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Ingredients for Creativity and Innovation

Ingredients for Creativity and Innovation

I rather liked this article. It reminded me that I use several of these techniques but must make a habit of using them continuously to maximize my potential. As a Virtual Assistant my days are never exactly the same, so I have to work harder at making good practices into second-nature.

7 ingredients for Creativity and Innovation

by Eve Ash / Tuesday, May 10 2016

Click for Full Article and Credits

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“Discovery” Albert Szent-Gyorgyi wrote, “is seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought”. Very true, which is why all workplaces seeking to make their mark should provide the following necessary conditions for creativity and innovation.

Space

This means a certain amount of latitude to pursue a problem or consider alternatives. It is difficult to be innovative when someone is micromanaging you or tut-tutting about the state of your desk or personal circumstances. If a project’s outcomes aren’t pressing, or if a person really does their most inspired work alone or even at home, let them get on with it (providing of course you’ve seen that this does work for that person).

Boundaries

Workplaces invariably have rules and restrictions, so creativity must be able to be triggered within certain expectations or constraints (which is not the same as micromanaging). When there’s a deadline to meet, or a client is jumping up and down, we need people who can thrive on a slightly frenetic atmosphere and under these circumstances turn out creative solutions. But the boundaries must be clear and tangible – not shifting goalposts.

Challenge

Then there are those among us who are a little bit feisty; people who love it when a metaphorical gauntlet is thrown down. Most people love competition. Providing there’s a level playing field where the rules are clear, the incentives are there and stringent penalties exist to prevent cheats, a challenge can produce wonderful ideas and refinements on what currently exists in the marketplace.

Jolt

It’s important to give ourselves a small jolt from time to time. Everyone is apt to become a little stale, irrespective of their daily output or viability of routines. Human beings lap up interesting concepts, new ways of seeing and experiencing things, visiting places never seen – the list goes on. Find new external stimuli – go to an interesting lecture, listen to a debate, pick up a book you’ve heard about and read it to the end, find a relevant best practice article related to your work. Or go and volunteer somewhere completely different for a few days.

Stretch

Start stretching your body and honing your health and fitness in ways you’ve never tried. Even sitting straight (standing preferably) acts as a stimulant to a brain’s electric circuitry. There’s no need to become obsessive, but a few minutes of intense physical activity will cause tingling endorphins and a feeling of wellbeing, which in turn sparks fresh approaches to your life.

Mix

Once in while take people from different areas of the business and different teams and create a multidisciplinary mini-team that can brainstorm and solve issues together. Just the simple action of mixing non-traditional roles can release a whole new way of approaching tasks. Accept different approaches and find ways to BUILD on each others ideas without offence.

Special

Create special places at work to have fun and “incubate” ideas, for example, by adding whiteboards on pillars, breakout rooms with fun seating, or a games room. But ensure there are ways to record the ideas. Make sure everyone is encouraged to write down ideas, whether in groups or alone. Regularly review ideas – keep lists fresh and fun, and celebrate the implementation of new ideas.

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Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Time Management

 

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Effective FB Advertising Virtual Assistant Tricks

Effective FB Advertising Virtual Assistant Tricks

This is one more of those emails I debate whether to “UNSUBSCRIBE” and Clean my Inbox of recurring emails that mostly I NOT INTERESTED in. This time – I took the time and I really enjoyed a lot of this lady’s perspective on Facebook Advertising.

Things that make you go hmmmmm… time to rearrange and keep up…

Full Article and Credit Here

February 3, 2016 — Posted By

Bigger is always better, right?

When it comes to Facebook advertising and your audience—think again!

Advertising in general is both an art and a science, and the same is absolutely true when advertising on Facebook.

This week’s Mari Minute poses the question: what is the ideal audience size for your Facebook ads?

Given that there are 1.59 billion monthly active users on Facebook, it seems almost counterintuitive to aim small, but as Facebook explains it,  “the ad in your ad set is likely to perform better if it’s displayed to the people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service.”

