Mindfulness and NaNoWriMo 2017


I’ve seen a lot of “winner” Tweets and blog posts on this years NaNoWriMo, but thought I’d spare a thought for those that might have fallen off the path.

I recently posted my thoughts on tackling this years event starting with the premiss that 50,000 words in a month couldn’t be too hard. I say recently, but it was a month ago. Abandon social media and write, a philosophy that I did not use last year and ended up in an imbalanced muddle that resulted in Dead Blogs and Englishmen, which was an alternative working title for Tempus Fugit, sometime in February. Two months in the wilderness so to speak.

However, This post is not a round up of my own experience, that will come next and, hopefully, before February.

The idea came to me after watching the success tweets using the hashtag NaNoWriMo and wondering how that might affect those that were getting behind or found it hard to strike the right balance between life and actually writing. I’m not knocking anyone that does announce victory because that is a euphoria that winners should feel and sharing it is huge.

But what happens to those that don’t make it, fall off the wagon, derail, find an idea just collapses or a character set that grows dull?

Does it adversely affect you if the winning Tweets grow while your story sits woefully behind or dies?

In the past I have written posts on kindness and mindfulness and feel the fallout from NaNoWriMo is a good place to make sure writers stay positive and don’t dwell on not hitting 50K words.

Success is the taking part, the writing of words and exploring an idea or dream. Experienced writers will tell you that writing is a need, a driving force that won’t suffer indifference. The story must out. I’d probably agree with them except for many it is a juggling act between life (children, career, commitments) and actually writing.

Easy to say that, isn’t it? Actually writing, when in the background kids want food or lunch break is over is never so simple. I’m sure people can insert a good number of other things that run interference there.

So what does it mean to fail hitting 50K and getting that winners badge?

For hardened writers this will not be an unfamiliar place to be. Not every idea rides the storm to the end, some get started and shelved, some end up as short stories because they have no longevity and some turn out to be bad ideas. The only way to find out is to write. I try to hit 10K before figuring out if it’s worth pursuing. Never forget a full novel is no easy task. It takes commitment, selfishness and a good degree of stamina to achieve. Some write swiftly once in the zone too, others take years. We all have our own pace so never feel down about seeing some people crank through NaNoWriMo like there’s no tomorrow. They are the ones who have found the story and are likely to be the minority, rather than the majority, of participants.

For most the end of the challenge might fall anywhere between 15K and 40K words. You can either look at the #winner tweets and posts feeling fed up, or see them as inspiring messages from writers that have been through where you are before. Get to know them too, drop comments, share their posts and learn how they schedule time and stay on track.

Then look at your own work and decide if you actually want to finish it. This is the big question, if its no, then the drive is either missing or the story isn’t working. If its the former then writing might not be your bag, if it’s the latter then the tale needs breaking down to find out why. Beyond that it might be because it just isn’t there, in which case, file it and move onto the next project.

Be mindful of how you think too. If it’s just you doubting what you do then find a friend, preferably another writer, who will cut to the chase and tell you straight with honest feedback. Friends and family are often little help there as they are often too kind and afraid of hurting feelings. A writer needs good bad feedback, not bad good feedback. Good feedback is a bonus. If you understand that then you are on the way to coping with editing.

Going back to NaNoWriMo, how do you tackle not winning?

Do you say,

“I failed this year” and insert excuses why.

Or do you say,

“I started a book this year and will use the goal tracker and NaNo Camps to finish it.”

Same outcome, but very different approach mentally. One is positive and one is negative. The second one is a celebration of actually starting a book. The word count is irrelevant (and 50K is a huge ask, never forget that), the words are not. If you started NaNoWriMo as an attempt to write a book then not “winning” is not a failure unless you make it so. Use NaNoWriMo tools if that’s helpful.

Goal Tracker is live now. Set up your project and state an aim or word count. you have total control and NaNoWriMo will track your progress much as it did during the actual event. This runs over a few months too so stop reading and go launch the rest of that novel right now. Log back in a it should be one of the first things you see.

NaNo Camps operate at various points in the year. Month challenges where you set the word count. Use them and/or the goal tracker to finish what you started. Link up with writers doing the same, form a group or do it alone; whichever works.

Cast failure into the bin, no recycling it here, off to landfill and leave it there.

