The Benefits And Drawbacks Of An Over Active Creative Mind

You’re a creative person. We all are. That’s one of the reasons we are designers. But, how many of us have heard from someone that we have an over active mind and we come up with too many ideas? An over active mind can be both positive and negative. In today’s article we’ll explore both sides.

Creativity

As a creative community, we want to believe that there are positive aspects of the creative minds we have but rarely do we look at the downside of it (or maybe we’re just too busy thinking of creative ideas that we don’t notice the down side?). So instead of just discussing the benefits of an over active creative mind (which I do below), I want to also discuss the drawbacks of the over thinking that we tend to do.

At the end of the article, feel free to weigh in with your opinions in the comments – I’d love to hear what others think.

Benefits of an over active creative mind

Creativity

You have an endless stream of ideas and projects

It’s true – if you’ve got an over active mind like myself and Jon both have, you’re sure to know what we mean by 1,000,000’s of ideas in the pipeline. This is definitely beneficial if you’re trying to brainstorm new website ideas, business ideas or marketing ideas.

I’ve currently got a moleskine book on my desk filled with ideas and random thoughts, as well as 3 others that are filled up and sitting on my bookshelf for documentary purposes. By picking one of these books up (I recommend a pocket sized book for thinking on the go) you can store all of your ideas for later use.

You can become a leader in your field by sharing your ‘spare ideas’ with others

Going from the first benefit to this one isn’t that far of a stretch – you’ve got so many ideas, why not share some of them? On Guerrilla Freelancing I post about Guerrilla Marketing tactics a lot, which is my own way of giving away tips and ideas that I’ve had swarming around in my head. Right here on SpyreStudios I’ve also made a post with 15 Guerrilla Marketing tactics for freelancers, which helps keep me in the spotlight for those types of tips.

How can this benefit you? Easy. Share your ideas and become the expert for those topics and whenever anyone is looking for advice or help with something in your niche, you will be the first person on their mind. This could be writing tutorials, giving away icon sets, talking about website ideas, and so on. You’re creative, let the world know.

You see things in a different light than most people do

Seeing things in a different light than most people can definitely help you out in the long run. By being able to notice little aspects of life that your friends and family don’t notice, you can figure out problems quicker, find solutions to an issue that might going on in you life and then there’s the times you notice how the kerning on a sign above your favorite store is just slightly off (don’t lie, we’ve all done it).

The same thing is true for when you’re building websites, designing logos or working on any other creative project – you can see holes in a style and fill it with your own creativity. You might have a client who wants things ‘cookie-cutter’ style, but you can put your own twist on it because you see a positive end result, and by doing so, you earn the respect and admiration of that client – who by the way, will be talking about you to all of his friends and colleagues.

Drawbacks of an over active creative mind

Creativity

Your mind becomes cluttered with too much stuff

At SpyreStudios, we talk a lot about minimalist web designs, lifestyles and office spaces, and there’s a reason for it – it’s healthy. Yes, having a lot of ideas is good for your creative mind, but what happens when you have so many things floating around in your head, you just can’t seem to focus on the task at hand? What do you do then?

Your brain will function just like your office – if you’ve got a minimalist office and it’s free of clutter, you’ll feel more relaxed and more productive and the same goes for your brain. So treat yourself to some time away from your creative mind and tidy up your thoughts – you’ll be thankful in the long run. You can do this by putting together a to do list of items you have to get done for clients, or items that you must get done around the house – anything that will give you some structure.

You start a lot of projects and don’t finish many of them

Here’s where I really feel like an ass, because I fall into this category, and my girlfriend will tell you that it’s a well deserved spot for me. How many of you have 3 or more projects ‘in the pipeline’? Raise your hands (for real, raise your hand!) I knew there would be a lot of you because this is one of the main things that haunt us as a creative community – too many ideas and not enough time to complete them all.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started something, or did weeks of planning for a project only to stop halfway and jump into something else. I blame CADD (Creative Attention Deficit Disorder) for it to be honest :) My main way of dealing with this as of late is to pick the three things that are most important to me and do them – a redesign of my blog design portfolio, more focus on writing for Guerrilla Freelancing and the launch of Giant Themes. By making sure I have a razor sharp focus on these items, I can keep my mind from wandering to the hundreds of other ideas I have ‘in the pipeline’.