The reality is that a smaller number means you are targeting specific users to help you achieve a desired outcome, as opposed to casting a wide net and just seeing what sticks. For you as the advertiser, aiming smaller will allow you to narrow in on the exact type of customer or client that your business really wants.

Tips for Successful Audience Targeting

  1. Aim for an ideal audience size between 30,000-300,000 users.
  2. Use Interest & Behavior Targeting to narrow down the audience size.
  3. Use Detailed Targeting in the Power Editor to use Boolean search terms, like “and” “or” to reach users that, for example, like Mexican food AND Los Angeles, or Mexican food AND Los Angeles or Orange County.
  4. When building your ad, aim to get the Audience Definition meter somewhere in the middle between specific and broad.
 
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Posted by on March 3, 2016 in Time Management

 

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Self-Filing Taxes vs. Hiring an Accountant: The Cost Breakdown

Self-Filing Taxes vs. Hiring an Accountant: The Cost Breakdown

The Write Hand, LLC is a Virtual Assistant Company

At The Write Hand, LLC, we are dedicated to helping small business owners eliminate and manage all sorts of administrative tasks. We have assistants with a variety of talents enabling us to create and maintain websites, create and distribute all manners of marketing collateral, down to simple tasks like scheduling, email clean-up, travel reservations and so much more. We like to share articles of value when we come across them and we hope you’ll enjoy this one…

Self-Filing Taxes vs. Hiring an Accountant: The Cost Breakdown

From Kabbage – Click Here for Full Article and Credits

To file, or hire it done, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the pocketbook to hire a professional, or to suffer the slings and errors of doing it all yourself…

Tax time is on us, and that means struggling with a question millions of small business owners ask themselves every year: is it worth the money to hire an accountant?

Fifteen years ago, the answer was clear. Unless you’re an accountant yourself, hire it done. With the new(ish) wave of websites and apps that do the hardest parts for you, though, filing your own taxes is within the ability of many small and most micro business owners. It boils down to a question of cost.

Let’s look at those costs…

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The Costs of Self-Filing

The good news here is that the cash costs of filing correctly are free as compared to filing via a professional. Yes, state filings include a nominal fee — but your accountant includes that fee in his charges, so there’s no difference there. Additional costs of self-filing fall into three categories:

  • The cost of labor. The average personal tax filing requires 16 hours of record keeping, tax planning and filling out of forms. The average business tax filing requires 24 hours for small businesses and increases exponentially as the operation becomes larger and more complex. This could represent cash laid out for a bookkeeper or office manager, or your own precious time.
  • Costs of organization. If you want to come in at anything near the estimated times above, you need to have your business finances in relatively good order. This means paying a bookkeeper, buying financial software, organizing paper records and/or a combination of all three. There’s no true average cost of making this happen, but it will cost you time and money.
  • Software and apps. TurboTax, TaxAct and similar tax preparation help sites are what make this question reasonable, but they do come at a cost. TurboTax costs $80 for federal small business tax filing, while TaxAct costs $50 for federal taxes. Both charge an additional fee for state filing, which varies by state but is rarely higher than the cost for federal filing.

The bad news here is that those low costs are for filing correctly. If it’s an honest mistake, the IRS will ask you to correct the information, and charge you 0.5 percent of any overdue payment for every month it’s late. Considering how long it takes the IRS to process your taxes, you can already have racked up six months or more worth of interest penalties before you even find out about the error.

If they think you filed untrue information intentionally, you’re in a huge world of hurt. Don’t even think about it.

The Costs of Hiring an Accountant

Hiring an accountant is pretty straightforward, cost-wise. On average, it costs about $420 to professionally prepare a Schedule E or C tax filing. This doesn’t include any filing fees you would pay if you filed yourself, but in terms of out-of-pocket expense it’s comparable to the $50 to $80 you would pay to use an online tax service to help you prepare on your own.