You took part in a global writing month with a high target. It’s high because it’s tough and a challenge. I like it that way, if you find it too high then use Camps or, better still, drop the “too high” negative and just write words.

A participant is always a winner because blank pages do not write themselves. Build on this year and aim higher next time. The aim of NaNoWriMo is to get you writing. That’s the point of it. Does it matter how much you do? No. Is it s competition? No, caveat only against yourself. You want to write or you wouldn’t have signed up, go prove it to yourself. Get that unfinished bunch of words and sort it out. Decide why it stalled, if it did, and whether it’s going to gel and has mileage, or call it writing practice and get onto the next idea. Do not sit and stare with thoughts of failure and a crippled self-esteem. Decide and action it.

Remember too, we all hit self doubt in stories at some point, it’s not unique and its part of writing minds. The trick is to realise that and see positives in other people’s achievements. They are not competitors, just people that have been where you are and risen above it. No quick fix, just hard work and practise.

If its any help I will be posting about my journey shortly and yes, I did hit 50K. In fact the final count was 62K and I’m not finished yet, hence the goal tracker mention. I’m on that and aiming for 30k by February 1st. That should see me writing at a reduced pace, but hoping to write “The End” in January. Those words, as every writer knows, just signify the start of editing. Hey ho, it nevertheless has one of those euphoric moments even if it is brief and soon to get hacked about as first drafts tend to.

I’ve not started the other post yet, but if you have any questions about how I created time, stayed on track or anything else related to NaNoWriMo 2017 then feel free to mention it in the comments below. I will try and build responses into said post.

Remember writing is hard, your mind can make it harder.

First drafts are notorious for being pants; that’s what editing is for. Write your draft then begin turning it into a story. The more you do it the more the first drafts will improve. Nothing can replace practice and part of that is read widely to improve vocabulary and see how other authors do things.

The only thing stopping you is you.

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If you want to take part in supporting writers of all levels then visit Insecure Writers Group and join in. One post a month on any aspect of writing that might help another author on the first Wednesday of every month. Not only that get your blog listed on the hop too and meet some fascinating writers.

For now this is my WIP. I know some have seen it before, but I’m trying to boost up my mojo. It needs finishing!


MarshBank House is haunted, so say the locals. It consumes people, or sends them to the lunatic asylum.

Alan and Joseph Carmichael run a paranormal investigation side-line. Two years ago they lost Conrad while helping Emma Strickland with her late father’s estate. He went into the house and never came back. He was not the first.
Behind the house lies a marsh that gave rise to the name. A Black Marsh with a long forgotten past. One that bleeds out every so often and consumes what it can, laying waste to the rest.

The brothers are done mourning, they want answers. They are not alone. The dead are walking and the film between past and present grows thin.

Journey with Templars, howling ruins and a pub with the world’s longest serving landlord.

88 thoughts on “Mindfulness and NaNoWriMo 2017

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  1. I have mixed feelings about Nano because a lot of people do seem to come out of it feeling like they’ve failed. Nano can do a lot of good for people, but it’s not the right way for everyone.

    1. That was my thought on Twitter when the winner notifications started appearing. How might that impact those who hadn’t been able to finish. With writing, and this is my humble opinion, there is no winning or losing. If a story “fails” then it might be because the idea isn’t right. NaNo is unforgiving if that happens and it takes a great deal of commitment to actually complete it. Obviousky I’m not taking anything away from those that do, but it would be wrong not to think about those that don’t and try and support them. We all get a bad idea or plot at some point and authors must come to terms with these as well as the good ones.

      I agree NaNo isn’t for everyone too. It’s a time pressure and some people just can’t generate enough to tackle it properly, or be able to work to such a target even if they can. I actually like it as an event, but also big up the NaNo Camp months where writers set their own targets. The principle is the same, but the pressure is self set. Goal trackers are even better as you can set target and duration too. I find used well, each of these can help generate a writing ethos and create a habit, irrespective of how productive we all are.

      Many thanks for you comment too. I really appreciate it.

  2. We had several first-timers in my local group. Some crushed it, some made it but hated every moment of November, some gave up and said “this isn’t for me.” But all of them built connections and I believe they’re going to continue the writing journey with the local group throughout the year. I’ll chalk that up as a win in itself!

