Chapter 1 of “Writing Spirit: Journaling for Creativity and Personal Growth”



My desire is all I need to enliven
my innate creativity
and nurture my spirited journaling.
And so I write.


A Lamp for the Light

Inhaling deeply as I pulled my fingers from the home keys, I sat back and sighed. “Wow,” I whispered, feeling my cheeks rise, pulling the corners of my mouth into a little smile meant just for me.

Even 35 years into my journaling practice, it still amazed me. When I woke an hour ago, my mind raced, spinning with worry. Fears overlapped in attempts to outdo the others until I typed up words about each one and then affirmed their opposite. Soon, only a smattering of anxiousness remained as sentences on other thoughts—some positive, others unemotional—flew in and landed on the page of my computer doc.

Fingers tap-danced as my stream of consciousness about now, yesterday, and the day ahead poured out. I felt compelled to write about an email received from dear friends overseas who I hadn’t heard from in months, reconnecting as if no time had passed. This familiarity led me to safely contemplate another connection, a new one with a potential second date, as well as my gut instinct that we might not be a good match. Next, I wrote my appreciation on how I felt welcomed into a new community, how I confidently shared my heart, and how every meeting was more fruitful and fun than before.

As I kept typing, logic lined up alongside emotional evaluation, forming new thoughts fueled by my longtime friends and fresh supportive community. My spirit flashed real in the words in front of me. And unexpectedly, my intuition scored the questionable romantic possibility a resounding “zero” which fell—Wham!—right on the page. This sudden impact of truth kindled my smile.

To me, my passionate, written expression incited a liftoff feeling of freedom that is one high point of journaling. This practice of centered self-reflection can be laser-focused, mirroring truth in the moment.

I picked up my empty mug, refilled it in the kitchen, and sipped as I returned. I flipped the switch, and the light from a free-standing floor lamp illuminated my desk. I stretched my fingers, then rested them at their usual spots on my ergonomic keyboard and went back to journaling. I wrote how I have journaled mountains of words under this lamp over the decades since my father gave it to me. And like the personal writing I nurture and benefit from daily, I trust this lamp.

Swallowing a gulp of coffee, I reflected on a time before I began to grow a journaling habit, a time when I recognized the need for more light on this 3’ x 6’ desk surface. It was 1986, and I worked a clerical job Monday through Friday to pay the rent while struggling to commit to chasing my dream of becoming a Hollywood screenwriter some nights. To my left, I would line up notated index cards, inspirational images ripped from magazines, assorted reference materials, and previously written pages alongside pens and highlighters. To the right sat my prize possession underneath its dust cover: a hulking IBM Selectric typewriter with a dozen ball-shaped font attachments, reserved for typing the screenplay. With the desk against the bedroom wall, the ceiling fixture was worthless for lighting my materials, only casting a shadow of my slumped body. The puny desk lamp didn’t project enough light, and in this teeny Midtown Atlanta apartment, relocating the desk was out of the question. With only sporadic progress, I began to blame the poor lighting for the impending demise of my dream. Though I was a good writer, my long held habit of playing the victim made me more proficient at procrastination.

Being Sunday, I picked up the receiver and dialed Mom, sharing my dilemma and asking about popping in for a visit.

“Come on,” she said. “I’ve got a roast on the stove, and you can do your washing.”

Then I blurted out, “That sounds good, Momma, but I just want to find a nice lamp that makes it easier for me to write!”

“Well, let’s get off the line, or you’ll have a huge phone bill. I’m sure your daddy can help, so be careful driving.”

I rocked out to the tunes of The B-52s blasting from my car radio’s cassette deck as I sped 53 miles down the interstate toward home. I knew Dad, an engineer, would know the best lamp or at least the places to start looking, and Mom would likely load me up with food.

Walking into the kitchen through the garage, I dropped my laundry basket to give Momma a hug and a kiss.

She noticed me eyeing her mixer on the counter flanked by sugar, flour, and Crisco. “I’ll make a sour cream pound cake after we eat. It’ll be ready in time for you to take home a hunk.”

I grinned as I headed to the utility room, calling back, “Where’s Dad?”

“He’s in the yard,” Momma yelled. “Will you go tell him lunch is ready?”