It’s important to remember that some of the costs of labor and organization still fall in your lap if you hire an accountant. That $400 charge only happens if you show up with your books already in order, and are able to quickly answer any questions the accountant might have. If you drop off a bunch of disorganized notes, your accountant will charge you for the time spent putting it together…and his/her time costs more than your time or your office manager’s.

On the plus side, hiring a professional accountant provides some protection from the costs of incorrectly filing your taxes. If the mistake was because you gave bad information, those fees are generally your problem. But if you provided accurate information and the tax filings were prepared wrong, that’s what their errors and omissions insurance is for.

The Middle Ground

Choosing whether to hire an accountant or to prepare taxes on your own is a matter of weighing risks, costs and opportunities. Whichever direction you choose, there are ways to mitigate risks and costs that might shade your decision toward one direction or another.

  • If preparing your own taxes, use a tax preparation service and opt-in for their audit protection and other error protection services. It’s not 100 percent protection against everything that could go wrong, but it is a cost-effective way of hedging your bets.
  • If hiring an accountant, ask your accountant exactly how he/she likes to receive documents. Put in the time to have them exactly that way. This will keep your accountant’s time spent at a minimum and keep your fees as low as possible.

Our Recommendation

Since every business is different, there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. However, we can give some general advice based on the trends we’ve seen among our own clients:

  • Very small businesses, including sole proprietorships, microbusinesses and most home-based operations, aren’t much more complex that the personal filings you make when you have income from a business. If you’re filing successfully for yourself, you can probably file successfully for your business.
  • Small businesses with equipment to depreciate and employees with payroll are usually better off hiring an accountant. The variables and complexities are too numerous to do successfully without costing you more time and energy than you would save…unless you or a staff member (or a family member) is already confident and experienced with bookkeeping and tax preparation.
  • Medium businesses with complex payroll, multiple locations and other complications should hire an accountant. Even experienced tax people who don’t do taxes professionally can’t count on knowing all the changes and updates to the tax code that could be relevant.
  • Multi-state and other large enterprises should always hire professionals for the job. In fact, at this size there’s a good chance you’ll want an accountant on your payroll full time.

We do our best to report truthfully with up-to-date information, but none of us are tax lawyers and you should take this advice as advice only. If you have any serious tax questions, check with a professional.

Sometimes, small businesses end up in a crack where a tax refund will set them right but they don’t have the money on hand to hire an accountant. In such cases, a Kabbage loan can be a quick and cost-effective way to bridge that gap. Find out more today.

 

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Starting a Business After 40: Part 3 – Learning How to Market Yourself

Starting a Business After 40: Part 3 – Learning How to Market Yourself

The Write Hand, LLC is a Virtual Assistant Company

At The Write Hand, LLC, we are dedicated to helping small business owners eliminate and manage all sorts of administrative tasks. We have assistants with a variety of talents enabling us to create and maintain websites, create and distribute all manners of marketing collateral, down to simple tasks like scheduling, email clean-up, travel reservations and so much more. We like to share articles of value when we come across them and we hope you’ll enjoy this one…

Starting a Business After 40: Part 3 – Learning How to Market Yourself

From Kabbage – Click Here For Full Article and Credits

Finding and developing a niche in business is a great way to attract the kinds of people you want to work with, but don’t expect overnight success. You will need to work at positioning yourself as the go-to expert in your niche, as well as market your message in the right channels to reach your audience.

In Part 1  of this series, we discussed choosing your niche, and in Part 2 , how to gain experience in it. Here, let’s talk about marketing yourself in your niche. In her book, Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, author Dorie Clark provides several insightful tips to do just that.

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Find Your Unique Selling Proposition

Clark says you need to know what’s unique about you so that you can convey it to others. This will be the basis of your marketing going forward. Additionally, she suggests you consider “what skills or abilities you possess that are in short supply in your new field.” Knowing what gaps there are that you can fill makes you even more attractive as a niche provider.

Clark also says not to fear being an outsider: even if you’re moving into an industry you have little to no experience in, find ways to relate the experiences you do have to making you uniquely qualified to view problems and solutions from a different angle.

