Creative Anxiety

It’s been a month already, huh? As you may or may not recall, last time I rambled for a bit on Today’s Author, it was about the differences between the writing process and a writing cycle. The short version looks like this:

The Writing Cycle

I think that with some very minor revisions, we could view any creative output through a similar lens.

Of course, this is just how one guy thinks about it (that’s me). And I admittedly think about creativity a lot—maybe too much. I am inherently curious about what triggers creativity and why it happens the way it happens for the people it happens for. But that’s for another day.

Today, I want to look at anxiety in both the creative process and the creative cycle–creative anxiety, we could call it. I think that artists are, on average, a pretty anxious breed. We worry about almost everything it seems, but in my experience the anxiety is worst at the beginning of the writing process and at the end of the writing cycle.

When I start a new writing project, I freak out in the early going. Are the ideas good enough? Does the story have enough going on? Are these characters interesting? As a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” writer for a good chunk of the process, this anxiety hangs around for a while. As a writer of general fiction, the anxiety starts to fade when I get up around 40,000 words. It’s almost all gone by the time I finish my outline of the last half of the book. That’s when I know, for better or worse, the book will be finished. The momentum takes over.

Writing poetry was similar. At the inception of an idea for a new poem, I was nervous about writing. I would struggle through the lines for a while, and eventually, if the poem was meant to be, some line or couplet or stanza would snag me and the anxiety would fade away.

I enjoy the early stages of the process, though—in spite of the anxiety. It’s new and exciting and I’m learning about these new people, so there is a chance that some of that anxiety comes from the excitement of starting something new.


We’ve established that the writing cycle encapsulates all of the movements of any writing project—from its planning, to its editing and revision, to cover design and layout, all the way through publication, if that is the goal of the project. Of course, a creative cycle can end when you put the binder clip on and shove it in the back of a drawer. Once a writing project is abandoned for whatever reason, that cycle is done.

I’ve learned that I feel the greatest anxiety at the very end of this process. When I’m out promoting the book, I’m anxious about two things:

1.    My creation doesn’t belong to me anymore. It belongs to the world. Will they take care of it? Will they love it? Will they hate it and burn it? Will they understand it?

Not that any of that really matters. It’s up to readers to read and draw their own conclusions. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a source of anxiety.

2.   What will the next project be?

This is different from the anxiety felt at the beginning of the writing process. Here, we worry if we will have another idea worth pursuing with the same vigor as the one that just wrapped. Will we always have stories to tell? For some people, it may be alright to imagine a world where they don’t write anymore. But for me? I don’t know what that looks like.

There is a great scene in Salman Rushdie’s autobiography, Joseph Anton: A Memoir, where a young Rushdie meets Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut asks the young writer, who was fresh off publishing Midnight’s Children, “Are you serious about this writing business?” When Rushdie responds that he is, Vonnegut says, “Then you should know that the day is going to come when you won’t have a book to write, and you’re still going to have to write a book.”

That scene sticks in my head for a couple of reasons. First, it would have been super badass to be in that room. Second, what if I run out of stories?

What are your experiences with creative anxiety? Let’s discuss in the comments.


The Writers Circle: Preparing for the Year That Will Be

One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Today is the first Monday of 2016 and today we will discuss our writing and creative plans for the coming year. Do you have big changes in mind for 2016? Do you have strict or loose goals for what or how much you are writing? How do you define your goals and how do you keep yourself to them as the year progresses?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

7 Digital Tools for Writing

Even though I’m a tech teacher by profession and a geek by desire, my default approach to writing is pen-and-paper. It’s got to do with grabbing a wrinkled piece of paper and jotting a note that I woke up thinking about or shuffled through my brain on a long commute. Something about pen scratching on paper or the even flow of the letters beneath my hand helps me think. But, by the time I’m ready to unravel whatever hijacked my attention, I’ve either forgotten what I meant or lost the note.