After throwing a load in the washer, I went outside and followed the sound of his robust, often off-key singing to find him tending the garden. After he heard my plea over lunch, Dad took me to the garage, a space I felt was just for storing junk and parking cars. I held my distance and unintentionally touched the soft cotton of my white shirt as he turned on a lamp over the oily clutter of his workbench, illuminating a foreboding array of thingamajigs whose only use seemed to be to stain my clothes.

Looking at me, he pointed to the lamp and asked, “You think this’ll be good enough light for you?”

Even brightening his workspace, I hadn’t noticed it. Certainly, the floor lamp was big enough, but my negative thoughts cast doubt that felt quite rational to me.

Boring! How is this rickety thing going to help you win a Best Screenplay Oscar? Yuck!

Free standing, the lamp rested about two feet above the workbench. This basic dual-tube florescent fixture was housed inside a metal casing with faux wood grain on the ends. Plastic filters on the bottom spread light evenly over the surface, and the half-inch thick, open-mesh diffuser on top allowed ventilation while shining light upward.
He pointed out a pair of electrical outlets in the cross-stabilization bar. “You can plug your typewriter in here.”

My doubt led to worry and fear, and these dark clouds between me and ever-flowing creativity attempted to sabotage Dad’s generous offer in my mind.

You know it’s covered in grease. It will stain the apartment’s carpet, and you’ll lose your deposit! Never mind that, it’s butt-ugly. Say ‘no thanks,’ take the cake, and hit the road if you really want to be famous.

After scrutinizing it for grimy residue and finding none, I concluded it was hideous, but the light was okay.

“Sure,” I said flatly, as if by not showing gratitude I couldn’t be blamed when this obnoxious thing caught on fire. “I guess it will work.”

He thought it would solve my issue. So to him, form didn’t matter, plus this would help my goals as a writer in some way, a path I believed he understood about as much as I did the use of his tools. From childhood, Dad had told me that I could be whoever and do whatever I wanted without adding either direction or judgment, just trusting and encouraging the good in me. Even though I was a college grad, felt I knew it all, and pretended to be an adult, I had no clue how much I had to learn.

As Dad began to prepare the floor fixture for travel, he kindly refused my help, sending me and my crisp white shirt inside to visit with Mom while he removed his tools, moved the bench, dismantled the lamp, and packed it in my hatchback before putting his workbench together again.

Closing the kitchen door, I heard Dad’s boisterous whistling as I was engulfed in the sumptuous aroma of the baking cake. Mom carefully opened the oven for the toothpick test, nodding toward the refrigerator. “Saved you some.”

I knew what she meant, and I made a beeline for the beaters, gooey with batter. I licked both clean by the time she pulled the golden brown cake out of the oven. She set it on a cutting board to cool while we folded clothes.

“Do you know what cake you want for your birthday?”

“Lemon Cheese, same as the last ten years!”

She proudly smiled, not so much about my confirmation of her delicious cream cheese pound cake layers covered with a thick lemon glaze, but for the sweet enthusiasm I shared with cake batter smeared on my chin.

As I loaded the laundry basket, lunch leftovers, and a quarter of the warm pound cake in the front seat and floorboard, safely distanced from the parts of the lamp, I hugged
and halfheartedly thanked Dad. My fear of what I had gotten myself into overwhelmed my appreciation. Then I moved to Momma, kissing her before hearing her usual, “Now, you call me when you get home.”

Nodding involuntarily in concession, I cranked my car, knowing how much she worried about me just like her mother—my Nanny—did too. As a child on family car trips
in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I enjoyed pleasing Mom by making the call to Nanny, giving the operator my dad’s first name as to whom I was calling. When she shared, “I have a collect call for Gene,” Nanny would say, “Oh, he isn’t home, operator,” and I would say that I’d call back, then both Nanny and I would thank her. Hanging up, Nanny would know we had arrived safely. Recently, I felt a little guilty, but Mom, who taught me to always tell the truth, didn’t see the call as unethical. Being frugal, she felt we needed that pocket change more than Ma Bell, plus every month, we paid the phone company enough anyway.

This instilled habit rattled me as I drove the county roads toward the expressway. I didn’t question my participation in their charade, much less understand how their fear was passed on to me, possibly through generations. Tapping the radio’s “on” button, the B-52s’ off-the-wall instrumentation and kooky vocals drowned out my worries as my head bobbed and I sang along at the top of my lungs.