    Great thoughts on the importance of how we frame our experiences. Failures can be teachers and blessings; successes can turn out to be less than we expected or hoped. Attitude and action make the difference.

    1. Great comment and shows the benefit of hooking up with other writers. I know a few who say NaNo isn’t for them too, which is fine because it is a big commitment if you seriously want to hit 50K. I always maintain though, part of being an author is also knowing when a project isn’t working. I don’t say this is giving up, just knowing that the plot, for whatever reason, isn’t working. I tend to advise storing those in case later a new inspiration occurs, or there comes a role for a character elsewhere. Winning has so many levels. Stopping at 10K because its lost the drive is a win because you’ve explored an avenue that otherwise you might not have. Its now been tested and can be rejected with an evidence trail.

      Framing failure, as you put it, is a very good way to look at it. The important thing is to learn by them. I would say not repeat, but writing is fickle. Not al ideas will work out, however you need the “failures” to help define the point in which you stop a project before it gets so long it feels a disaster. I tend to feel an instinct grow around 5K, if its there at 10K I call a halt because experience tells me realising at 30K is a massive difference in time to get there. I also think it has a bigger moral impact too. That said, leaving them cooking for a while might reinvigorate the idea. Never feel obliged to go from A to B as fast as possible. Heck, King left The Dark Tower in a box for years.

      As you rightly say, attitude and action make the difference!

  3. I still have a ‘losing’ nano waiting for me to unearth it, and I don’t mind at all! Being pushed to get as much written as I did was winning enough for me

    1. I think we all do! Like you though I don’t mind because it’s an avenue explored that might not have 50k to write…that and life curveballs. Always a fan of any words is better than no words too! Thanks for your comment too 😊

  4. Marvelous post and advice dear Gary! No pressure, but I do look forward to your book.
    By-the-way, I now experience the same thing you do trying to comment at my website, by trying to comment at another writers website. I started to look into it…I think it has something to do with the anti-virus program installed on my laptop. I know quite a bit about this stuff, but this…can’t figure it out yet. Have to ask my hubby tonight (he knows more of that). So maybe, your anti-virus program give you the same troubles…

    1. one issue resolved…my comment at the website I mentioned, was in his spamfolder.
      And I noticed that if I open his website in Microsoft Exporer instead of Chrome, I can even see my comments there.

      1. Lol, always first port of call is that blasted spam folder! My observations on blogs thus far is; some go missing straight into moderation. Not all blogs let the poster see that so it gives the illusion the comment has gone missing. Same with those caught by Askimet. Normally you see your comment tagged once the page reloads with “awaiting moderation.” It depends how self hosted sites deal with them. The other thing I’ve noticed is how a site handles a comment. Those that have a submission protocol vary in how fast they turn it round. I have a gut feeling suggesting timeouts on handshakes might cause a failure to lodge a comment. If you try replying to self hosted notifications from the WP reader you see the circle icon turning. If that takes too long it fails to send. This also leads me to think there is a handshake timeout going on.

        That might vary between operating systems (IOS versus Window and version numbers) or browser as you inferred. Not convinced virus checkers would cause an issue if it’s accepted the site as OK. If you drift across blog sites you should see what I mean in terms of site responsiveness. Many have quite a pause before the comment gets submitted and another delay before it reloads. These are where I feel the handshake protocols between the host and submitter might get dropped causing the comment to disappear from the poster and not appear on the receiving blog.

        I’m going to try both of your blogs this weekend and see if I can provide more information on what happens.

        My big concern would be not knowing how many new comments get lost without such blogs ever knowing someone had tried to comment.

        I hope that makes some vague sense lol

          1. Crumbs, this week has flown past and I’ve not had chance to reply until now! I’ve saved your last two posts so will aim to let you know how I fare shortly! X

    2. Thank you Patty, as generous and supportive as ever and a welcome surprise to see a comment from you. This one is a sequel to one I now know how to finish thanks to the prologue! Hoping to finish drafting this by 1st February and the first one before Easter.

      As for the other “issue” I’ll reply about that on your other message.

        1. Gosh no, the first book is four chapters short of the end. It’s sequel was my NaNo project and for it I wrote a prologue. That gave me the end of the first one. I just need to write it lol

          Outside these I do have two others that are completed. One is ready to publish and the other needs editing.