For the new year, I’m improving my productivity by going paperless. Before beginning any writerly activity, I’ll take a moment to decide if there’s a digital solution that not only saves me time, but adds less trash to our throw-away society. Here are seven ideas I’ve come up with:


Use one of the many digital note-takers that live as apps on my phone and iPad. It can be as simple as iPhone’s expanded Notes or as varied as the integration of text, images, photos, and videos in Notability.

Digital annotator

Instead of printing out agendas and rosters, I’ll load them onto my phone or iPad and digitally annotate them with the basic simplicity of Adobe Acrobat (free) or the fully-featured approach of iAnnotate (fee).This includes conference schedules and submittals at my critique group.

digital writing toolsBrainstorming

There are so many great tools that make brainstorming with colleagues simple. And, if you’re planning your next story, brainstorming is a great way to get the basics down before fleshing out the plot. Start with the title in the center bubble of the canvas, add characters, setting, and plot. Put the details in as you figure them out and drag-drop them to their right place. You can do it as a timeline or a mindmap. Many brainstorming tools are infinite screens so you can pinch-and-drag to put as much information as you’d like on a canvas.

If you click the links for ‘timeline’ and ‘mindmap’, they take you to a list of popular, mostly-free options for either tool.

White Board

If you like to draw out your thoughts, any of the free or fee digital white boards are perfect. Draw out your ideas, add colors and text, with maybe a lined paper or grid background. Most are simple, uncluttered, and focus on getting your ideas on paper without the confusion of nested tools A few are collaborative and most can be shared with others. AWW is a simple, functional start, but there are lots more options here.

Voice notes

This is one of my favorites because it lets you continue whatever else you’re doing while saving that elusive, brilliant idea. One of my favorites is iTalk–a big red button on your screen that shouts ‘Print to Record’. There are other great options for phones here.

digital writing toolsMapping

There are a wide variety of mapping tools that let you track your characters and setting geographically around the planet. Google Earth is my long-time favorite, but Google Maps and Waze are just as good. These have become critical to my plotting and scene development, preventing me from putting a bistro or bus stop in the middle of the Hudson River.

Word processing

A digital writing list wouldn’t be complete without adding the tool that turns data into a story. Word processors include MS Word, Google Docs (not great for long manuscripts or highly-visual non-fiction), and fancier tools like Scrivener. All of these make it easy to edit your words, move parts around, and back-up your manuscript so you don’t lose it if the house floods.

These are seven that come to mind as I consider how my writing couldn’t happen without digital tools. How about you? What do you use that wasn’t around when your mom was writing her stories?

More on digital writing:

6 Tips That Solve Half Your Tech Writing Problems

10 Digital Tricks to Add Zip to Your Roadtrip

How to Write a Novel with 140 Characters

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

4 Ways to Plan Your Writing

Few people can sit down and start writing. Most of us hem and haw as we mentally walk through how to get from introduction to conclusion. It’s called ‘prewriting’ and everyone does it. What differs is the method–what best suits our communication style?

Here are four approaches I’ve seen work for writer friends:


Brainstorming, also called ‘mindmapping’, is a visual approach for collecting all the bits of a topic that may find relevance in the fullness of your manuscript. It enables writers to come up with many ideas without worrying about where they fit, leaving that for the writing process.

Here are basics for brainstorming your novel:

  • There are no wrong answers.
  • Get as many ideas as possible.
  • Don’t evaluate ideas–just record them.
  • Build on the suggestions of others (if you’re doing this as part of a critique group or writer’s workshop).
  • Stress quantity over quality–get as many ideas as possible. Sort them later.

There are many online tools that facilitate this process. If you’re looking for a webtool, try Inspiration, MindMeister, or another from this list. For iPads, try iBrainstorm, Ideament, or another from this list.


Timelines are graphical representations of a sequence of events over a period of time. Researching and creating timelines appeals to the visual, mathematic, and kinesthetic intelligences in a writer’s mental toolbox. They are critical to developing the story’s temporal flow, making sure events are in the proper order, with necessary scaffolding.