You can lack the focus needed to get client work done

Working as a freelance blog designer, I know this down side all to well, unfortunately. Let me paint a picture for you – you’re knee deep in a client project, 1-2 weeks into the work and then you get this brilliant idea for a website that you just have to build. Instead of working around the client’s project, you actually lose focus on the client’s work, stop feeling productive and creative in their work and can only seem to focus on your own project. Sound familiar?

This is the most devastating item on the list in my opinion, and one that I wrestle with, even to this very day. It’s a struggle to keep your creativity under wraps and aim it in the right direction, but as a freelancer, you must remember that the clients always come first and if the personal project is important enough, you’ll carve out that extra hour or two at night to work on it.

Do you have an over active creative mind?

If you fall into any of these slots in the article, let us know in the comments. Vent your frustrations, boast about your accomplishments or just start some general chatter about the topic at hand – I’d personally love to hear everyone’s thoughts on the topic. Thank you for reading this article, I hope you enjoyed it – and if you did, please take a second and tweet it for us :)

Comments

  1. says

    I do find that I am often tempted to jump from one idea to the next. The key for me is to write everything down and revisit ideas periodically. This will help me determine the nonsense from the actionable items.

  2. says

    “You start a lot of projects and don’t finish many of them” – You couldn’t be more precise. If I had a penny for every time that happened to me…

    This has been killing me for many years, and I still can’t find a way around it. The problem with me is that I never stuck to a single area of expertise. From software and game development to web design, graphic design, film and advertising campaigns.
    I know that I’m doing it the wrong way, and now I know that life is too short to do everything that you dream of. But then again, whenever I am stuck into my ideas, dreaming and visualizing them, I am truly happy.

    Usually when I go to bed, whether it’s 12am or 4am, I just sit there with my eyes closed for at least one hour and try to put order in the chaos, but still, ideas keep popping and keep me awake.

    This was a great post, I apologise if I shared too many details, but I just couldn’t stop typing.

    Cheers,
    Alex

  3. BleuRuby says

    @Padizine
    are u me? lol same here man can’t stop moving from something to other from Photoshop to Illustrator to Flash till i find my self in Actionscript ……………… then PHP ,Ruby …(probably i fill a page with this.

    anyway nice article thank u

  4. Max says

    I’m about to fail school because of this. If I feel I have something better/more important to do, I will be doing it. . .

    Teachers don’t like it at all

  5. says

    I’m always falling into the trap of generating too many ideas, starting the projects, and failing to finishing anything.

    Recently, I’ve been pushing really hard to organize myself. On Sunday of every week, I spend as much time as needed (usually an hour or so) and write/sketch every idea I have in a journal.

    I then separate each idea/project and dedicate a day/time each day during the week to that specific project. For example, if I have a blog post idea, I’ll plan 8AM to Noon on Monday only for writing that post. I continue planning the entire week.

    It sounds like I’m overdoing it, but I also dedicate times to take a break, exercise, etc. It is a good way, personally, to stay on track and complete those projects.

  6. says

    I’m a visual artist (fine art), but I like to use lots of different media, I also like to design quilts, or my garden, write – whatever I do is creative. I have lots of unfinished projects, or works in progress as I prefer to call them, and I don’t see this as an issue any more (I used to think it was a failing). The thing is that even if I don’t finish a project, something I will have learnt whilst doing it will undoubtedly feed into the next, which might be a project I do finish. I’ve learnt that for me being creative means I have a bit of a short attention span (because I get excited by the potential in lots of different things) – and having lots of projects on the go means I can flit between them all and not get bored!

    I thought this was an interesting post, but there are quite a few cliches there that will maybe make people think they’re wrong if they don’t behave that way. It takes a creative person to realise that being creative means you do things your own way!

  7. says

    You are so spot on! I have such a hard time relaxing my mind and removing clutter. When you asked the question how many of us have 3 or more projects in the pipeline to raise our hands, I raised my hand twice, that’s right!

    I currently have 6 projects, some currently in the works and some starting up soon. My mind is never rested, and I think that ultimately hurts my creativity and productivity.

    I also need to get better at prioritizing, and directing my creativity in the right direction as you said.

    Nice post, thanks for sharing.