  5. Fantastic post!
    Well done Gary! I didn’t get involved in NaNo, so I am just happy for you all for doing so well! We did miss you over at BUYB though!!

    1. Thank you Josy and good job I check spam for comments more often as this one got caught there so my apologies for that big time! Have to say missing BUYB was a huge downside so it’s good to be back 😊

  6. I have to congratulate you for even attempting these writing challenges the pressure alone gives me agita. And soon after I lose the skill of putting words together in complete sentences. Here’s to positive thinking.!

    1. Thanks Trudy, it’s something I’ve done for a few years now (writing that is, done NaNo twice now). A lot of it is down to practice too in relation to the mechanics of writing. You have that already judging by your blog too 😊

      1. Aaw, thanks Gary. But consistency is an issue because my posts involve going somewhere, then taking and editing pics, then the craft of trying to make it interesting for my readers. So my scheduling is lacking. I’m trying to get out of my own way this year.

        1. Ooh, there’s a line from the latest U2 track, “Get out of your own way.” Writing fiction follows a similar path to how you approach blog posts. The big difference is scale and having an idea that drives the plot. You could always try short stories first 🙂

          1. I think that my skills need building first but thanks for the encouragement. I’m not where I want to be in that area. Still flexing those writing muscles and I wasn’t before.

            1. That comes with practise (hint hint). Thing is if you have decided you’d like to write a book then don’t let the dream go unvisited, you might regret it later. We all have trepidations before trying it for the first time because it is a huge commitment. But, if you are already flexing the writing muscles then step in the right direction it is 😊

  7. Yes, thse are good thoughts about nanowrimo. In November last year I completed only 30,000 words. Yet since then I have completed the first draft, and am now working though the ms making changes and revisions for the 3rd draft. Writing a novel, (or indeed creating any work of art), can often be a process of excavation. Your task is to chip or dust away all the nonsense that surrounds the essential story that somehow pre-exists the act of writing it down.

    1. Thank you and again for this comment. Mind you “only 30,000” is a bit more than “only” in my humble opinion! But well said, a novel takes time to tweak into the story the first draft is hiding. Good luck with that third draft too!

  8. Achhhh! I’m at a point in my book where I need to trust in my sub-conscious to solve all the loose ends. Finishing my annual (drawn) Christmas card is on the agenda today, then back to finishing the book. Wish me luck!

    1. That or let the writing flow where it needs to. I find my characters tend to nudge me in the right direction. I have every faith you will finish it and if not, then join a few of us in Camp NaNo next year to do it 😊

  9. There’s some good advice in there. I feel quite sad when I read posts from people about to embark on Nano and they think they’re going to produce a novel that’s capable of being published in 30 days.

    1. I hear you April, that sort of optimism can easily come crashing down. First drafts are nowhere near ready to publish. 50K, to me, is still 30K short of where I like to be too. I just feel potential NaNo participants need to be aware that it’s no easy challenge. Especially if it’s the first time. Staying on track needs commitment and time. In my case I dropped all social media. I found last year doing both that and writing caused too much antagonism and other areas suffered. My journey through it will be in the next post.

        1. I’d never blame them because of the amount of work they do to keep it all running. It’s up to writers to embrace why its there and not turn it into a competition to win or lose. In some respects it’s a serious author challenge. If writers want to be serious and not just hobby then working daily is the only way for many to produce words. I think those who know that are more likely to adjust better if they don’t hit the target. Obviously there can be many reasons for that too; one being the story loses focus and drifts. I see no point banging on if that happens because you’d learnt something in getting to that point. Knowing when to stop is as important as knowing when to continue. There are always NaNo camps to test your own personal word count goals too and I feel many should try those before the main event to get to know the work load and ethos of NaNo itself 🙂

    1. Thanks Ritu, it’s been quite a month and I’m still a few chapters short so I’ve got goal tracker making sure I stay on course to finish it! Around 30K before February. Although the calendar is getting busy now lol. I’m lining up projects for next year now too. Book every three months …. Or something like that…ish #GaTu

        1. Me too!! Then I have to go back to the previous book using the prologue of this one to finish that!! How much have you got left to do? #GaTu

            1. I hear you. What I learnt from NaNo was that creating time meant exchanging all social media to write. Otherwise I get in a proper muddle, like last year!!! You can do it Ritu and I will keep asking now until you have 🙂

                    1. Same here lol. I have a feeling progress will be slow this side of Christmas though for some reason! My today ambition is to finish BOTH books by Easter. Have you set a timeline for when you’d like yours done by?

