worth the whopping $3/month … but again, baby steps right now as I just ease back into things and really try to feel out a system that works right for me! 😉

In my ongoing attempt to make 2019 my best and most productive year to date, one of the ideas that I’ve been exploring is how I should best spend my time.

I’ve already written about the downsides of social media, and that’s definitely something that I’m trying to curb in search of this new me.

But at the same time, sometimes I struggle because not everyone online is bad – in fact, that’s been a major concern whenever I distance myself from social media is that I’m going to lose track of the people who I really do want to follow in the process!

So one thing that’s helped is taking a look at each of my interests and thinking about whose insights and opinions I really value in those areas. And those are the people who I’m primarily following, on social media and elsewhere.

Because I figure if I’m going to spend time reading stuff on the Internet, why not steer clear of the random strangers and drama queens and instead devote my time to people who I actually care about?!

Here’s my list so far…

These are all people who inspire me, they make me laugh, and the things that they do make me happy, so if push comes to shove, I’d rather kill a few minutes checking out something new that one of them did than arguing with some random stranger on Facebook. 😉

A … Already?!

B … Busy Busy Busy

C … Christmas Cookies!!!

D … Donations

E … Elf on a Shelf (is creepy as fuck)

F … Fudge (but I didn’t say fudge!)

G … Garfield Christmas

H … Hot Chocolate

I … I sure hope it doesn’t snow in Florida!

J … Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas

K … thinking about learning Karate to fend off the mobs at the mall!

L … 25,000 Twinkling Lights

M … Merry and Bright

N … ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

O … Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree (Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree…)

P … Presents!!!!!

Q … Quick, I think I heard Santa up on the roof!

R … Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer

S … Sugar Plums (I have no idea what these actually are, let alone if they’ve ever danced in my head…)

T … Toys and Treats

U … Up on the House Top

V … Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

W … We Wish You a Merry Christmas (and a Hippo New Year)

X … It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Xmas!

Y … All I Want for Christmas is You

Z … Christmas Zebras??? (my kids love zebras, so why not?!)

48 Hours Later…

February 18, 2018 10:28pm
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Where did this weekend even go???

Deplorable Discussions
As one might expect, I’ve had a lot of discussions about mass shootings the last couple of days. A couple of them have been insightful, but most … have not … which I think has only built upon my anger because it truly is deplorable to spend the time immediately after a mass shooting that took the lives of 14 students and 3 teachers debating the semantics of what makes a mass shooting” or this notion that “there’s no such thing as an assault rifle.”

If anything, it’s really driven home the fact that as much as even I’m willing to consider that many factors are at work with these terrible acts, at the end of the day it’s ALWAYS been about guns, and the right just doesn’t want to talk about that.

The T-Shirt Idea
So the other day – I think right after the shooting took place, I left a comment on a friend’s post in the vein of “Fuck Your Feelings” … no, Fuck Your Guns! in parody of those smug Trump supporters who wore shirts saying as much at rallies back in 2016. At the time I joked that it would make for a great t-shirt, but left it at that until Saturday morning came around and another barrage of tasteless comments got me just fired up enough to actually realize that I had all of the tools to put something together in fairly short order…

I don’t know if I honestly expected to sell any versus it just being a funny jab at Trump supporters, but it was admittedly exciting when an actual order popped up for one after a Facebook page that was seeing a lot of attention that night themselves was kind enough to share a link to their 1,000+ followers when I asked!

As I watched the pageviews shoot up faster in 45 minutes than they had all afternoon, that’s when I started to think that maybe this could be something bigger.

Social Media Frustrations
Like I mentioned the other day in an earlier post, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around how to make social media work for my creative projects. It always seems like you need followers to get visibility, but you also need visibility to get followers, and I’ve just never been able to figure out how to bridge that gap.

I was kind of hoping that maybe this idea would be a better social media fit because it’s punchy and controversial, as well as very timely now with so much discussion around gun control and how to move forward.

Pretty late into the night, I finally decided that if this idea did have potential, I needed a better presentation, so I started working on a single page website that features an essay of about 900 words to collect all of the thoughts that I’ve had around what we as a people need to do, also highlighting some of my biggest frustrations with the anti-gun control crowd.

That website can now be found at fuckyourguns.org.