Build Your Narrative

The next step in preparing your niche marketing is to craft your narrative:

“Humans understand the world around them through stories, narratives we tell ourselves about what’s happening and why,” Clark explains.

What is your brand, and why are you focused on this niche? Cut-and-dry answers won’t make your story resonate as well as a well-told narrative. Maybe your grandpa was in this industry and he taught you everything you know. That’s a story. Maybe you had a wake-up call after 10 years as an investment banker when you had a heart attack, and now you’re focused on living a better quality of life through your new company. Find a way to make your story relatable. Evoking emotions never hurts!

Apply Your Niche to Content Marketing

Content marketing is still one of the best ways to impart your knowledge on a topic, and the more niche that content is, the better. As you get to know your audience, you’ll better understand what topics they care about. Sometimes, though, it’s trial and error. In Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It, Clark says:

“Sometimes you have to experiment with a lot of ideas and see which one sticks. If you’re unsure, let the market decide. Which posts receive the most comments, or retweets, or e-mail inquiries? What seems to capture people’s imagination? Finding your niche is not an exact science, and you often won’t know in advance what will work.”

Not sure where to start? Try conducting research and writing reviews, Clark suggests. Both give you authority in your field, and help expand your knowledge.

Also, Clark says that repurposing content gives you even more ways to reach people. For example, can you take one blog article and expand it into a longer ebook? Create a series of videos or emails? Share tidbits via Twitter?

Get to Know the Media

Another marketing technique Clark suggests in Stand Out is developing relationships with traditional media:

“Being quoted in the mainstream media is useful because they often still have large audiences, even in an era of fragmented reading and viewing habits. Plus, their third-party validation lends credibility to you. If you’re quoted in The New York Times or have appeared on the Today show, that’s a public signal that you’re an authority.”

Keep Your Own Marketing Channel Preferences in Mind

People may tell you that podcasting or videos are the must-have marketing tools, but if you’re uncomfortable with the medium, they won’t work for you. Clark says it’s no good forcing yourself to use a tool if you dislike it.

Instead, focus on the channels that make sense. If you enjoy writing, blogging and book-writing may be a natural fit. If you love speaking to your audience, video is worth considering.

Scale Your Efforts Strategically

Why help one person with your knowledge if you can help five…or 5,000? Clark brings up the example of Quora, a website people go to in order to find answers to their questions. Thousands of industry experts weigh in on questions, building their authority and credibility.

If you start getting the same questions from people over and over, realize that there are even more people out there that want the same questions answered. Determine the best way to help more people with your answer. You could post the question and answer to Quora, or write a blog post and then share it on LinkedIn. There are numerous ways to share your knowledge with more people with a little ingenuity.

Because you’re talking to such a small sector of the population about the niche you serve, your marketing needs to be extremely targeted and valuable. But the more value people get from your marketing messages and content, the higher your conversion to new customers will be!

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2016 in Small Business News

 

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Starting a Business After 40: Part 2 – Getting Experience within Your Niche

Starting a Business After 40: Part 2 – Getting Experience within Your Niche

The Write Hand, LLC is a Virtual Assistant Company

At The Write Hand, LLC, we are dedicated to helping small business owners eliminate and manage all sorts of administrative tasks. We have assistants with a variety of talents enabling us to create and maintain websites, create and distribute all manners of marketing collateral, down to simple tasks like scheduling, email clean-up, travel reservations and so much more. We like to share articles of value when we come across them and we hope you’ll enjoy this one…

Starting a Business After 40: Part 2 – Getting Experience within Your Niche

From Kabbage – Click Here For Full Article and Credits

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed identifying your niche to help you better serve your customers. By narrowing down the products or services you offer, or by whittling down the scope of who you serve, you can quickly become an expert in your niche.