They can be created in:

  • a desktop publishing tool like Publisher or Canva
  • an online tool
  • a spreadsheet program

Popular options include MS Publisher or a spreadsheet like Excel. If you want a webtool, try Piktochart, Canva, or another from this list. If you have an iPad,  try Timeline or another from this list. Here’s an example of my novel’s timeline:

story timeline


Outlines are a tried-and-true approach to organizing knowledge on a topic. They:

  • summarize important points
  • encourage a better understanding of a topic
  • promote reflection
  • assist analysis

Once a general outline is established, they are a valuable method of curating thoughts on subtopics of a theme.

Outlines can be completed easily and quickly in most word processing programs (using bullet or numbered lists) or a note-taking tool like Evernote or OneNote. Excellent web-based options include OakWorkflowy, or Outliner of GiantsIf you’re an iPad user, try Quicklyst or OmniOutliner.

pre-writingDigital note-taking

Note-taking not only collects information, but power boosts learning. Consider this from the 2008 Leadership and Learning Center:

In schools where writing and note-taking were rarely implemented in science classes, approximately 25 percent of students scored proficient or higher on state assessments. But in schools where writing and note-taking were consistently implemented by science teachers, 79 percent scored at the proficient level.

Regardless of whether you write fiction or non-fiction, note-taking is an important approach to remembering and activating knowledge. This includes quickly jotting ideas down as well as the extensive note-taking employed during your novel’s research. Doing this digitally allows you to rearrange, edit, and move thoughts into the order best-suited to the writing phase.

There are lots of digital note-taking tools that are both web-based or for iPads. Two of my favorites are Notability and Evernote.

How do you organize your thoughts and research in preparation for writing?

More on writing:

How to Write a Novel with 140 Characters

Technology Removes Obstructed Writers’ Barriers to Learning

66 Writing Tools for the 21st Century Classroom

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

The Writers Circle: Beginnings and Endings

One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

We all write differently in terms of planning and outlining or writing from the seat of our pants (or something in between).  Today we’re curious: Do you prefer to have a well-formed beginning in mind before you start writing and then you write or plan until the ending becomes clear?  Or do you find it preferable to know how the story will end and then plan out or write until you accomplish the desired ending?  Or do you have another preference in terms of how you get going on a new work?

Discuss this topic here in the comments or head on over to the forums to start or engage in a more thorough discussion.

The Writers Circle: Goals and Plans for 2015

One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Last time, we discussed 2014’s wins and losses. Today let’s focus on 2015. What are your writing goals for 2015? Do you intent to start a new project? Restart an existing one?  Finish an old one?  We’re not seeking writing resolutions here, just a discussion of what you hope to achieve in your writing life this year.


Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

A Pantser in Need of a Plan

It’s day six of NaNoWriMo 2013. Things are not going real well for me so far.  There are several things that are causing this to be a struggle for me this year, some work-related, some life-related and some creativity-related. The work and life issues are “normal”, in a way at least.  But the creativity issues are new and different for me.

The issue is not a lack of ideas for what my 2013 masterpiece should be. Rather, I actually might have too many ideas. There are six brand new novels in my head at the moment, along with one or two “version 2.0” ideas for previous novels.  And they all want to come out all at once.  Which, as you might guess, means that none of them are coming out smoothly (or at all).  I have actually started three novels in the past few days. I got about 2200 words into the first, 1500 into the second and 1148 into the third (so far).  I haven’t yet figure out how to smoothly integrate these three vastly different stories into one so that I can count all of the words toward my 50,000 word goal, but perhaps a method of doing so will come to me soon. Is there a market for a sci-fi-mystery-steampunk-comedy-romance novel set in a fantastical world filled with magical creatures who like coffee and candy corn? Hmmm…