You Can’t Beg People to Retweet You
I literally stayed up all night to finish the site – I think I finally went to bed somewhere around 7:30am, but for what it’s worth, I’m super proud of how it turned out.

My main goals were to A) focus on statistics, and B) make it personal, and I think I did both of those quite well.

I wanted the text to be a clear jab at the extreme gun advocates, but still convey that it doesn’t have to be that way … they just need to be willing to come to the table for an honest and open conversation, too.

After watching the success of the first share on Facebook, I figured that if I could get just one person with a mid-sized following to share a link to the site, I’d be golden! So I put together a list of people who I followed in other avenues – several comedians and a few other liberal activist types, and I sent them a simple tweet asking if they could help signal boost just like I had with the first guy on Facebook.

Mind you, I was super super nervous doing this because I know it’s not always smiled upon, but I hoped that I’d have just the right message to catch their attention in a positive way. Plus, I knew that they’d all been commenting about gun control over the weekend, so the request was on point. I was ready to wake up a few hours later and just have my mind blown when I pulled up the stats and sales!

SPOILER: Nothing happened.

Social Media Roller Coaster
All I could think about was how cool it would be to have a $50,000 check to hand over to a non-profit in support of gun control, or even $150,000! It really wouldn’t even require that many shirts sold, and damn if they wouldn’t make a powerful statement filling a protesting crowd with a sea of royal blue.

Though admittedly I’m not sure how the media would cover it without having to literally censor every single shirt!

This is actually a great example of why social media just drives me bonkers because just one taste – even a small one – and you know that the potential is there, if only you can figure out how to tap into it!

That said, there are a lot of nuances to remember … sharing and growth are meant to happen organically, not by you sending a tweet from a new account begging for a RT!, and sites like Reddit super frown on users posting their own links. I learned this the hard way once because I had some blog posts that I really wanted to share … got a ridiculous number of pageviews, but also my share of negative comments about not following the rules.

And that’s what makes it tough about social media – to know that there’s this giant firehose of users waiting to click links, but it takes a lot more effort than just passing by and wanting some in order to get any.

A Dwindling, New Hope
So I honestly don’t know what to expect and/or hope for anymore. I’d still love to see this take off and generate a bunch of money for charity because I really believe in the cause, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen and I really worry – both for this project and the cause in general – that a week from now gun control won’t even be a blip on the radar anymore because our shitty, short attention span news cycle will have moved on to a dozen other issues by then.

In the meantime, I did create a Twitter account specifically for the project and took some time this afternoon to follow a few dozen people talking about gun control, liking and retweeting and commenting on other tweets in between sharing a few quotes from my own piece. Still, I haven’t really seen any activity at all in return – not even so much as a single follow. 🙁

In retrospect, I do wonder if I might’ve inadvertently shot myself in the foot – pardon the expression – by using the word FUCK because I’m curious if Twitter’s ranking algorithm either filters content with “adult language” further down in one’s news feed or even just keeps it hidden altogether!

I was already reminded that Facebook doesn’t allow FUCK in its advertising because I tried to create a quick $10 campaign to try and drum up a little attention, only to have it quickly declined due to vulgar language.

Funny how Facebook seems to be a-ok with circulating political propaganda from Russian bots to sew discourse with American users prior to our election, yet the word FUCK is over the line. 😯

Fin
So that’s where we are as of late – I suppose the upsides are that while I haven’t sold a lot of my vulgar, gun control t-shirts, I have sold a few and it’s kind of neat to think about them being worn out in the public or at one of the upcoming protests!

I’ve also probably written more in the last four days than I have in the last two months, so there’s that.

Plus, I still have a couple of things I want to work on before I go to bed earlier than 7:30am tonight, so I suppose I should wrap this up. One is even a new humor piece for Just Laugh that I want to run tomorrow … I don’t even want to look at the last time I posted on that site!

I’ll give you one guess as to what the topic is going to be about… 😉

Creative Brain Drain

February 16, 2018 10:56pm
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I haven’t really written much for the last couple of months.

Part of it has been between work and the holidays and money issues and parenting stress and about a billion other things, my brain just hasn’t had much bandwidth left to be creative with at the end of the day.

