writing

Lightly, My Darling

It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly, child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling.

Read it out loud, this beautiful excerpt may sound familiar, it is from the utopian novel called Island, told by even more beautiful mind of Aldous Huxley.

I know I need to read it once again because I think I would have much more use from it (if I may say so) now than I did 4 or 5 years ago. I think about all those books that I read a long time ago and it’s not that I didn’t enjoy them or understand them, it’s just that it may have been too soon.

One of our crazy high school teachers actually made some sense when he said that he agrees that making a bunch of 17-year-olds read Marcel Proust’s Combray in a short period and then expect them to identify with the novel’s main subject – the passing of time, is ridiculous. Proust was obsessed with destructive effect time has on people, events and relationship, an obsession worth having if you ask me now, but what the fuck does a kid in high school have to do with that? 

The only thing reading Proust when you’re that young is make you not want to have anything to do with his work ever again. Ten years later, I still remember how unbelievably confusing Combray was, even though I didn’t hate it as much as most of my peers. Ten years later, I haven’t yet decided it’s time to go back to it and continue reading the remaining six volumes, more than 4 000 pages aptly named In Search of Lost Time. I still have time to lose before I start feeling really bad about it, at least that’s what I’m counting on.

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Huxley’s Island on the other hand acts as a sedative, but not a mind numbing kind, it slows down time in an enlightening way. If you compare the cruel, frightening reality of Brave New World and Buddhist influences in Island – his last novel, it makes me happy that Huxley didn’t get more scared and worried as he got old and sick as if it’s somehow expected from an average modern mind’s point of view.

The key to being lucid and painfully aware of everything that is wrong (is dystopia our reality?) while making peace with your current state without feeling powerless our constantly out of focus is of course not yet known to me, the path is I think someone between Proust’s melancholia and fragility and Huxley’s spiritual philosophy, often enhanced by psychedelic drugs he started experimenting with in the 1950s.

A couple of days ago I learned how his last moments were like, which made me like him even more, not because of ‘wow, he’s so cool’ factor, because I think it represents a great mind fully embracing everything that is happening. The decaying body does not equal a decaying mind.

On his deathbed, unable to speak due to advanced laryngeal cancer, Huxley made a written request to his wife Laura for “LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular”.

 

There are things known

and there are things

unknown,

and in between are

the doors of perception. 

 

 

Have you heard about….??

Do you ever discover something ( like a song, series, food recipe, piece of clothing, any kind of skill ) that everyone was fully aware of since the beginning of our time on Earth?

Yeah, me too.

Nevertheless, you keep proudly talking about it, share thoughts publicly and basically acting like you single – handedly discovered a new planet in our solar system.

Yup.

Love it.

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Just kidding with  Despacito actually, I was seriously obsessed with it for a couple of months during its ‘prime time fame’, learned it by heart, but now my ears are bleeding just like everyone else’s. My Spanish has improved by 0,005 %, though!

Poetry Nights and how they put everything back in perspective

Sometimes I love cancelled plans, ironically they come to me with a great feeling of adrenaline rush and countless opportunities. I am an introvert by default – it is evident from my need to catch a break for a day or two after spending a lot of time closely interacting with other people for a while. It doesn’t mean they are not dear to me, I just need a small escape gap to give me a chance to recharge my batteries, and then I’m ready to socialize again and be a happy, functional human woman.

Like most of us, I enjoy being around people I like and who I’m comfortable with, talking is of course the main part of the deal so a healthy cocktail of chit-chattery, gossip, simple topics mixed with something new or more challenging is always the unintentional goal. One of the parts of being a social being in general is no matter how long you know someone, if your relationship is solid, you’ll always manage to discover new subjects, learn something and finally, get excited about things you didn’t even know they excite you.

So, cancelled plans. This week is the best time to be alive for all of us chronic cancellation and postponing loving assholes. It is the middle of a summer, the time when I usually turn into someone who is not a very good person, someone who doesn’t have the greatest conversation starters or any creative ideas whatsoever, someone who will talk about mosquito bites and suicide 90 per cent of the time. I would most likely team up with your grandma and present everyone with the data about the horrible effects of sun exposure and how you should, if possible, avoid it throughout the day. Going to the beach happens only from 6 to 7 AM or after 7 PM, there’s no in between. Literally. I will even casually throw in the word ‘cancer’ just to keep the party going, totally unaware how I’m being a bit of a hypocrite since I used to smoke a pack  a cigarettes a day and no one could say a word about it.