But if you don’t have a ton of experience in that niche, how can you get it?
The good news is: the more work you do with that laser light focus, the faster you’ll attract more business in your niche market. The key is knowing what projects to take on, and which types of customers to work with. It may take a little more work upfront, but your efforts will quickly snowball, and you’ll have more business than you know what to do with in your little niche!

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Start by Saying No

It’s daunting when you first start working within a niche; you’ll still get inquiries for projects outside of what you want to focus on, and turning them down feels like leaving money on the table. However, it’s the first step in freeing up your time to spend more energy on attracting your niche.

Make sure the verbiage on your website reflects your recent shift to a new niche. You shouldn’t say that you write press releases if your marketing firm now only focuses on blog content. This will deter any people outside of your niche focus from trying to hire you. And conversely, make sure your website does reflect that you cater to your new niche.

If you do have someone approach you for services you no longer offer, politely explain that you no longer offer them, and redirect them to a colleague who can help.

Look at What You’ve Already Done

You likely chose your niche based on your past experience, in which case, you should already have a small portfolio of work to start with. Highlight results your work has garnered on your website so people know you have experience with this niche.

It’s also a good idea to reach out to past clients to let them know you’re focusing exclusively on the types of work they’ve hired you for in the past. Knowing this may spur them to hire you for additional projects or let others in their field know. Don’t be shy about asking them to refer you to others in that industry who you may be able to help with your services. After all, word-of-mouth marketing is one of the best ways to attract new business!

Consider Pro Bono Work

If you’re simply not attracting the kinds of work you want to in your niche, look to companies you could offer free work to in an effort to build up your portfolio. The benefit to working for brands for free, in addition to adding to your proof of skills, is that you can pick the brains of the exact types of people you want to hire you. Getting free advice from them is priceless, and will help you learn to market to that audience (something we’ll discuss in Part 3 of this series). Heck, the companies you provide free work to might end up hiring you in the long run if you do a stellar job!

Look for Gaps to Fill

Even in a niche, you may have competitors. Spend some time reading blog content and books, as well as browsing the competitions’ offerings to see what’s missing. Because you have a unique perspective, as well as your own experience, you might see right away that no one, for example, is offering experiential marketing for tech companies. If you have experience doing this, you can make that your focus.

By working around what other businesses are already offering and finding your own niche services, you can quickly ramp up your skills as more and more people come to you for what they can’t get anywhere else.

Write to Learn

While it doesn’t provide experience in your niche directly, regularly writing content on your niche will make you smarter on the subject and show off your thought leadership skills. Writing blog content on your own blog as well as guest blogging on sites that attract your customer will help you leverage your knowledge, as well as sharpen your understanding of your niche.

You might go on with your writing, if you aspire to be an author (another fantastic marketing tactic). First, research to see what, if any, books already exist on your niche. The more specialized your niche, the fewer books there will be, leaving you with ample opportunity to flex your expertise as an author. Make your book really insightful and useful to your target audience, and you literally will be able to say you wrote the book on [your subject]!

The more you work on projects in your niche, the more you will attract, just like the Law of Attraction says. Like certainly does attract like!

– See more at: https://www.kabbage.com/blog/starting-business-40-part-2-getting-experience-within-niche/#sthash.TPvfBoNg.dpuf

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2016 in Small Business News

 

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3 Lists an Entrepreneur Should Make…

I received a link to this article in my email and although there are some typos (which drives me batty); the information is great. This article plants the seed for entrepreneurs on a few lists that help keep you on task, moving toward bigger success. Naturally, I am thrilled to see the author mention how you can outsource tasks to a Virtual Assistant, such as The Write Hand, LLC. Our motto is, “Helping You Create More Time,” and don’t we all wish we had more time… I hope you find this article of interest!

The 3 Lists Every Entrepreneur Must Make – By Paula Rizzo / Entrepreneur Online Magazine

EntrepreneurStarting a company is like a dream come true: no one telling you when to go into the office, you can pick and choose meetings and there’s unlimited vacation. Sigh — the life of an entrepreneur. So flexible, so fabulous. If only it was that easy.

