Category Archives: Top Tips

Hit a Writing Dip? Stay Motivated

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We all find ourselves in the dreaded dip from time to time, unsurprisingly the pressure of a new year and new goals is enough to send the most sturdy writer over the edge… so I have put together this motivational post just for you.

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Remember pursuing a writing career is a guarantee you will face rejection, find projects stall and possibly feel no confidence in your ability. But remember this is what you want to do, this is what you live for, this is enjoying work on those good days in a way you never could before. For those times when your world is rocking, it is all worth it and all part of this path you have chosen.

The best way to deal with it is to learn the tricks, keep the dream alive and know even the greatest feel this way from time to time.

 

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Rejection is not personal

Sometimes maybe the writing wasn’t up to scratch but more often than not it doesn’t fit alongside accepted work, may not be the taste of a particular editor, may be too similar to work which has already been published/accepted.

The main thing is – rejection – means you are submitting your work, which is an achievement in itself. If the writing is good it will find a place eventually and sometimes that place is a better match than the place you initially sought acceptance from.

It won’t make it hurt any less, but it is normal. Normal to be rejected and normal to feel a bit dejected by it.

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TLC

I do not reward myself when I get writing accepted, unless you count mentally doing the happy dance, but I do commiserate myself when I read a rejection.

Do something that refocuses or lifts you for a while. Go for a walk, read a chapter of a book (if you can still bear to hold one in your hands), try a few relaxation exercises, watch a comedy show, or even eat cake. Do something that makes you feel better. Just something between 10-30 minutes just to get your mindset shifted.

The best thing is to send something else out there (as long as your writing is ready) a flight of new hope, then move on.

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Create Deadlines

Of course you know the actual submission deadline. We all miss them from time to time (learn to forgive yourself and let go). In Life Coaching* we always break goals down into smaller steps. Each chunk needs a deadline. These skills can be transferred to how you work as a writer.

*I qualified as a Life Coach in 2007.

 

Commitment

Allocate enough writing time to achieve your goals. Yes! I am well aware there is never enough writing time and few of us are lucky enough to fulfil a full-time writing career, but every dream needs commitment otherwise it is just a wish/ wishy washy.

So take yourself seriously and allow it.

Give priority to your writing time.

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Speaking of time…

Time 

Discover when the best time for your writing is. I tend to be best early in the morning both at the beginning of the day before lunchtime and now at 1 AM in the morning.

I organise my writing day so I am actually producing at my optimum times and fit the admin tasks and chores and everything else into the time that my writing brain isn’t in prime working mode.

We are all different. It takes a while to find out what is the best time for you, but it is worth bearing it in mind.

Note: A few hours before deadline is really not the best time for quality writing/editing.

Once you know when to write you can learn how to write. Allowing yourself 1 hour can be more productive than allocating an entire afternoon. Some people work in blocks of 25 minutes ‘The Pomodoro technique’, I tend to find that I need longer to write but I do take my breaks to do other things in blocks of 20 minutes.

 

Lists

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Mr G. used to laugh at my TO DO LISTS as they would always have wash hair, breakfast etc. on them. He knew these were not things I would forget to do. I explained they enabled me to tick something off before 10 AM.

My lists have come a long way since then, I rarely put shower/hair on them anymore. They will include a little box of chores that need attention to make sure I do not get too lost in the admin and the writing and there is an important point. It no longer amazes me, but for years it did – the amount of admin a writer has. You could easily fill whole days without actually getting any writing done and so when you are scheduling your time allow yourself the discipline of actually writing. I used to work on a laptop that didn’t recognise we have Internet.

Nowadays I am better on focusing on one job at a time and avoiding social media/internet distractions (don’t judge me, but I never needed the LOLCats).

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What alchemy is this? The magic of lists. I simply write 2 or 3 things at a time that need to be completed and keep adding. If you write a long list of everything your brain will freak out at the sight of it and this is not good for creativity and free flowing thoughts.

 

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Plan your time and reward yourself. 