Another part is that – I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a proper crisis of faith – but I’ve been kind of demoralized about writing and publishing online, and even now I’m not quite sure what to make of it…

It’s weird because whereas 20 or so years ago when I started doing all of this, I looked at the Internet as freeing because I could publish things online that would never be accepted by a print publisher. But now the landscape has become more mature, and I don’t necessarily think that my issue is that there are a ton more people publishing online than ever before – which does make it tougher to fight for an audience, but moreso it feels like social media has become overtly cumbersome to the point where it’s no longer this helpful tool to boost your signal and connect with your audience, but instead this weird ecosystem of its own that commands its own rules and yet doesn’t really pay back creators likewise for their efforts whatsoever.

This article about Funny or Die laying off its editorial staff because of Facebook speaks a lot of greater truths that over the years I’ve observed firsthand with my own creative projects because it seems like what started out as these neat social networks gradually evolved into their own walled gardens where traffic doesn’t really flow away from Facebook and the likes.

It used to be that you’d write something, post it to your website, and then share it on social media and your fans would click through and check it out…

But instead today when you share a link on Facebook, it reaches a very small subset of your fans and Facebook generously encourages you to boost your post by paying them an advertising fee! Which would be fine if that then in turn increased your clickthrough rate, but instead today most Facebook interactions stay squarely on Facebook, so instead of reading an article and absorbing a few ad views, now a fan might only read your headline or blurb on Facebook, Like it, and engage in a comment war right there on Facebook without ever even visiting your site or actually reading what you wrote in the first place.

Worse yet, you lean more towards creating content specifically for Facebook through albums and memes and embedded videos and your Facebook page looks awesome, but at the end of the day it’s a giant time suck that doesn’t attract any new readers to your actual work or improve your ad revenue in any conceivable way.

Oh yeah, and there’s also scammers and fake accounts and clickbait posts that compete with yours for views that drive up advertising costs and crash otherwise diminishing returns even further into the ground!

On top of all of this, I have other issues with the Internet that have made it a less desirable frontier than it once was…

  • Misleading clickbait Taboola ads on even some of the most otherwise legitimate sites
  • Less interest in the written word in favor of video, memes, throwaway content
  • Clickbait content in general overshadowing actual creative effort (e.g. sometimes it’s hard to even watch movie trailers on YouTube anymore because people will create fake trailers labeled as official that get millions of views when the movie isn’t even in the works)

At the end of the day, I still want to write things that can make people laugh and make people think … I’m just not sure how that works online in 2018 anymore?

In the past I’ve never had a HUGE audience, but most of the time it was respectable, and maybe I had a project here or there that was admittedly more for me because it didn’t really take off, but when everything that I’ve just described all balls up together and it feels like nothing is getting any traction anymore, I suppose it’s admittedly kind of depressing and eventually it leads you to wonder if maybe there are other things that would be a better use of your time.

…particularly right now when finding “free time” to write is often such a struggle as it is… 🙁

So that’s where I am right now.

Yesterday I wrote probably my first piece in a good while – something about the perpetual cycle of inaction that we seem to see after our mass shootings here in America – and I was honestly pretty happy about how it had turned out, but then I let some early criticism from someone close get to me and it sort of took away most of the energy that I’d built up after finally posting something new for the first time in ages! :<

I know that I desperately need this creative outlet in my life. It helps to keep me sane and happy and organize the thoughts in my head, but I’m really struggling in a way that I’ve never quite felt before and I’m not entirely sure how to move forward from here.

Toying with Contently

October 25, 2017 5:30pm
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For the longest time, I’ve been in search of a really good hub website to showcase all of the various things that I write. I ended up making one myself because I just never found anything that I liked – you can see it on the front page of this site – but it’s still not perfect.

My ideal option would be a WordPress theme that I can plug RSS feeds from all of my other sites into, and then it would aggregate everything that I write from everywhere all into one nice and pretty news feed.

A layout similar to what Pinterest looks like would be ideal, which is why I was kind of curious when I saw Contently mentioned on social media the other day, so I decided to check it out. The site is actually designed to host a portfolio for freelancers, so the display itself is very cool. The part I’m not crazy about is that it’s entirely manual because it’s meant to be a curated portfolio, so I had to enter URLs for every single article listed, as well as tweak the excerpts because it just grabbed the first X characters of each post…

I still like it from the perspective of creating a portfolio of my favorite work, so I took a few hours to scour all of my recent projects to find 30 – 40 pieces to fill it. And it was neat that I could include my books in it as well, although it kind of stands out that the site is designed for people working for mainstream sites because all of those boring, text file shapes at the top of my profile are supposed to be much larger “As seen in…” logos if I had work for any bigger sites like The New York Times or The Huffington Post.