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Back to cancelled plans. The past couple of days the heatwave made everyone act like me. They are postponing work, public events – no open movie projections, even some theater plays got cancelled! Since nothing is going on, all we hear in the ‘news’ is: extreme temperatures, the worst summer ever, hell on earth… I read a title that went like this: Our readers experiences: ‘I went to the store today and died’. The whole article consists of random statements delivered by anonymous Croatian citizens (a.k.a. invented by the author) worrying about how to survive the heatwave. My absolute favourite comes from a brave female reader from Zagreb:

I drink water and pee all day, I can’t eat and I usually love to eat. If I put my clothes on, I’m hot. If I take it off, I get sticky. And the worst part of it all – the coffee doesn’t taste good.

What do I do when plans get cancelled and I’m lying naked in a pool of blood sweat next to the ventilator, but don’t want my brain to go into a complete shutdown? I read poetry – no matter if it’s going back to old gems or accidentally discovering new authors, it’s the best cure. Tonight I’m once again hanging out with my queen, Sylvia Plath.

One of her poems that leaves the greatest impression is called Mushrooms and although I didn’t pay much attention to it because of the title that seemed bleak (seriously?), became important to me right after I read it for the first time.

Mushrooms

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

Sylvia Plath, The Colossus and Other Poems (1960)

 

When I read it now, I could swear that this poem is precisely what first inspired Margaret Atwood to write The Handmaid’s Tale, just look at the last verse. Sylvia Plath is an icon of feminism, a real one, not just a ‘one line pony’ as I like to call them nowadays. She lived in the 50’s and was, in a way, forced into accepting a role of a simple housewife, go after society’s rules, although her mind was way beyond that ever since she was a young girl.

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If I Could Just See You From Up Here by Norman Duenas

This is a poem about oppression and how it will not last forever. I don’t think it’s necessary to limit to the equal female rights problem only when oppression is not just gender based problem (what an understatement in lack of a better word), it is everywhere, it is evident, hidden, sometimes comes in layers, sometimes directly in your face. Oppression is the word I would use to describe what Plath was fearing the most during her young and later adult years, the fear of not being able to express herself and live freely without having to answer to anyone’s expectations deteriorated the state of her mental health leading her towards the tragic ending.

Mushrooms speaks to everyone who has ever felt isolated, misunderstood, underestimated or ignored and although it comes in a depressive tone, it is actually a positive, hopeful poem.  It provokes the thoughts of a revolution that will help restore the balance between the greedy oppressor and the underdog. It is in deed a revolution, but not the roaring, powerful kind, it is subtle and quiet, it comes on its tiptoes while you think everyone on the planet is asleep. Nothing is sure except that in the morning the sun will rise and deliver a surprise on its rays.

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We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.

 

 

Moonlight

My brain is melting, can’t really read or write anything. Today is ‘take photos and post them on the Instagram instead of studying’ day.

Also, to continue with today’s grand achievements – I made ice coffee and poured in a couple of drops of spoiled milk, drank it right away, loved it. In my defense, it didn’t smell or taste bad, only the texture was… well, questionable.

To get myself mentally back on track, I am posting one of my favourite poems, the one that decorates one of my bedroom walls. Whenever I mention poetry, there’s 95 percent of chance that I’m turning into your grandma and talking about French 19th-century symbolism movement.  This is Paul Verlaine‘s Clair de lune (Moonlight) from his 1869 collection of poems Fêtes galantes. Read carefully, add a bit of (non spoiled) milk, three ice cubes, mix it all up in  a cocktail shaker and enjoy.

 

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L’amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n’ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau,
Les grands jets d’eau sveltes parmi les marbres.       

Your soul is a landscape fair and fine
Where charming masqueraders swarm
Playing the lute and dancing and being almost
Sad beneath their fanciful costume.

Singing together in a minor key
Of love conquests and the life of risks,
In their fortune they do not seem to believe;
And their song melts into the lunar beam.

The quiet moon beam, sad and beautiful,
That lulls the birds in the trees to dream
And makes the fountain jets sob in a spree,
The tall slender jets that soothe the marbles.