 

RELATED LINKS: 

From INKSPILL (Our online Annual Writing Retreat) 2014

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inkspill-making-time-to-write-guest-writer-williamgallagher/

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INKSPILL SHARE BUTTON

From INKSPILL (Our online Annual Writing Retreat) 2017

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From INKSPILL (Our online Annual Writing Retreat) 2016

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the-ups-and-downs-of-creatives/

the-emotional-spectrum-of-writing/

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INKSPILL – Top Tips On Writing

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Do you recognise wonderful? Do you see it? Watch these Top Tips from Novelist Jill Dawson from The Guardian Masterclasses 2013. Some advice is timeless. 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/video/2013/oct/25/jill-dawson-top-tips-on-writing

© 2017 Guardian News and Media

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© 2017 jilldawson.co.uk

INKSPILL Taster or Teaser

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INKSPILL SHARE BUTTON

The full programme including this year’s Guest Writers will be revealed on the 27th. We have a new feature for 2017 – The INKSPILL Library where you will have instant access to selected archives from 2013 -2016 Writing Retreats.

INKSPILL Library

The Library will be open on Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday when it features additional archived material. 

We are featuring 2 Guest Writers this year.

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They will be revealed on the 27th. 

There will be short writing tasks, exercises and workshop activities, creative tests, exclusive interviews with our Guest Writers, book promotion (the INKSPILL Bookshop will be open all weekend), monologues, Inspiring Women Writers, a look at Thomas Hardy, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen & Siegfried Sassoon, Goal Setting, an interview with Zadie Smith, writing advice from Novelist Jill Dawson, an interview with Lee Child, editors discussing modern writing and the Launch of Contour WPL Magazine. As well as rich pickings from the archive featuring previous guests: Charlie Jordan, William Gallagher, Heather Wastie, David Calcutt, Alison May, Deanne Gist, Daniel Sluman, Gaia Harper & Roy McFarlane and more. 

 

 

5th Annual Writing Retreat INKSPILL

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INKSPILL 2017 Coming Soon Celebrate Our 5th Year

Book yourself some time off and treat yourself to a FREE online writing retreat this Autumn. Join us in real time, or wander around the posts at your leisure.
Easy links to previous years will also be available.

SPECIAL GUESTS TO BE ANNOUNCED SOON!

Writing & Productivity

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I have noticed that some of the most read posts on AWF are those that help others. Advice, encouragement and motivation are all things writers seek. I am a trained Life Coach and a Writer, so I’m in a pretty good position to help.

As it is January and we are all thinking about new beginnings, let’s crack on and see what we can do for you.

This is the first in a new series of posts about WRITING & PRODUCTIVITY.

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Invest some time in this, I promise it will be worth it!


The Plan – Getting the most out of your To DO Lists

  1. First, look at your lifestyle and needs. Many of us have family, jobs and a plethora of chores and tasks that stand in the way of our writing time. If you are living as I do with lots of fingers in lots of pies the writing chances will change daily. The ideal may be that you manage a dedicated writing day, or you may still only have evenings free.

It has taken me 4 years, but I now have a 3 day working week (sometimes more) and 4 days, 2 of which can usually be used for writing. The other learning curves are the time submissions take, even when the writing is ready and the amount of time admin and background tasks (necessary) take. This needs to be factored in.

My most productive advice is:

a) use the days your brain won’t play to get ahead on all these tasks.

b) Try your best to stay on top of everything. I write a daily list. Doing a little often is far easier than sifting through mountains of paperwork and entries trying to find the information afterwards.

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2. Accept that what you can do is all you can do, we may dream of having more time, but work with what you have and try to avoid the wishing, pondering time can be important but not when it involves trying to obtain the impossible.

3. Once you have established when you have time to write think about how you feel. Most of us are aware than our energy levels change throughout the course of the day but we forget that we have can use this to our advantage. Bear this in mind when you look at your list, (I missed a step) – make a list. All the writing tasks that need to be completed today.

So now you have a list of today’s tasks. Most people treat a list like a gauntlet and just battle through it, this method is fine if it is a list of chores or something. This is your passion, you are writing because you are or want to be a writer, productivity shouldn’t hurt.

Step back, think about which are the most important tasks and number them. Next tap into your energy and tackle the biggest or most challenging tasks when your energy is high. Anything with a deadline needs to be prioritised.

I am better first thing in the morning, tea-time and late at night. So I would tackle the hardest or longest tasks before 11am or around 6pm or after 9pm.

Now re-order those numbers to fit around you and your energy levels.