I’m kind of surprised that they don’t grab a site’s favicon if it isn’t already a preferred outlet – would make for a nicer presentation…

I honestly don’t know if I’ll do anything else with it just because there’s not really much else to do, but if you’re looking for something to read, right now I think it’s a solid collection of some of my own personal favorites that you might enjoy reading as well!

(Tip of the hat to Sara Benincasa whose post on Facebook about her own portfolio pointed me to Contently in the first place…)

For years and years, my blog here on scottsevener.com was a mirror image of the blogging that I started over at LiveJournal – at least from 2003 – 2011, anyways, until I moved over here and stopped blogging over there. But still, 14 years of blogging always seemed like an impressive archive of the non-formatted writing that I’ve done over the years…

…until now!

Because do you want to know what’s even more impressive than 14 years of blogging?

How about 15 years of blogging?!?!?!

After I wrote my post last week reminiscing about my first adventures of Internetting a la Grex, I got to thinking that even though I technically started blogging on LiveJournal in the spring of 2003 … there was actually some “blogging” that I also did on comedic-genius.com way back when that was the only domain I had other than Just Laugh!

Thankfully I’m a bit of a digital packrat, so I was able to find the old PHP files that made up the original comedic-genius.com that served as the same sort of hub site for my online work that this one does now. But it was sooooo much more grueling because long before the days of adopting WordPress, I created my sites the hard way by coding directly in Notepad – a combination of HTML and PHP in all, with every formatting tag and line break typed by hand instead of this fancy WYSIWYG-editor that is a staple in every major CMS today! 😯

From what I can tell, I did use some sort of blogging software called Fusion PHP … according to the comment tags, anyways … but it was barely a CMS in that I still typed everything by hand and posts were just stored one after another in PHP files as they appeared on the page.

So anyways – I just finished copying the last of 23 new blog posts from 2002 into this site because, err, why not?!

I can’t really vouch for their readability or entertainment value … they’re mostly a mixture of updates about whatever columns I had just finished writing and random life happenings … so I’ll leave that up to you to judge the worth of a 22-year-old’s late night ramblings! 😛

Still, you know me – I think it’s neat to have this kind of stuff to look back at from time to time over the years, and so here are another 11,000 words to add to the pile when reflection time is upon me once again.

By the way – just for reference, I tried to update links wherever I could because all of the humor columns are still available today as well as some of the Just Laugh features, but others never/haven’t yet made it into the latest version so don’t be surprised if a few links here and there appear to be dead-ends.

For what it’s worth, I still think my linking history success rate is probably considerably better than most sites linking back to content from fifteen years ago! 😀

Blogging Can Be Anything!

April 22, 2017 12:24am
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I’ve been blogging a bit more lately, I think because in general I’ve been writing a lot more lately, too.

In a way, I feel like I’m starting to grow a newfound appreciation for blogging because it serves as such a good complement to the other things that I write. Looking across the other writing projects that I currently have, whether it’s my humor column or my editorials or Disney writing or even my latest idea that I’m getting ready to launch soon, all of them have an overarching structure that determines what I’m going to write about.

And I guess that’s kind of the odd beauty about blogging because it gives me a place to write anything else that happens to be on my mind – from movie reviews to reflections on my life, weird dreams that I’ve had and even relationship advice! You could say that my blog has become that spiral journal you keep under your mattress to write in whenever you feel the urge, and it’s nice to have a place where I can brain dump from time to time some of these ideas that may not necessarily be enough to go into a full column or article or humor piece about, but it’s still interesting/goofy/fun/weird/WHATEVER to me and I want to get it down on digital paper anyways.

One of my dreams particularly for this blog has always been to see it turn into something a little more prominent, maybe like Scalzi’s blog or one of these other big names in blogging who are known for something else, but also write a really intriguing blog that their readers follow and enjoy as well, so in the back of my mind I’m secretly hoping that simply just writing more and more and more could be a gateway to unlocking that kind of interest.

But it starts with simply enjoying the writing for yourself, and I also feel myself sliding back into that role once again, so either way I think we’re doing pretty good. 😉

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