Those perks were likely on the “perk” side of the pro and con list you made before going into business for yourself. But the real truth is that now you’re busier than ever. You’re likely wearing the hat of HR, IT, marketing and business development teams, just to name a few.

Structure and organization are key to success as an entrepreneur. I know because without my lists I could never get anything done at home, work or play.

For those entrepreneurs needing a little help in the organization department, here are three lists you should be making:

1. To-do list
You have to have one. I structure mine with daily tasks but you may find that a weekly list works better. Another option is to organize your to-do list by project or client.

It’s easiest to plan ahead and make sure not to include too much on the list at once. Try to really be aware of what is feasible given the time frame and resources you have available. I make my to-do lists for the next day before I leave the office at night. I run through everything that is coming up and what has to be handled the next day. I include any appointments and meetings on the list as well. Then when I come in the following day, I just refer to it as my roadmap and hit the ground running.

2. Outsource list
Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I get it, control is a difficult thing to give up — especially when we’re talking about your business. You’ll do whatever it takes to make sure it’s successful. So why not give the to-do list to someone else?

Outsourcing will provide you the freedom to focus on the tasks you’re really good at — and hopefully increase your chances of making more money. So, make a list of all the mundane tasks that are necessary but that you don’t need to physically do yourself. Responsibilities like making appointments, booking travel, uploading your blog posts and maintaining your social-media platforms can easily be outsourced. Investing in the help of interns or virtual assistants will be worth the trouble, as the time you will save is staggering. Make sure to also make a list of all the projects you want to work on once you have some extra help to get the busy work off your plate.

3. To-become list
I’m a big fan of Oprah’s mantra: “You become what you believe.” Once you set an intention to do something it becomes so much easier to attain it. And taking it one step further and writing it down can really seal the deal. In fact, Dr. Gail Matthews, a professor at the Dominican University of California found that writing down goals will make you 33 percent more likely to achieve them.

This list can include anything that you want for your business and your life — daydreaming is definitely in order for this list. Think big. Even if you can’t figure out how exactly you’d achieve that goal, write it down anyway. Making a to-become list will get you motivated, hold you accountable and remind you of what’s important to you and your business. Keep this list somewhere safe and set a reminder in your phone every few months to check it out and see what you’ve become.

 
 

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Is Ghostwriting Ethical???

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In researching some business information I was derailed momentarily when I came across an article in Forbes that proposed the question: “Is Ghostwriting Ethical?” In all of my works as a ghostwriter, I never once thought I was unethical. Of course, that is because I collaborate with my clients to ensure the message they want to convey is reflective of their thoughts, lingo, and experiences. In the case of writing informational blogs for clients; I research a topic that the client dictates and then write an article accordingly. It’s so very true that not everybody has a firm grasp or passion for writing such as I and other writers do. In the case of The Write Hand, LLC and the ghostwriting services that I provide as a Virtual Assistant; I can always ensure my clients that my work is original and well crafted.

In the article from Forbes, authored by Cheryl Connor on 3/13/14; I have to say that I agree with the manner in which she lays out what she feels is ethical or unethical when it comes to ghostwriting. In particular, these two paragraphs summarize the jest of the question/answer; but to read more on the subject from Cheryl, please visit the article in Forbes by clicking here…

Quoted from Cheryl’s article in Forbes on Ghostwriting:

Collaboration with a professional writer is a wonderful concept and a tremendously effective means of getting the great thinking of a great leader into the words and format that will be interesting to readers, and will make the material memorable and compelling to share. In the world of communication, it’s an extremely valuable service, whether for a book, an article or a speech.

However, Ghostwriting, when it means the creation of material without the participation of the represented author, or without disclosing having utilized a ghostwriter, is a terrible idea, and in my opinion, an ethical breach, especially when non-transparent ghostwriting is used to promote a leader’s or public figure’s image or brand.”

Ghostwriting

Ghostwriting

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2015 in Ghostwriting

 

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