  8. says

    @Padizine (Alex) – I know what you mean, I generally don’t sleep very much and always have ideas floating around. I’m glad you could relate to the article.

    @Max – it’s ok. I never graduated high school – it’s not for everyone.

    @Dusty – that sounds like a great plan. I’ve also made Sundays my “personal project” days and it’s helped a great deal. Client work during the week and then time to myself on Sundays (when 99% of the clients aren’t around anyways).

    @Stephie – Definitely. There is a fine line though between creative chaos and uncontrolled chaos. My goal is to try and let people know they’re not alone and to try and find a way of keeping some structure in place when needed. Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it.

    @Dimi – thanks for raising your hand and being honest :) I know what you mean about the multiple projects. The best thing to do (in my opinion) is focus on one, knock it out and get it out there, and then move on to the next one. It’ll allow you the time to focus all of your energy on something to make it awesome, and then devote the next block of time to something else, instead of just giving 10-20% to each.

  9. says

    Spot on indeed, every single point you make I recognize. The ideas are not the problem, I seem to be having those just for breakfast. The problem is finishing and maintaining focus. The minute you start working on one project you see (missed) opportunities somewhere else and immediately want to improve the world a little at the other end..

    Great article, striking analysis!

  10. Dean says

    Dude you are so right in this article, I find my self many times changing a design because other idea pump in to my head. This things are killing me and let me with no time.

  11. says

    God this sounds just like me… Always jumping from one project to another, and always have ‘better’ ideas floating around my head!
    Found ways of getting round the drawbacks? Would be really helpful!

  12. says

    Great post Mike, This really is a big problem for a lot of us.

    I have found that I get like this after working too hard for an extended period of time. So I think that if we all just unplug every week or at least once a month, and just relax, work on your own stuff and ignore everything else in the world, then you can manage it.

    I think that burnout is what makes us feel unmotivated and jump from idea to idea.

    So morale of the story (for me at least) Get some rest, and stop working so hard :)

    Keep up the great work Mike!

  13. says

    “Instead of working around the client’s project, you actually lose focus on the client’s work, stop feeling productive and creative in their work and can only seem to focus on your own project. Sound familiar?”

    That hit the spot! I guess I too suffer from CADD.

  14. says

    I call it the snowball effect… Too much coming in at once. Selling too much, biting off more than you can chew.

    Brain overload. Yup. I can relate. How do you fix it? No idea… but one guy once said,

    “Always finish what you start”

  15. says

    As a student, having an over active mind is totally destroying me, staying up late to get school stuff done while I work on my projects.
    Still trying to find a reliable way to get things done but still, when I think of something, thousands of ideas come in my mind and the problem is there again XD

    Nice to see I’m not alone, tough. Nice post :)

  16. Darpan Jain says

    Wow Mike, excellent post, it seems you have scanned my thoughts before writing this article. Every line I read and it was like so true.

    @Padizine and @BleuRuby: Count me in, Second your thought.

    I am a young management student who is in love with arts and spending time learning and exploring the field while keeping aside time for my family business where i assist my dad. I personally feel for people like me who are about to begin their career it is quite futile because our mind wavers between too many things which lead to uncertain career moves. Being Inspired from graphic designing, motion graphics and music, it is so difficult to concentrate on one of them, because at the end of the day it is the love for arts and creativity which overpowers our dreams.

    I have personally been working on a project which clubs all the creative stuff plus my family business but then lately so many new ideas popped in that i lost track of my original project, this has been an on-going problem with me. Lately though i am planning to concentrate on it, I cant assure myself with the same level of excitement towards the project that i had initially.

    On the Contrary I feel this usually happens with all the creative people and indeed it is good because it keeps our creativity intact. I believe working on the same thing again and again gets monotonous affecting our creativity, so our mind look for a change in routine stuff hence new idea keep poppin in.

    Thanks for the post, just shared the thoughts which came to my mind.

    Keep writing and Inspiring.

  17. Alex kahl says

    Great posting! Now i have à Name for the Problem :-) CADD Mails
    it.

    i have to Start over with the strategy of the minimalistic office again i think.

    À pleasure discovering your blog.

    Greeting from Germany,
    alex

  18. Tom says

    Great article, Mike!