4. Forgive yourself if you do not complete the list. Especially if other factors have prevented it – family crisis etc. Do try to carve time for your writing and let others know it is your time.

I turn the mobile phone to silent and check it when I take a break in case of some emergency, likewise there are people who do not answer the door, or leave the house to write elsewhere, making themselves unavailable.

Here it is visually.

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I then just rewrite a quick scribbled order underneath so I can just follow a simple list down the page. I have written this example for an ‘evening of writing’. It may look fairly unrealistic and I would advise that you start with a shorter task list, maybe 4 or 5 items.

Just to clarify ‘check emails’ doesn’t mean the 500 unread ones or forwards of cats being funny, it refers to specifically targeted emails that I need to keep an eye on and may only take a minute if no further response is necessary.

It is just an example to show this method. We all know blog posts take an incredible amount of time to write. But here’s the secret… it is Sunday evening and I am scheduling this post for tomorrow (here you are reading it on Monday). Monday is a much busier for traffic on the blog AND if I don’t get it finished there are more hours tomorrow. Point 4 is important. FORGIVE YOURSELF.

Good writing targets are all about false deadlines and safety nets.

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What’s the Point? Keeping Motivation ALIVE

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© Sarah Wilkinson 2014

© Sarah Wilkinson 2014

This morning I decided to watch a TEDx talk whilst eating breakfast. I have spent a couple of weeks in a dip and am lacking motivation and belief. In under three years I am already uttering those vile, monstrous, self-destructive words, ‘what’s the point?’ Not only has the question entered my mind, it has been playing on a slow loop and worse still I have started to take it as fact that the answer is – ‘there isn’t any.’ writing block

All of this is completely ridiculous, however, in the short time I have been back in my writing life I have discovered not only do all writers feel this way from time to time but even really famous authors and successful writers fall prey to these self-sabotaging words.

The point is;

your unique voice, out there for people to read.

this is your chosen career.

you have to stay highly motivated as you have no boss to answer to and some days probably don’t even get dressed before lunchtime (if at all).

you write, but no-one writes 24/7.

this was a choice, still is, but don’t let one bad week/month/year dissuade you.

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So here I am in the doldrums (despite several ongoing exciting projects), this lingering feeling has been unsettling me for over two weeks. Today, I thought this is ridiculous, I need to spur myself on.

Hence the breakfast with a side order of TEDx. breakfast-waffles

It was the 2012 Olympics which reignited my ambition to become a writer. I am basically taking 4 years at a time as an over-arching period as a writer and allowing myself four Olympics to get to GOLD. I am hoping in the light of my writing life after 3 years that it won’t take the whole 16 years to achieve my ambition.

The Universe Steps In

You know how the universe conspires in putting exactly what you need at that given moment in front of you – well the talk suggested something about the Olympians which I vaguely remembered hearing before, indeed a quick search gave me the data and a BBC report on the medal response.

The concept is that Bronze medal winners feel better than Silver medal holders.

Gold is great – you won – on top of the world.

Bronze is – yippee I was placed, I have a medal, so close. 

Silver is – shucks I haven’t won.

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Research has shown that silver medallists feel worse, on average, than bronze medallists. (Gold medallists, obviously, feel best of all.) The effect is written all over their faces, as psychologists led by Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University found out when they collected footage of the medallists at the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona. Gilovich’s team looked at images of medal winners either at the end of events – that is, when they had just discovered their medal position – or as they collected their medals on the podium. They then asked volunteers who were ignorant of the athlete’s medal position to rate their facial expressions. Sure enough, the volunteers rated bronze medallists as consistently and significantly happier than silver medallists, both immediately after competing, and on the podium.

By Tom Stafford

Copyright © 2015 BBC

Read the full article here http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120810-olympic-lessons-in-regret

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Just with this in mind (because I was obviously aiming for Gold and actually feeling bad that I hadn’t even made Silver and the people on the podium weren’t even in the race when I started), my mind shifted. I realised I need to appreciate what I do have – and I have pages of it in The Write Year to look back on.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/the-write-year/

I am learning and I think that’s what it’s all about. The writing process takes an incredibly long and frustrating time is a new lesson. It is an important one. I have learnt how the polishing is important, how not to jump the gun (sending work out too early with ragged edges). I will train harder and seek support. Being a part of a team is much more comfortable than the solitude of your garret where you are out on a limb.