Anyway, the biggest issue for me with NaNoWriMo 2013 has actually been one I’ve never experienced before.  I’ve mentioned the fact that I am an unabashed “pantser” when it comes to writing.  I take a blank page and just start writing, never knowing exactly where I’m going (or even starting) until I get there. I have always written like this and have been successful with it. This strategy comes with a certain level of needing to trust that the “how’s” and the “why’s” of the plot will just kind of work themselves out. And again, they always seem to do that for me.  But for some reason, as I’ve sat down to write each day this month, I am finding my creative mind trying to proactively think about these “how’s”, “why’s” and “what’s”.  It goes something like this:

Me: Okay, so, there’s this awesomely powerful and evil wizard and he needs a sidekick/apprentice but doesn’t like any of the young wizards that are available to him. So he goes out to the real world and picks Sally to be his new minion and she will do his bidding just so that she can learn how to be a magician from him so that she can ultimately defeat her mentor.

The voice in my head: Okay, that’s great! But what is the evil bidding this wizard wants little Sally to do and how does Sally know he’s evil and why is he going outside of the magical realm and what will the end result be when Sally ultimately takes him on.  Oh, and isn’t this a bit too much like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” or “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” or something?


Me: So, the land is suddenly cast into complete and total darkness for 13 months, as has happened every 150 years for all of recorded history. The evil marauders from the northern Darklands invade, again, as they have done every 150 years… enslaving the good people of the southern lands, stealing their food supplies and drinking their treasured coffee.  The Chosen One among the good people of the south will rise up, as he or she has done each time this has happened, to push back the invaders and restore peace and harmony to the world.

The voice in my head:  Okay, but what causes this darkness and why does it repeat every few generations. If it repeats so often, wouldn’t the people of the south have, oh, you know, built up defenses against the invading forces? I mean, come on… they should be smart enough to anticipate that this is going to happen by now? And if they’re dumb enough not to anticipate it… well, maybe they don’t deserve the coffee they treasure so much. Oh, and, isn’t the premise of this just a little bit like “Nightfall”?  Just sayin’.


Me: Okay, so there’s this vampire and—

The voice in my head: Just stop there, dude… the world doesn’t need another vampire story right now.

I’m not saying that I think any of the ideas I have is necessarily destined for the best seller’s list any time soon, but this has never stopped me before. In fact, I’ve never really cared about that when I write.  So why is it that now – when the point is to get words on the page whatever they might be – why  am I now suddenly overthinking it and not just writing? I really don’t have an answer for this, but this feeling of doom is the reason why I do not plan my stories out in advance.  I’ve always felt that if I were to attempt to be a planner, I’d get to a point in my outline and get stuck, then abandon the project completely.  And that’s where I feel I am with these novels right now: stuck and ready to abandon them.  The trouble is that my mind is in this cycle now where it will not allow me to just start writing without thinking about the details of the inciting action or problem or the details of how or why it will be resolved.  Unfortunately, I don’t know how to actually think about these things in advance!

So that’s where I am and here’s where I ask for help:  I know a lot of writers are planners to the same extent that I am completely not a planner.  So, how do you do it? How do you look at your worlds/plots/characters and determine – before you really know them – what they will do and how they will react and why they will do things? Do you have any advice for someone who has never figured out the “how’s” and “why’s” in advance? I’d really like to hear from you about this. Also, if you are doing NaNoWriMo this year, how have your first 5 or 6 days gone so far?

Planning for a Busy November

This month, we at Today’s Author have a specific goal in mind. We want you help you get ready for NaNoWriMo.

What?! You’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo?!
Come out from under that rock and sit a spell, and let me fill you in. This is from their Wikipedia page:”NaNoWriMo is an annual internet-based creative writing project that takes place every November. NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel between November 1 and 30. Despite its name, it accepts entries from around the world. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing, no matter how bad the writing is, through the end of a first draft.”

I’ll take exception to one part of that description: “no matter how bad the writing is.”