    You just hit the point. I personally think that I don’t have this problem, but my very best friend does.
    And the combination is just perfect: Everytime, we talk about anything he comes up with his creativeness and ideas and also looses the focus.
    But if you then have someone, who brings you down back on earth (or better: focus), it’s just a great way to work. Some ideas go further and there’ll be a project out of it, some don’t.

    For those, who aren’t CADD-affected, it’s really hard to be creative, but you structure your work very well and see the overall picture. Without those creative minds, you’re just lost… ;)

  19. Nagla says

    I never thought i would run into an article about this, thought i was “one of a kind”, i am always pointed out as THE most distracted person, anyway i wanna share my attempts which work till i lose focus :D

    – Time Management

    – When a new idea grabs my attention when im working on something else, i sit with myself to evaluate why i AM interested, where will this idea take me, what benefits will it give and what are the downsides of taking it, and i decide with reason whether i should work on it or not..(This one actually worked)

    – Someone advised my to “DO LESS” and focus

    – If you wanna do something, do it immediately or forget bout it

  20. John G says

    I had a ton of half finished projects sitting on my hard drive. I did figure out a way to solve this problem though. I got a new computer. Unfortunately they are still floating around in my skull somewhere and decide to check in with my conscious mind every now and again, even though I am feverishly learning new skills and starting new projects all the time.

    I do actually have one sound piece of advice that has seemed to help me focus and execute ideas more efficiently. Try meditation. It might seem kind of silly, but just taking 20-30 minutes in the morning to sit, clear out the chaos and focus the mind on one simple thing really seems to help me. I hope this can help some of you too.

  21. says

    You hit the nail right on the head! I know in my design class, I was doing a presentation on the De Stijl art form and how it minimalism and simplicity and consistency were some characteristics. I went on to describe how simplicity is necessary in design, because most people that ARE designers are creative and try to squeeze all their ideas into a tiny little space. It normally doesn’t look good all together.

    But if we stop, think, assess are creative ideas, and arrange them individually and give each their own area in the spotlight, we can have MANY more designs, and they will most likely look a TON better than they would all jumbled together.

    I, being so creative at times (although it doesn’t always show in my designs), tend to have a lot to say, a lot to do, and i love it. It makes me dream about things when I can’t have them. But it can become SO disorganized at times. I’ll admit, I can fit into all those descriptionsa up there. I really appreciate you approach and ideas AND solutions on this topic. Thanks so much!

  22. says

    I have most recently started to write things down more. It helps tremendously and offers a little humor as well when you look back on an idea that, at the time seemed magnificent with no flaws, and find that it has more holes than… something very holy.

  23. Smita Upadhye says

    Thanks Mike, such a perfect article for my kind. I thought I was alone to be like this, think of many ideas, start different projects and dont finish single. I have left many projects halfway. You hit the perfect point. This will help me to finish at least couple of my projects. CADD is a cancer to creative mind.
    Once again thanking you,
    Smita Upadhye,
    Creative Designer, Illustrator, Animator

  24. says

    I think it’s important not to confuse honest ideas with vague impressions and unexamined creative directions. A lot of the mental clutter that plagues people, I think, in any field, comes from a poor organization of type, not just the volume itself.

  25. says

    Great article, I am in the middle of the major drawbacks right now- I have yet to finish my own portfolio site re-design, I have several client projects, yet I had an idea for a new project and can’t seem to pry myself off that to take the time to work on the things that are actually currently paying!

    Thank goodness for email- it helps me remember to get back to work on the paying sites so I can really focus on the fun stuff!

  26. Justin says

    “This is the most devastating item on the list in my opinion”
    hell, if thats the case i should be the apocalypse.
    i cant control myself.

  27. says

    Man, this was so good to read. I mean, since sometime ago I realised I got this issues, and I thought it was something in my own personality, something blocking me to finish anything, I was even thinking this was caused by some trauma I maybe even realised was a trauma.

    Well, at least now, I imagine I shouldn’t be “refurbished” due personality defects….

  28. says

    Great article, and there’s me thinking I am the only one! My over active mind can be really problematic sometimes with projects I am working on, as I have so many ideas, its difficult to focus on one or two and take it from there. Recently I have started writing and drawing things down so it can help split the potentially good ideas from the random ones.