       

* Finding different versions of poems, even from professional translators can be pretty frustrating because the new version never completely captures the whole point, the core of what the poet had in mind. It’s probably one of the main reasons why I will never stop learning foreign languages – to be able to enjoy literature in its original form. One day.

 

 

 

Symptom Recitle

You know, sometimes I want to talk about complicated stuff in sincere, simple way, but that’s way harder of making plain facts seem super intelligent. And sometimes I try to project my state of mind directly on the paper/keyboard, but the words turn out to be embarrassingly weak when compared to the original line of thought I had in mind.

And sometimes, while I’m in that specific state of mind, like now – nervous, jittery and restless for no particular reason, but for all the reasons, I stumble upon a short story, a poem, song lyrics that I have never encountered before, and they manage to describe everything I feel. How weird is that? Specific emotions, detailed thoughts, moodiness, pain and boredom, it’s all there. That’s why great authors and storytellers are timeless, they manage to recognize parts of themselves in everyone else. Or at least it looks as if they are not completely self concerned. Even if they are thinking exclusively about themselves, the talent allows them to express feelings in a way that is so familiar to us mortals. There’s no greater feeling than finding a safe place in stranger’s words.

This is my newest discovery, I’m sure it’s not a temporary fascination. Today we mark the date when I fell in love with American poet, writer and critic Dorothy Parker.

 

Symptom Recital

I do not like my state of mind;
I’m bitter, querulous, unkind.
I hate my legs, I hate my hands,
I do not yearn for lovelier lands.
I dread the dawn’s recurrent light;
I hate to go to bed at night.
I snoot at simple, earnest folk.
I cannot take the gentlest joke.
I find no peace in paint or type.
My world is but a lot of tripe.
I’m disillusioned, empty-breasted.
For what I think, I’d be arrested.
I am not sick, I am not well.
My quondam dreams are shot to hell.
My soul is crushed, my spirit sore;
I do not like me any more.
I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse.
I ponder on the narrow house.
I shudder at the thought of men….
I’m due to fall in love again.

 

The Exploitation of Frida

One day in the late 1940’s you find yourself wandering around Coyoacán, Mexico and stop by at La Casa Azul where the rebellious painter lived and ask her: Frida, my dear,  what do you want to be remembered by after you are no longer living on Earth? What do you think the answer would be? I have a couple of versions on my mind, they are all connected with freedom and free love, determination, passion and obsession with life with all of its epic, exciting, moments, but also the inevitable downfalls, pain, sickness and sleepless nights. 

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I am happy that the legendary artist is getting more popular than ever, social media created an important passage for new generations towards her art, words and thoughts about honest love and intimate suffering. The aftermath is amazing, even though Frida passed away 63 years ago, her image and spirit are present while she’s considered as a role model and inspiration to girls and women (and some boys and men, because why not?) of all profiles, especially the underprivileged, misunderstood ones.

Commodification as a norm

Every medal comes with two sides, and the thing that is happening with Frida’s persona, just  like with many other important figures who represent resistance to the system of exploitation, is that they are all being turned into something completely opposite, they’re becoming objects of advertising propaganda. Just think of the irony of Che Guevara, the best example of modern era’s distortion of values – his face selling T-shirts, travel agency deals, coffee mugs, key chains, door mats, towels… There’s even a ‘Che chic’ expression for a fashion inspired by the great revolutionary’s image! The real person and the idea behind is lost, irrelevant, to a great number of people his face is merely a caricature, a pop art commodity.

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To answer the question from the  beginning of the post, I’m positive that Frida Kahlo would never accept the role of a commercialized poster girl, a capitalist icon connected to various products in most ridiculous ways. The last example I saw today, the one that ‘triggered’ me to write this down was a billboard presenting a young model wearing Frida inspired traditional Tehuana like dress with a flower crown and a parrot sitting on her hand, all very rich, colourful, with a big white 10 % SALE banner screaming from the top right corner. Naturally, there is no manifest mention of Frida, but the resemblance is uncanny. Oh, and when I zoomed in towards the bottom right corner of the image, I could finally see it is a commercial for a newly opened furniture store. What is the connection? What do Frida’s face, style and that poor parrot have to do with the new sofa or a lamp they would like you to buy? I have no idea, I’m pretty sure that the ad creators are equally clueless.  That’s the idea, to keep everything floating on the surface, as soon as you dig deeper, try to find any meaning, there’s a dead-end.