  10. Writer’s write, right? While I didn’t participate in NaNo (insert excuses here as you mentioned), I am content to feed my itch to get writing vicariously through successes of writers, like yourself, who have committed to remaining in the trenches and weathering the ups and downs of a brutal path.
    Cheers Gary!

    1. That’s the idea Gabe, I’ve tried being a writer that thinks about it rather than doing it and that pretty much sucks! To use your trenches analogy that path is full of mind fields. If the itch is there my friend, consider joining in Camp NaNo’s next year. I’m going to use them to set myself targets and get some old material finished and new ones up and running. Any writing is better than no writing, or as Marillion’s lyricist once wrote it’s time to “write the rites to write my wrongs.”

      That stuck with me as a line for some reason!

      Thanks for the good comment Gabe

    1. Thanks Esme, bit of a NaNo hangover right now and suddenly Christmas is looming. I aim to write my own reflections post shortly too. This one was intended to focus on participants and offer help to those that might feel like they have “failed.”

      Might link one of them up on yours too 🙂

        1. Thanks Esme, and I’m sure we will catch up many times before Christmas too. But just in case I hope yours is fabulous, which with your array of recipes certainly the food will be!

          1. For sure, still time to chat before Christmas Gary. Thanks for the compliment on the food. I am just a regular working housewife, mom, grandma and do my own food thing. Not everybody like what I do, but as long as my family and friends enjoy it, I am a happy camper

  11. Congratulations on not only reaching the target but surpassing it, Gary! NANOWRIMO is certainly not easy to ‘win’ and I love that you have written such a positive and supportive post for those that, for whatever reason, did not manage to accomplish the 50K word count. 🙂

    1. Thanks Judy, still ongoing too; which will feature in the actual NaNo post I intend to do on my experience with it. I just felt acknowledging all the participants was a priority there first. Nobody should feel disappointed or give up writing early on because they are well off track. Its words that matter, not a target or graph. If 50K isn’t reached then take it to a NaNo Camp; its still a WIP yes?

  12. Well said. I did NaNo this year also. For me it is being apart of something bigger for a month. There is an energy being apart of NaNo for me. We also had local write-ins which were great as felt like a community as writing is so isolating at times. Looking forward to hearing your continued journey. Now to pull out my $&*@ first draft!

    1. Mine is, I’ve signed up with goal tracker there to finish the first draft now too. Good for you too joining in a local write-in; was that actually a physical meeting place or a local on-line community?

      Very true too, it can be isolating and that is where the inner thoughts can cause havoc. I se it on many forums and courses, writing buddies stave off the madness within.

      Thanks for popping over too 🙂

    1. Thanks Angela, I know its hard at times for some writers to take on board that concept when they have self doubts and all that cognitive dissonance going on. The message needs to keep going out though and I really ought to take notice of it too !!

  13. Taking on the challenge and getting anything written that otherwise you wouldn’t have us the win. Am sure Stephen King wrote without limits!! I don’t know how you even tried with busy life liked that. Fair play!

    1. Ha, ha, good point. King has an enviable habit judging by his output rate. Then again, it took him a long time to get to that level. I found this relatively easy; but then I knew my story wasn’t dying on me and I did scrap all social media to time swap with writing. That was about the only way to do it. It struck me that might have to happen more soon too, otherwise I won’t write much at all !!

  14. I failed in even attempting NaNo. I was going to, but then life got in the way. I have so much respect for people who do it, whether they reach the target or not. At least they’ve given it a go. I just think this year wasn’t my year. Next year 👍🏻

    1. Dear me, then we must drag you into Camp NaNo for a gentle introduction before next years main event. Practice as it were. Life can be the big dampener though, if I get too many interruptions I have to stop. Writing is an all in experience here 😱

    1. It is in NaNo, the challenge is really a personal one. If you try and compete against other writers then it will be counterproductive. Writing is author versus characters and pages. NaNo is there to help kick start the process and generate writing habits. Trick is to realise that and not drag in unnecessary negativity, as you say.