  29. Taz says

    Over active creative mind, eh? Is that just a polite way of saying we all have a touch of OCD? ;)

  30. says

    I can definitely relate to you on the topic of starting a lot of projects but not getting any done – on time, anyway.

    I’ve tried using a daily planner on this that says, “What have you done today” just to keep me on track on what I really need to finish and what I’m really ought to be doing.

    I think we just need to clear our mind, set the goal and go for it. Just write the new ideas down on paper and look at them once the goal has been met. At the least, we get something done and have a new project rearing to go.

  31. says

    I definitely fall into several of these categories. I do see things in a different light! And I have tons of ideas, but in turn can’t seem to finish them all. This has been on my mind a lot lately, so I’m glad there are other people who can relate :)

  32. says

    So right! Having a creative mind is great, but as you’ve pointed out, can be a challenge to wade through. I am over-thinking a client project as we speak!! (type?)

  33. says

    Thanks to Kristen Leigh for sharing this article! I believe there are never really too many GREAT ideas, maybe too many sidetracking ones……. The key is in learning how to manage them. As many have already mentioned, creative minds think differently. The question becomes how, and why? There are many out there who live in this space of ADD’ishness (another new word). Whether they truly have ADD (ADHD) or not is only important if it is important to the individual. Once you understand how you work and how your creative mind works, it makes moving forward much easier! I speak on the topic–“Creative or CreADDive? Could it be ADD?” I also come from a family of highly creative individuals and ADD. By the way, I love the term CADD! –sounds much more alive and more fun than ‘shadow ADD.’ Thanks for naming IT, in more ways than one!
    Kricket Harrison, ACC, CPCC, PACG

    Bright Outside the Box, LLC. Helping Innovative Minds Shine

  34. says

    Try being a development manager with many ideas for creative and then my non graphical hobby… I coach triathlon… Teach people to swim and bike and run and stretch and how to do it correctly without over training and then their nutrition and massage and recovery and setting up group workouts and individual workouts and then keep coming up with ideas I want to put into a new web site for all of it… We need 50 hour days and the ability to only sleep, well none of them :) I think I need a few assistants…
    Great post! Thanks!

  35. says

    One hundred percent true, Mike. One of my biggest mistakes is taking too much ideas at once. I’m not able to focus on all of them. Results? My mind is committing a self-sabotage. The worst, I cannot stop this ritual. It’s good to know, that I’m not alone. Thank’s for sharing and please excuse my English.
    Greetings from Poland!
    Sebastian

  36. says

    every coin has both aspects.
    very true

    overtime i been learning.

    when ever it happens
    i just give up anything everything for some silence.
    works for me

  37. says

    Yip – I can really identify with this article.
    I feel like I have so many ideas, but not enough time to implement them. The worst part is having a head that feels like it is about to explode because of so much clutter.

    I have started documenting ideas and aspects of those ideas and I find that it frees up my mind a bit since I now allow myself to ‘forget’ about the stuff I have documented. When I am ready to start working on those ideas I already have most of the groundwork and research covered in my documentation.

    Thanks for the really great article.

  38. says

    Great post! This is so true. I tend to overbook myself and then have a hard time staying focused. I think writing things down can be beneficial but not taking on too much would definitely work wonders :)

  39. Niki says

    Oddly enough, I decided just this month that I need to make a serious effort to finish things that I start. After all, a bunch of half-finished projects don’t make a very good portfolio! I like the book idea. I’m going to start doing that!

  40. says

    GEEZ!!! I hate getting constant ideas that mostly override the previous ones! It’s so annoying because I can’t get anything done! It’s really unproductive… it sounds like ADD even. LOL!

    I find those pocket sized Moleskine notebook too tiny to write all the ideas that come into my head to be honest – sometimes I feel like a need a giant canvas.

    Again, as you said it’s a gift.. and a curse at the same time. It has to do with focus and determination to finish a project before taking on another one. But those things are boring :)

  41. says

    “You start a lot of projects and don’t finish many of them” is very very true in my case.

    I know I’m not overly creative, but when I get hit with many ideas, I often leave those projects after an hour or so. Most of my projects go unfinished and I never pick them up again.

  42. Matty Bruning says

    The thing I struggle with the most as a by-product of an over-active creative brain is not being able to shut it off when I need to. I have trouble focusing on a single thing at times because I’m in constant brainstorming mode. I also have insomnia which is a direct result of not being able to turn my creativity off.