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Fake feminism

In Frida’s case the story is even more complicated because it all has a lot to do with commercialization of feminism and empower yourself ads. Empower yourself by buying our shoes, empower yourself by getting that perfume in a drugstore near you, empower yourself by choosing hair extensions from our salon, empower yourself… Ok, just stop for a second there and let me unnecessary analyse it. What does it mean exactly –  if I buy a T-shirt from a brand that currently doesn’t have the ’empower’ or ’embrace your beauty’ campaign going on, am I degrading my self – worth? And what about next month, when the brand I bought the shirt from turns to a different, for example ‘YOLO!’ campaign style while the others begin to embrace the ‘love yourself, be unique, but look just like everyone else while wearing our clothes’ mantra? Damn, it’ s like you can never win and reach 100 % on the empoweredness scale. Should I worry about it, probably not, but I do sometimes. I feel like I have to. Would Frida care? I think not, she would just continue marching on using her talent as a weapon of mass destruction in fighting every stereotype there is on her way to immortality.

Wearing Frida or Che’s face on your shirt is not really a problem, the question is: Do you know who those people are, how they lived and what they stand for? Or are you just wearing it because you like the colors and it looks kind of cool and edgy while their polished images are somewhat familiar and also you saw someone wearing it on a Instagram photo just the other day? If the answer to the second question is yes, take the shirt off and do some research.

Now I need to chill, hand me that Pepsi, Kendall! Cheers!

Just another Jean-Luc Godard appreciation post

My romantic relationship with French New Wave in cinematography is public and stable, so firm that I’ve stopped referring to it as a simple love affair a long time ago. When in doubt, there’s always an inspiration hiding in some of my favourite titles and actors. And there’s still so much left for me to discover!

The last piece is a bit more  technical, not just a general praise to the cinematic genius.  I don’t think it’s necessary to copy the whole text, so here’s the link to my latest film related fangirling:  5 Important Lessons Modern Filmmakers Learned from Jean-Luc Godard.

Btw, WordPress keeps suggesting that I spelled the director’s name wrong, what’s up with that?

And also, other people’s thoughts and comments on that post’s subject are more than welcome.

Short Story Writing Tips

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Whatever you think of or want to express, there’s someone who has done it better already, right? Probably, but that doesn’t stop us from creating. Today is a ‘I need a kick in the butt to get started’ kind of day, so this is  a start, Kurt Vonnegut‘s  essential tips on how to write a (good) short story:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character she or he can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

 

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And finally, I would just like to add a little something to keep in mind: Make sure to break as much  rules as possible, including the advice from the list above. Good luck!

Thank You, Sylvia Plath

The poems, quotes, letters, photos of a beautiful blonde woman with a wide smile were all over my news feed yesterday. A mother, a wife, a talented poet – ‘she had it all’ as they like to say in the west, but somehow it wasn’t enough.  And now on October, 27th we celebrate the unfortunately too short but important life of a woman who was equally impressive as an author and as an individual – Sylvia Plath.

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Sylvia Plath on the beach, summer 1953 (photo from the Gordon Ames Lameyer Papers)

Ever since opening the Bell Jar for the first time, I remember how I couldn’t believe it’s real. I read it while staying at my grandma’s house during the endless, annoying summer 12 or 13 years ago. I didn’t know what to do with myself until I found some books randomly stacked up in the ugly living room cupboard. Some of them were cookbooks, foreign fairy tale editions, cheap crime novels, and two other books who, at the time sounded a bit familiar but I had no idea they will leave such an impression on me. Both controversial in their own way, one on the each end of a spectrum – Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.

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Up to this day I have no idea who brought the particular book to that house and how it ended up in that cupboard. Back at home we always had big piles of books everywhere, I didn’t have to go to the library for a long time because we had all the important titles on our shelves. But The Bell Jar never belonged in that collection, it’s not well-known in my country, it’s not even mentioned in school literature classes. Today I am finally aware why that is the case and why her work was marginalized. The thing is, it took me a while to realize that women and men can’t suffer the same way when it comes to public perception of mental problems, or just problems in general. Men’s demons and self – destructive behaviour augment their artistic substance while women should suffer in silence and hide, or even worse, they are expected to at least pretend to be happy most of the time.