  15. This is a lovely post! I have never took part in the NaNo challenge and have no plans or desire to! But I agree with you that we can get so caught up in the winning and the overall result that we forget about what we have achieved and the process we have been through. I’m very intrigued by Marsh Bank House!

    1. Thank you Lauren and getting caught up in winning seems to be on the rise with fast paced lives. No time to self reflect and take a time out. I feel that is an important thing to do every now and then.

      Thanks again re Marsh Bank House too; it has a rather rich history too. Not too far from the end now though 🙂

  16. Anyone that participates is a winner in my book, because that is a really hard challenge. I’ve only tried it once, and its not for me.
    It’s nice that you want to acknowledge both sides.
    Thank you for participating!
    Co-host, IWSG

    1. Thank you Heather and I totally agree with your words too. It is a difficult challenge, especially with life going on around it. The important thing is not to treat missing the wordcount as failure.

      Looking forward to many more ISWG posts too. Haven’t read too many others this time as I have a NaNo hangover! Hope to catch up on then soon though.

  17. Exactly! That intense pressure and social buzz work for some, but on the whole, a novel is a long game. I wonder what proportion of participants get discouraged instead of energised? What would you guess?

    1. Crumbs yes, finishing a first draft is all well and good, but then there’s editing, more editing, another read, proofing….not what you call a quick process from idea to finished!!!

      Tricky one that question is. My experience of people with depression (analogy) is many put a brave face up to not let on how they really feel. That could also apply to many participants too. Not reached 50k so failed, but pretend otherwise and quietly give up. Even looking at winner tags and such like might adversely affect some. I guess it could be a fifth, maybe higher. Very hard to tell really. I noticed on the Twitter hashtag early on loads of tweets came in with updates. I felt there were two fall off points, one about half way through (maybe reaction against “Still on track” uodates) and one when “winner” badges started appearing. Any insecure writers might have seen those as discouraging. The message they need is to not get disillusioned because some people write intensely and have time, others don’t. We all have real lives with demands and commitments so everyone has different paces…AND even then the story has to work too. If it doesn’t then NaNo is not a forgiving medium to start again wrt time. I just hope anyone reading this sees their attempts as positive!

        1. Sadly you are quite right there. It’s why I feel it important to not define winning wrt writing. The process is rich and varied and subject to life events that clash at times. Words are words and everyone needs support. Being an author can be quite a solitary thing, despite the plethora of characters screaming at you!!

  18. Achieving any amount of words is a success, because it’s often more than a writer would’ve done without NaNo.
    My very first NaNo, I was partnered with several blogger buddies. I dove in with 1700 words the first few days. Then, on day five, one of those buddies hit 50,000 words. Day five! I could’ve been discouraged. But I was on the pace I set for myself and I didn’t give up. (And I did hit 50,000 on day twenty-nine.) So, some of those people will be discouraged, but many will realize they still accomplished what they wanted.

    1. Spot on Alex and heartily agree. No words is no words. If NaNo can kick start an idea into the start of something then anything written in November is a huge boon.

      I think it’s important to pace yourself against your own circumstances. Some of us only have limited time due to life commitments. Some have more, some less, so if anyone is cranking a word count then comparing yourself to them is not very wise. My message is to those that do struggle with that aspect and overthink themselves or have negative tendencies. Especially to new writers taking it on. Like you I want to make sure they look at the positives of any outcomes or word counts. Thanks for sharing your first experience there too. Very positive to see how you reacted to it…I mean Day 5!!!!!

  19. Whatever word count a writer reaches during NaNp should be celebrated. I’ve seen many writers saying they were okay with not winning because they wrote X amount of words, and that’s the way to look at it. 🙂

    1. Well said and we are certainly on the same page here. It’s fabulous if you can achieve the target, but experience tells me things don’t always go to plan. Any words or outcomes (such as the idea just not working) are all positives. Without them you never know and if you use NaNo wisely then the follow up camps can easily be used to finish things off at a pace that suits the writer. 😊

    1. Thanks Rachel, I think it’s easy to forget how difficult NaNo can be when you hit the target. I hate to think those that don’t take it to heart and lose the mojo. I’ve had things that sat for years before going back to them so a month is nothing by comparison and any words written in it are a huge step towards completing a novel. It just needs positive thinking and not negative ones!

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