My car smelled like a blend of bakery and laundromat when I arrived. In my apartment, I made the call and lied to the operator. With food and clothes put away, I stared at the parts of the lamp and considered the assembly process. I had to move my desk, trashing my well-organized bedroom, then fit the lamp back together per Dad’s precise instructions. My doubt spawned worries about my inadequate mechanical skills which barely included the basic use of a screwdriver. Plus, the more I looked at the lamp, the more I hated it. I assured myself I would find something better soon.

Once plugged in and turned on, I stopped to admire how it lit the whole room, even brightening the high ceiling. Maneuvering my desk in place, the wood veneer showed every stain and crack but also an inviting luster I had never noticed. Then I sneered at the dust on the typewriter’s custom cover, returning to marvel at the light.

Months later, I randomly journaled by hand at the desk under the bright light instead of in bed. And then, as an even-more massive desktop computer replaced the typewriter, I maintained my bitterness that the lamp wasn’t my style while still finding additional uses for it. The metal casing acted as a magnetic bulletin board for to-do lists, random writing notes, and silly stuff. The illuminated plastic mesh top became a catch-all shelf for stacks of papers and supplies, even a precarious place to occasionally set a cup of coffee. Knowing a spill could kill the computer’s box, monitor, or keyboard, common sense squashed that habit while, unaware to me, the lamp became part of my life.

The computer changed my journaling. Since I loved to record my dreams, I wrote first thing every morning and started to get into the habit. Expanding from slow-going
handwriting to fast fingers on a keyboard, I wrote more and more. I even adjusted my alarm to add ample writing time at home before clock-in at my job. Yet unlike my flourishing journaling routine, each time I moved the floor lamp from apartment to apartment, then to my first house and so on over many years, I found it more cumbersome. From my disdain, I became well-rehearsed at pooh-poohing it.

“What a great light!” someone would say.

“Oh yeah, thanks,” I would mutter dismissively and then shift focus by pointing out how the front of the lamp was adorned. The display had grown with magnets more decorative and notes more positive. Posted affirmations often served as writing prompts, encouraging my personal growth and the expansion of my journaling habit. These upbeat pronouncements lit positive paths, stating that not only was the journey already underway, its successful outcome was right in front of me. Sometimes, like with the lamp, I missed the lesson.

Over time, my screenwriting aspiration faded as the day job morphed into career, my community flourished, and a loving partnership thrived. The top of the lamp shifted from a parking lot for supplies, covering the light’s glow, into a bright arrangement of items of delight, then significance, and then inspiration. Showcased were rocks and shells from day hikes and beach trips; photos and cards that kept my friends and family near when I was alone at my desk; and trinkets from my recently deceased grandparents to support me in grief as I expressed through journaling. Like a family Christmas tree decorated with ornaments gathered through the seasons, this lighted shelf of cherished mementos lifted and loved me.

* * * * *

During the early floor lamp years, I began to embrace my passion for journaling, accepting myself through exploration of both life’s highlights, as well as life’s shadows. I
witnessed the connection between the journaling process and its by-products of better moods and creative interactions with self and others. This emergence felt good, but anytime I veered toward calling the process “spiritual” or “religious,” I hit a dead end. A solid wall. Not even a door I could try to open. At that time, the best I could do was write all that came up, including questions like, “Why does this hurt? Why can’t I see it? What am I doing wrong?” Then, drained by the silence, I could only type in whispers like a helpless child. “Why? Really, why am I here?” Fully knowing this issue, much less remedying or redefining it, seemed impossible. All I knew was that it was buried and I had to learn to trust my process. I simply had to. So, I reluctantly gave in to the not-knowing and kept journaling.

Over the years, I noticed how my journaling spontaneously enhanced a variety of skills. I realized I wrote words which I rarely spoke. Sentence structure varied as a matter of course. Increased authenticity felt evident as the words flowed, and I began to include dialogue. The writing’s speed and ease increased, as did the joy I felt when I sat down to begin. This enthusiasm and confidence transferred to my writing on the job, as well as when, later, I freelanced for magazines, created curriculum for a journal writing class, and garnered a couple of clients in my fledgling coaching business. And beyond always valuing writing for school and career, I came to recognize the inherent legitimacy of personal writing, then began to identify its vast coffers of gifts for discovering self and nurturing growth through my habit. I finally accepted that writing “just for me” was as valid, if not more so, than writing for readers. Even though I never shared the words in my journal, I did share the good vibes this process facilitated as I lived and worked with others.