    Like they say though, you take the good with the bad.

  43. says

    I didn’t know I have such a creative mind then I realized I have all of those symptoms, even the drawbacks. This is like a story of my life. Haha~
    Every thought I have, I jotted them down on my notebook and they stayed there, I tried making things and theyre never finished.. I just think theyre too ambitious plans but they are possible- I think.
    Maybe because I also have huge symptoms of being stubborn, lazy and a lot of procrastination. I need a cure. :)

  44. says

    I would have never thought that being creative would have negative effects. But now that you say it, it makes a whole lot of sense. While I love being creative, I definitely agree that it can make you over worked and just generally a very busy person. That being said, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  45. says

    Ahh thank you for this post! I feel so validated! I have to agree, that writing things down helps immensely, and is a habit I promise to get back into!

  46. says

    One of the most important things I’ve learned as a writer is how to filter ideas and flow them into workable slots. If I didn’t learn this, I’d never be good enough to be paid for what I do.

    However, knowing how to do this isn’t very creative. But I believe none of us are really very creative. If creativity means conjuring something *completely* original, then no human is capable of true creativity. The best we can do is think along reference points from our own experiences and the experiences of others and then tweak these ideas so that they have new application. I know this isn’t the forum to have this particular debate, but whenever I see people celebrating their ‘creativity’ I feel compelled to remind them that we’re not nearly as ‘creative’ as we like to think we are. No one is capable of true creativity, but rather – creative tactics to existing ideas.

  47. says

    This is an amazingly helpful post… I usually don’t write in the comments of something i’m reading because by halfway through I have something flash into my head and I just have to research it, or build it, or talk about it and so on… My wife thinks i’m nuts and quite frankly at times I feel that way as well lol. I have three business’s at the moment and one in particular is a really great invention of mine however I feel at times bored, and full to the brim with the new ideas. I love the things you say to do in this article, however have you ever gotten to the point where the ideas are coming even faster than the actions to stop the ideas? Lately I can’t do anything without moving onto something new a day later. HELP

  48. says

    Animator/filmmaker here so this might be different, but I noticed similarities.

    It’s a NIGHTMARE! People ask me when’s my next short coming out and it’s only because cool idea today is topped next minute. A problem I have is the “sub” idea conflict. A conflict within conflict.

    As of right now my most current one:Resume my unfinished Digital Compositing final from before I left college. I decided to zone in on that one vs. my other ideas since I kind’ve “promised” it and feel obligated too. Plus I was disappointed with what I threw together in it’s place beforehand and really WANT to finish it as it’s a fun pursuit, albeit tedious.

    Good and well, but then the problem became writing it’s story. Two ideas for the story that I honestly both love, and I don’t have enough third-party peers or relationships in my life to get input on which to choose (Facebook status updates asking are the best the lonely aspiring, overly active creative mind who’s only friendships are his characters can do) <:-)

    We're all fine in the long run though…eh?

  49. Webfaction says

    I love the above picture where the women is grabbing her head. I probably do that on a daily basis.

    It can be so hard to literally slow your thoughts enough to buckle down, focus and complete the task at hand. Especially if the task has a lot of open end possibilities such as functionality , user interface design, color schemes…. I find it helpful to really lay out my plans in a diagram and list. Then to go back and adjust accordingly throughout the process. * Key thing here is i define that end result or goal and return to in continually whenever i feel that i am getting off track. Makes things a little bit easier

  50. Cheryl says

    Wow! Can I ever relate!!! I’m actually a musician, not a graphic designer. However, one of my creative ideas led me to learn three new software programs in just a few days in order to get it started. While that project is on hold for now, I’m studying for my LSAT, learning Spanish (I’ve tried French, Danish, Portuguese) and composing, notating and recording a new piece of music almost every day. Give me a subject (agriculture, digital transference, humanitarian) that interests me and I’ll propose a reform ready to delegate to a team for implementation. Then, I’m ready to move to the next challenge. If only there was a productive outlet. Any suggestions?

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  1. The Benefits And Drawbacks Of An Over Active Creative Mind…

    You’re a creative person. We all are. That’s one of the reasons we are designers. But, how many of us have heard from someone that we have an over active mind and we come up with too many ideas?…

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