Of course, ‘I am Bronze’ – is in itself a winning mindset – my Olympic year falls next year and I will see how much ground I have covered and how 2016 pans out, I am hoping it ends with a medal around my neck. (Just maybe not silver!)

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So my best advice for an attack of the writing doldrums – is claw yourself back out, make a list of all your highest achievements, stick it somewhere you will see it everyday and keep up the good fight. Today may not have been yours – but who’s to say what tomorrow holds? You get a new chance daily, send your darlings out and keep smiling!

One day victory will be yours! Cue manical laughter.

RELATED LINKS:

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/the-ups-and-downs-of-creatives/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/make-your-tuesday-count-motivation/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/the-emotional-spectrum-of-writing/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/where-i-am-at-21-months-in/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/writer-fatigue/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/when-the-going-gets-tough/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/an-article-in-the-stylist-rejection-letters-of-the-famous/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/freelancers-dreamers-the-importance-of-glancing-back/

FLASH NANO – 1 week in

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FLASH NANO has been going well, it makes a change for me to write prose and Nancy’s prompts have been inspiring, these tales would never exist without this challenge. I have started to think about how these prompts can be used, rather than just collecting stories that will just gather dust in my hard-drive.NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-Square

 

So here’s what has been happening since Day 2.

Day 3 Monologue.

I created a character who was fighting the setting in of age (we had to write a monologue), this flash had feet and I think I can rework it and use it in the future. The central character not only bears witness to something but suspects she knows the culprit.

Day 4 Fire.

I read an Australian traditional tale about a crocodile and reshaped it into something a little different. The crocodile needed help with his drilling of sticks to make fire and the clever lizard invents fire sticks. It takes a while before the crocodile can make a fire that stays alight and the animal who helps him is one he has never eaten to this day.

It was fun writing this tale and may work well as a story for children.

Day 5 A childhood toy.

I knew instantly which toy I was going to write about and parts of this Flash were based on a real-life experience. The ending took me by surprise (I love it when writing does that) and it works well as a story for a variety of markets.

Day 6 A 100 word story.

This is still to be written (see my TOP TIPS) but I have researched where I may be able to place a short flash and have decided to make it 150 words so I can potentially submit it.

Day 7 Writing about the seventh day, the day of rest.

I still need to tackle this. I haven’t thought about it yet.

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I do not panic about falling behind because these challenges are under 1000 words and the average recommended daily allowance is 1667 words a day for the 50K challenge, which is not something I am trying to achieve this year. I have extended some of the original flashes into short stories and so far have written 8242 words.

So how is Nanowrimo going for you? Do share your updates with us. Here are some tips to keep you in the write frame of mind now that you are a week in.

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  • Forgive yourself if you haven’t written daily, some days are busy. I haven’t managed to write daily, but I do check the prompts daily and scribble some rough outline notes. This means that when I get time to sit and catch up I am not trying to create the story from scratch.
  • Check prompts daily (even if you don’t write)
  • Make some notes of plot/ideas (for another time)
  • Sit down and make up the word count as soon as you possibly can. Even if you haven’t time to finish the whole piece.

 

  • Research – I use google to search keywords and generate ideas, or to make sure there is historical/ factual accuracy in my stories.
  • Purpose – Rather than just writing try to give your NANO writing purpose, research possible markets for submission, mark the best ideas and don’t forget to make note of any ideas that come out of the writing.
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Good luck and keep writing!nano_15_mug_back_detail

 

PS today is the day for Double donations and a double writing challenge. Double up your word count, a great idea if you are doing Nanowrimo because all extra words under your belt count.

It is also the first official Nano write in for my regional group, I attended back in 2013 when doing Nano for the first time. Check out your regional groups, a write in is fun and motivating, not to mention sociable.