Like stretching in the morning and regularly swimming laps, I began to view my journaling habit as a practice. Not just habitual, but intentional. Natural and nurturing. Chosen, not coerced. So, I shifted my language on the page and in my mind, affirming my practice. Even when the practice sputtered, just like when a week of swimming didn’t include as many laps as the weeks before, I didn’t have to “get back in the habit” as I trusted my journaling practice was still there. I simply returned and continued writing. Besides, the term “practice” felt solid in my mind, heart, and spirit, so it didn’t diminish. I realized “practice” clearly defined all aspects of my journaling and paved the road for more. My practice had purpose.

In my journal, I continued to write on all that arose from present, past, and future. Soon, I revisited my sparring with some ideas from my religious upbringing, and I slowly began to reframe or release teachings and terminology which didn’t feel good. As I ventured onto other paths, I found inspiration, forgiveness, and answers in all services attended, all philosophies studied, and all people befriended. I celebrated living, and I began to feel reassured.

I discovered how spirited I feel when I use creativity, an infinite energy supply, empowering creation. All encompassing, ever-expanding, and always available, creativity continually provided inspirational energy without attachment to how—or even if—I chose to use it. My personality, viewpoint, and passion are creatively expressed by my mental thoughts, my emotional feelings, my physical actions, my spoken language, and yes, my journaled words.

Eventually, I embraced the term “light,” a universal symbol of creativity, wisdom, and joy, of highest good, healing, and peace. I viewed light as life, and everything as energy, fully alive energy. Like the fiery core at the center of our Earth. Like the flickering stars at the farthest edge of infinity. Like the twinkle in a baby’s eyes. Like you and me.

This light, like the wind, can’t be seen, only coming into awareness when it illuminates something else, when it shines on its presence. This includes my journal writing as I see my thoughts outside me, inked on the page.

Now, I see that with Dad’s offer and subsequent gift to me over thirty years ago, he referred to the light, not the lamp. Though it may have been unintentional in a similar way that he saw objects defined by their application in our lives, like cars as transportation, Dad invited me to see the lamp as a practical solution for what was most important and desired by me: light.

Sometimes I need an invitation from someone else to light my way. I want a nudge from outside myself to encourage the pursuit of my dreams, to affirm my desire, to move forward and try a little harder, dig a little deeper, explore a little more bravely. If I want it, really believe in it, and begin to pursue it, I attract opportunities and the people who can share these nudges with me. Each is a pebble on the path to the fulfillment of my heart’s desire, to discover and shine the light of my life.

Many have encouraged me, and my parents and grandparents are at the top of the list for all they provided in my formative years. This foundation still supports my evolving
goals. They taught me very well through word and example, and I was a good kid who grew into a good adult. Still, for a long time, I thought being taught to say “thank you” was enough. But through the living, sharing, and journaling of gratitude, I have learned it comes in many colors and flavors, that there’s depth of feeling and energy—of light—infused in those words when heartfelt. I thought I knew how to give as well as take, but it was a while before I discovered the light in soulful receiving. And surprisingly, despite awareness of selfish behaviors, I was stunned to learn that I wasn’t good at giving to myself. I had yet to discover that my act of receiving is where the light pools, and it is from this reservoir that I share with others. Much of my life, I have held a positive exterior—and at times still do—while I was painfully shy, my interior journey fraught with insecurities covered with the Band-Aids of people-pleasing as if loving myself wasn’t permitted. I’m still growing, now celebrating how wonderful it makes me feel to share from my spirit, not just complimenting or pumping someone else up, but authentically sharing good from my mind and heart to their own.

Funny, but as much as we think we need an invitation to be our true selves, we’ve had this offer all along. We were born with it, yet some of us fail to realize how significant and constant the offer is to play, to be happy, and to create whatever we want from wherever we are at the time, especially once our childhood ends. Sometimes the offer feels enthusiastic, but the mood is clouded by obligation, anger, melancholy, or fear; still, this goal to create is to facilitate growth and arouse joy. This open invitation doesn’t need an RSVP, simply acceptance and action on our part to step into the creative space and start dancing, gardening, singing, teaching, weaving, cosplaying, cooking, painting, speaking, sculpting, loving…or writing. On and on, the opportunities are as boundless as imagination. Determine which feels good in the moment, be grateful, and begin.