I don’t like that. While I certainly agree that the goal of turning off your editor, and giving the creative monster inside you a Frankenstein-like jolt of juice, if at the end of the month, you’re left with 50,000 words that make you cringe when you think about tucking into the second draft, I don’t think you’ve done yourself any favors. Of course, I’d rather you write 50,000 words about the positive effects the US Congress has had on the modern word (i.e., alternative history/speculative fiction) then nothing at all.

NaNoWriMo2013This month, we want to help you move past the nothing, keep moving past the worthless first draft, and into the territory of creating a first draft that leaves you wanting to finish it. A lofty goal for sure, but most of us here at Today’s Author lean a little toward the megalomaniacal.

To kick things off, I want to help you with a little basic math.

To finish NaNoWriMo you need to write 50,000 words in November. November has 30 days. That’s 1666.66667 words each day, right? You don’t need to look for a calculator, Google search will solve math problems for you. I’ll wait. OK, so whether you just checked my math or not….That’s 1666.66667 words each day, right?

WRONG. It’s at least 2,000 words per day.

No, I didn’t suddenly develop acalculia. I am instead acknowledging a basic fact: *(&%^# happens. You will not be able to write everyday–or at the very least you can’t rely on the same level of productivity each day. Why not?

Oh I don’t know…maybe Thanksgiving! Yes the the helpful people at NaNoWriMo chose a month that’s 3-7 days shorter than it appears–at least for those of us in the US. Unless you have no family, or are more than willing to snub them, you’re probably not going to get a lot of writing done on National Food Coma Day (NaFooCoDa)–what with all that football and all those carbs. And if you’ve got kids and a budget, you may lose a good bit of the next day as well, as you pepper spray and kidney punch your neighbors to beat them out to the extra 1% discount that applies from 5:00AM to 5:01AM–Ahhhh, Black Friday.

The point is, if you want to succeed, you need to build a little margin-of-error into your schedule. Because in November the silent manjority of NaNoWriMos (>85% don’t finish) will learn the hard way that it’s nearly impossible to write 50,000 words in 30 days if you’re writing behind schedule.

If in the first six days you can write 2,000 words each day, you’ll be at 12,000–2,000 words ahead of where you need to be at the 1666.66667 pace. That’s a whole day off. That’s a day to be sick, to spend with your kids, to lock yourself in the bathroom and cry–you know, however you like to spend your time. And if you’re one of those who can write 2,000 words every day, then on November 25th you’ll be done.

And then you can stuff yourself to the brim with cranberries and stuffing, basking in the knowledge that you are awesome, and you didn’t need the whole November to write your draft. Heck you wouldn’t even have needed all of February.

The Calm Before the Storm

September is here. That moment of sheer terror that fills my mind with to-do lists, a cluttered calendar, and constant contact.

I’ve discovered the last week or two that I’ve been disconnecting myself with my online life. Anyone who knows me knows that I am generally a very connected person. I’ve been known to spend upwards of 10-12 hours each day working at the computer, chatting, writing, working, and more.

I’ve been in a strange, almost withdrawn mode, staying away from chat, avoiding social media (well, more than usual. My G+ feed is depressingly empty, for me.)

This feels very much like the calm before the storm. It occurred to me while wracking my brain for a topic to write this blog about that this is me preparing for what is to come.

When October hits in earnest, I must immerse myself in the NaNoWriMo forums, answering questions, guiding thread creators to the proper forums, troubleshooting, wrangling beta testers, as well as near-constant staff meetings at OLL. I go to local write-ins, run sprints on NaNo Word Sprints, have lots of coffee, and in general, am more social and involved than I am with anything at any other time in life.

This year presents even more challenges, but I realized that I am actually retreating from this hyperconnectivity before it begins.

I’ve been thinking of the novel I want to write; for the first time in a long time, I know what I’m writing before NaNoWriMo. At a time when many people are getting more connected to the event, I’m trying to disconnect more.

It’s a survival technique, I think. For more than a decade now, this has been my fall. Fall is synonymous with falling leaves, cooling temperatures, and NaNoWriMo.