 

RELATED LINKS

nanowrimo.org

http://nancystohlman.com/flashnano/

NANO: No Time for NaNoWriMo? Try FLASH NANO instead

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I did NaNoWriMo in 2013, the year I started writing again, the year I started blogging. I completed the Spring and Summer Camps as well as the main event. 2013-Winner-Vertical-Banner

This year I thought about dipping my toes in again, but I am working on several poetry projects and know that I don’t have time to complete 50,000 words. Tonight I decided to spend some time browsing my reader as it has been 10 months since I looked at blogs out here. I discovered a post and a challenge that might match my schedule and give me more to work with in the future.1 nb

Nancy Stohlman is posting prompts for flash fiction, which I do have time for. http://nancystohlman.com/flashnano/

Imagination Rain.eps I headed over to http://nanowrimo.org and signed back in. I headed to the Pep Talk page which has a lot of good advice and encouragement for a positive mental attitude, which believe me all NaNo-ers need! See what Gene Luen Yang has to say here

I am unlikely to reach the 50,000 word count by writing incredibly short, short stories but I will hopefully end the month with 30 new pieces and if I can I might mix it up with some poetry too.

So let’s get started!

Good luck to everyone making NaNo part of their November.

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INKSPILL How Not to Waste Time – Article and Discussion

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13:30 How not to Waste Time – Article & discussion

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Wasting time – we all do it… we all know we shouldn’t do it… some of us can come up with strategies for time management others need some support with this discipline.

It is a subject I have blogged about before and something that I am always trying to improve on.

These posts may be of interest to you.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/monday-monday-on-writing-and-time-management/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/a-new-method-of-time-management/

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This article helps us focus on writing time and it is definitely not a waste of your time to read it.

The secret is finding your rhythm. Wishing we had time to finish our novel, write more, begging for more hours in a day are all common laments of the writer. We chase time as an entity rather than attempting to bond, we need to build up a relationship with time. Firstly consider how it can move your writing activity forward or how it is holding you back. If you think you’ll never have enough time, you never will. We cannot play with time, but we can give it less power over us by managing it.

  • I use a writing schedule, which starts as a TO DO list (based on chronological deadlines).
  • I estimate how long each task is likely to take.
  • I avoid social media throughout this time, the entire internet in fact, unless I am in need of research.
  • I am someone who cannot write with distraction, there is no TV, music, people around my writing space and if I am seriously working towards a deadline, I even switch my phone off. I wouldn’t be available on it if I was at work and if it is urgent, people leave voicemails.
  • I build in breaks every hour or so, mini ones. To check the phone, stretch, manage those household tasks that need doing. It is amazing what you accomplish when only given 5 or 6 minutes.

Forgiveness is another tool you need. It gets to the end of the working day and you have writing that still needs to exist.

  • Push it onto the next TO DO list and praise yourself, celebrate what you have managed to accomplish, rather than worry about what isn’t yet real.
  • Unless you miss a deadline (which happens from time to time in the world of open submissions, but should never happen when working with editors with conversing about the schedule), give yourself a good talking to and learn from it.
  • How can you schedule your writing with gaps to manage the task in time?
  • I even use a polar cup so I avoid the kitchen and kettle for several hours.
WLF Polar cup This particular one was bought for me by my writer friend Andrew Owens, in 2014 I wrote a collaborative performance poem about Moustaches.

There are lots of books out there about time management, here is a link to an article by Rachel Scheller in which she uses an excerpt from The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen to explore Managing Time further.

TIME IS A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD

We all get the same twenty-four hours in a day. What you do with yours is up to you. You may believe that you have “no time,” but the fact is, you have just as much time as anyone else. What varies for every writer is our unique mix of work and family responsibilities, financial commitments, sleep requirements, physical and emotional space for writing, and perhaps most importantly, our ability and willingness to prioritize writing in this mix.

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/make-more-time-for-your-writing

DAlma Please leave your comments below.

Why You Should NEVER Go OFFLINE for the Christmas Holidays

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Mr G has started to work away from home, so when he came back for his fortnight booked holiday to spend Christmas at home, I decided to stay offline, vowing to give him my full attention.

Christmas is a time to spend with family and friends (if you can). After spending a year touring around poeting, many events and opportunities were tied up in December and I have logged back online to find a backlog of emails and some performance events I could have attended in the last few weeks of the month.

I only spent an hour online to catch up but found it particularly stressful. In hindsight I should have popped online daily for a limited time to check emails.

If you work online and decide to spend some time offline be sure that you plug some time to play catch up.

laptopHaving said that I hope you all had a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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