Be good, create good, encourage good, share good, love good, receive good…! To me, “good” is an energy that encourages growth in the circle of giving and receiving. The gifts of others, of nature, of intuition, for example, reflect good back to us once we decide to give it a try. Like those on our personal list of trusted ones—a heartfelt friend, caring family member, beloved partner, benevolent teacher, or respected advisor—creativity always responds, inspires, and guides, delivering ideas and opportunities to provide light to brighten our next step. All we have to do is our part: accept with thanks and use the gift. Once the intention to journal is set, we open our senses and gather the gifts of creativity. This synergy becomes our life cycle as we choose to do it again and again.

My journal allows me to externalize my life as much as I like, repeating past and present, even future. I unpack, unravel, and uncover meaning moment to moment, word to word. My goal is to not only enjoy my journaling practice, but to create a better life by building positive ways for kindness and love. My practice frees me to approach any topic from all sides, discovering my best viewpoint toward making a wise decision, aligning my beliefs, and taking actions for good through written affirmation.

* * * * *

An affirmation is a quick assertion of truth—of good already received—a tool most effective when repeated. This reiterated internalization affirming a positive outcome ignites the process of shifting an old belief away from resistance toward allowance of a desired conclusion. Always in first person, affirmations begin with either a powerful “I am…” statement or one with a potent action verb—trust, accept, grow, embrace, create—always in present tense, always in pure, positive language. A good place to start using affirmations is placing the concept in thought by using it in an affirmation, like this:

I know my affirmation is an intentional statement
of my desire, firing up my creativity and using
my awareness to recognize action steps toward
achieving my goal of journaling.

When I first used affirmations, they felt like lies I told myself. Not a good feeling, truly a fast track to nowhere. Then I began to notice that creativity responds to my thoughts. This intensified as I evidenced how planting these positive thoughts through conscious repetition builds them up in subconscious mind. And when my mind brings them back up within the cascading random thoughts that flow in my head—perhaps giving me an idea or making me aware of an available next step—I feel grateful and affirm this message rising from subconscious to do its good. Next, I stay alert to recognize opportunities and then take necessary action on inspiration, which leads to
more steps and eventually—sometimes surprisingly—achieving results. Affirmation not only encourages the process of fulfilling desire through my union with creativity, but this also supports my journaling practice too.

If an affirmation still doesn’t seem quite true to you, journal the feelings and reasons why it seems false. This can help you see that it’s not magic, that there are steps you’ll take to arrive at your goal while using the drawing power of the affirmation. Additionally, your writing will also call up words which speak to your heart and mind, words which will most strongly propel you toward your desire. When you feel the strength of those words, add them into your affirmations. It is also quite legitimate to affirm your achievement of just the first action.

I feel the desire and affirm I will discover all I
need to begin journaling.

And then…

I now have a tool and an idea of how to use it, so
I build confidence by writing in my journal.

Adapting to make the affirmation feel more real to you grows trust in the process. And look! You have shifted your belief and taken steps to your goal! And that’s what it’s all about. Now, remember to celebrate it—Yes!—and be heartfelt in gratitude for both the process and outcome—Thanks!—and keep growing.

Along with the affirmation that opens each chapter, a collection of twelve affirmations follow each chapter’s narrative to cultivate your journaler’s consciousness through magnifying belief and confirming action. In these affirmations, I purposely included phrases from the chapter’s narrative to illustrate the transformative power of our words and imagery. After reviewing them, work with those to which you are drawn, or use them all together. Perhaps choose one and engage with it today or over a few days, repeating it until it becomes an encouraging truth in your thoughts. And feel free to adapt any to fit you better. Creatively construct the strongest support to motivate your journaling.

Read them anywhere at any time, always striving to focus on your heartfelt meaning of the words and phrases. Consider reading them out loud. Feel your vocal vibration resonating through your body and all around as you speak emotionally to enliven each word. If it suits your spirit, set one to a simple melody and sing your affirmation. Be playful! Do what feels good as you live these words, feeling them come to life within you and through you. Also, notice them appearing around you.