I don’t think this is a bad thing, either. For me, writing has become intensely social; something that was once painfully solitary has become the precise opposite. In a way, that need to be a part of something has almost crippled my ability to write anything else.

But I’m finding balance. Any writer has to find balance; for that matter, it’s not a problem exclusive to writers at all. I often devote myself with a frightening focus to a particular task or interest for months at a time, only to drop them and find something else later. It’s a pattern that is starting to bother me more and more, as I reorganize my mind and my life. I want to devote the right amount of time to everything… not just one thing to the exclusion of all else!

So, as NaNoWriMo comes, what are you doing to prepare, if anything? I’m planning my deep breath before the other shoe drops. What about you?

Monthly Themes as Planning Tools for Writing

This month, instead of my usual haphazard blog writing, I’ve been doing the A to Z blogging challenge. It’s an entire month of 26 blog posts in alphabetical order, organized around some central theme. What’s different about my blogging for this is in the subject I chose: woodworking tools. All of these posts are non-fiction and have nothing whatsoever to do with writing, editing, publishing or the writing life.

My blog is a “writing blog”, which means it’s supposed to be topically focused on that. However, I deliberately chose something outside the normal scope because I needed a break from the usual; frankly, I’ve been wondering if my readers needed a break from my usual, too. I’ve discussed the trials and tribulations around my writing so much that I feared I was doing little more than whining and replowing the same ground.

From a planning standpoint, it was nice this month to have a solid structure within which to select topics and theme-related objects for each day’s post. It helps to stave off the dreaded “What shall I blog about today?” question. Does this mean that I’ve abrogated the responsibility for creativity in selection of subjects for my blog posts? Not at all. I view this as akin to using a writing prompt as the basis for a short story. Thus far, I think I’ve written more (and better) blog posts than I have in a long time.

Another effect of this A to Z Challenge is that the arrangement of letters in the month caused the letters E, K, Q and W to fall on Fridays. Since I’ve been writing and posting a new flash fiction story every Friday for several years, I saw this as another layer of writing prompt to work within. After picking the woodworking tools for each letter in the alphabet, I worked up a series of related story plots using the E, K, Q and W items. The first three stories – “Exotic Wood”, “On Bended Knee”, and “Quickly, Staunch the Wound”– were based on “E is for Exotic wood”, “K is for Kneepads” and “Q is for Quick-set epoxy.” (As of this writing, the final part of the story – i.e. the W-associated item – has yet to be revealed.)

In general, I don’t plan out extended story arcs for Friday Flash pieces. I want each piece to stand alone, so I rarely make serials out of them. This sometimes means that my stories whipsaw around in style, tone and genre from week to week. That’s probably poor planning for building an audience other than the “Surprise me again, Tony” type of audience. As with the non-fiction posts about the woodworking tools, I think these stories are among the better ones I’ve produced in recent months. I wouldn’t have necessarily predicted that for stories that had to feature a specific item like kneepads or quick-set epoxy. Nevertheless, there it is.

What has this month of thoroughly planned blogging taught me?

First, nonfiction can be as much fun to write as fiction. Second, nonfiction can be as engaging and entertaining as fiction. Third, structure and planning are foundations for productivity, but commitment and prioritization are what make good intentions turn into words on the screen.

I planned out this month of blog posts as completely as I ever planned out any of the novels I never finished. The difference? The planning I did for those novels was so complete that I lost any interest in writing out the novels themselves – I already knew what happened. For these posts, I knew what tool I was going to write about for any given letter, but I didn’t know exactly what I was going to say until I started talking.

Maybe that’s the big takeaway lesson here. Instead of looking at a thoroughly outlined book and feeling like I’ve already created the world for myself, I need to imagine a listener sitting across the table from me to whom I’m telling a story. What part of planning does that fall under? Self-hypnosis? Psychology? Autodidacticism?

I’ll say this: planning your work and your writing structure is tricky, especially when you’re trying to trick your own brain into giving up its secrets in an entertaining way.