Ready to write your own affirmation? In each chapter, I encourage you to build this skill and write one. Stay with the chapter’s theme, find other words or phrases within the chapter which resonate with your spirit, or go off topic. Even try all three!

Prompts for writing follow the list of affirmations. Each prompt is an invitation to journal, so choose one that sparks you to write. You can even use an affirmation as a prompt. Of course, you can write on any topic you wish. Whatever topic comes up for you—a present occurrence, a memory, or a thought for the future—is ideal to write about. Also, if you want, go ahead and journal from more than one prompt. Get writing!

Notice that as I did with affirmations, many of the concepts in these prompts are from the chapter itself. This was intentional as a way to get your mind in tune to how inspiration to journal is always right in front of you. Anywhere you go in this world, in your mind, in your feelings, or in your spirit holds creative opportunities to discover, examine, and express. There are always rich journaling ideas ready to mine, so grab the brightest incandescence and let the light lead your writing line-by-line.

* * * * *

Some 25 years after reluctantly receiving that utilitarian floor lamp, the switch failed. No light. Panicked, I called Dad. He calmly said to bring it down, so he could take a look at it. I dismantled the lamp and stand, placing them gently in my car, even swaddling the light fixture in towels before strapping it in the back seat with safety belts. Once I arrived, he quickly removed the switch, and we went shopping.

With no luck anywhere, my heart began to break.

Then, he suggested, “I could just bypass the switch and run a plug that you can connect into a power strip. That way, you could still easily turn it on and off.”

My spirit perked up, and my worries swooped in.

That’ll look awful! It won’t be the same!

Yet instantly, I responded, “That’ll be great!”

Within minutes of well-trained effort, Dad repaired it, and I packed the lamp back in the car, swaddling and all. He grinned, and I tightly hugged him, thanking him over and over.

After all those years of that utilitarian floor lamp serving a purpose, I remembered my promise to use it until I found “something better.” And I finally realized that “something better” was not a fancier lamp but my own recognition of why the lamp was so ideal. This was reflected in my spirit, that even though I didn’t fully open to my light within for years, it was still there, empowering me without recognition or appreciation. But once I received Dad’s gift in heartfelt gratitude, I made a simple switch and rewired myself, becoming more present to the light and the creativity in my journal, shining from my own spirit. This illumination is bolstered by empowering the safety to explore, the awareness to discover, and the commitment to keep writing in my journal and living my best life.

You are a lamp for the light. You are created of creativity to be creative. You are a luminary, an essential element for expression in this world. Your journaling practice supports your spirit to shine brighter and, through this, expand your consciousness, encourage your growth, and inspire more creativity for you, from you, and all around you.

Welcome to the world of words in your journal as you live in the creative light of your writing spirit.


Affirming a Journaler’s Consciousness

Use affirmations, one or all, adapting as desired.

I am created of creativity to be creative.

I trust the good in me.

I accept the invitation and step into my creative space to journal.

I feel my cheeks lift into a smile meant just for me as I playfully write.

I use the energy I find in words which touch my heart, open my mind, and affirm my new journaling practice.

My journaling always serves a positive purpose. I say, “Yes!” and “Thanks!”

I am human, and like the sun and the stars, I am light.

Knowing growth is what life is all about, I embrace the truth that I am still learning.

I nurture my journaling and cherish its benefits.

As I write my words, I forgive, grow, and create, recognizing self-love.

I am a lamp for the light, an essential element for expression in this world.

I understand my journaling expands my consciousness and inspires creative expression as I bask in my writing spirit.

Write an affirmation about enhancing illumination.

º Begin with either “I am…” or “I…” followed by an action verb in present tense, such as confirm, magnify, or showcase.
º Complete with heartfelt words to lift your spirit and motivate your growth.


Prompting a Journaler’s Practice

Choose a word or phrase, and then journal what comes up.

º Keyboard
º Hollywood dream
º Cake
º A gift which unexpectedly grew in value

Complete a sentence and write more.

º “I am grateful for…”
º “I sang at the top of my lungs while…”
º “When I think of light, I…”

Create your own prompt and journal from it.



Writing Spirit: Journaling for Creativity and Personal Growth is available in Paperback for $17.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.  E-book is available for $8.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited, exclusively on Amazon.

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