Unfortunately, the part that made Plath (in)famous was her depression and the way she ended her life a short while after her only novel was published. I’m ashamed to admit that was what made me like her even more after I learned those information from the author’s biography at the back of the book. That is, I suppose, a normal  reaction for an overly sensitive teen who is looking for idols in all forms, contemplating life and, naturally, idealizing ‘tortured artist’ syndrome. On the surface it seemed like Sylvia fits right into that imaginary mold I’ve created. As soon as I started reading I could sometimes imagine myself in her shoes, I was still too young to  understand the struggles around college life, almost being  an adult, sexual relationships, finding a purpose, etc., but the general tone tinctured with insecurity felt surprisingly close. Many years later I still remember some of the lines from the novel and think how they seem relevant to me.

In her semi autobiographical novel, Plath speaks through the main character  Esther Greenwood and refers to her time at college where she showed great talent and gained success. Just like in real life, after some disappointment, she started to have mental issues that grew bigger and made her feel like an outcast in comparison to people her age, although she tried to understand their interests, goals and behavior. Nothing is left for her but frustration and confusion. As a reader I felt the most frustrated at the parts when Esther is given shock treatments to help her deal with depression and insomnia.

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The novel also deals with  a topic that is, although common, pretty much under the radar – a  typical problem for  exceptionally good students is the question about the future. Of course, everyone has anxieties about what happens next, but what are those students supposed to do after they leave school? Leaving an environment where they were considered smart and capable to start from the beginning where they are considered to be nobodies. They may continue to educate themselves in some form or another, but are expected to get a job, start a family, long story short – they get thrown into the adult world and simply have to fulfill their role in society. There’s no time for complaining. Esther can’t imagine herself enjoying the, at the time, typical female role of a wife and a mother who doesn’t pursue a career, and that is making her feel lost and trapped.

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Sylvia Plath tried to commit suicide many times, the first time it was documented in 1953 after taking sleeping pills but was found alive in her mother’s cellar after three days. The final attempt which turned out tu be successful  happened after a depressive episode in 1963 when she was found with her head in the oven with the gas turned on. She was only 30 years old.

Who knows what she could’ve wrote next? Not long before her death she had just finished The Bell Jar and had a creative period that left us with  numerous poems and short stories  who represent a testament to her genius, tumultuous mind. Breaking the taboos, being candid about personal struggles  and the recognition of female rights are finally getting the necessary attention which is making Plath’s work contemporary and more and more important and influential. Little girls wanting to be poets or writers have someone to look up to. Thank you for being an inspiration to us while we’re getting involved with art or going through our personal struggles.

Hello, friend

It’s been a while. This morning I found an interesting article containing a list of free online digital classes. I was thinking about enrolling into some kind of class to learn the basics for programming or creating a website. Also, it wouldn’t be bad to upgrade my Microsoft Office skills, I’m pretty skilful in using Word, but I could use ‘some’ improvement in the Excel department.

Until my brother finds some time to help me with that, I think it’s a good idea to start with the simplest but useful subjects from the list I’ve discovered today. I will start with  the last one, No. 13 : Writing for the web, it’s completely free and the learning material is divided into 4 lectures which sounds reasonable to me.

My beginnings and gathered experience in journalism have already taught me about the main importance, although I don’t really remember much in theory. It’s natural that I’ve learned the most during practical work while getting advice from professionals and teachers.

I’ve mentioned somewhere in the previous posts that I share a project with two friends from my year at Uni, we started it to get extra points in a social media course, but nevertheless continued to work on it afterwards. I will go into details in one of the future posts, but for now I will just stress that I have to able to find appropriate content and post it on our social network profiles, make new contacts, write reviews, promote our brand, conduct interviews and find people to work with. There’s also communicating with our followers and being ready to react well in risky situations. It’s basically community management combined with field work so it’s safe to say learning new digital media skills is an absolute priority for me.

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Of course, there are lots of things you can learn by yourself, every interested person with an Internet access can do it, but I like to learn things old-fashioned way and getting assignments and stuff. Apart from that, I hope I’ll get to learn some useful tricks and hacks (Mr. Robot withdrawal syndrome is kicking in again, sorry) that I will proudly present here.

Btw, the geek in me is happy because I’ll ge to take notes which I really like if the topic is not boring me to death. I’ve just applied, the class starts on September the 12th and lasts until the 11th October. Woooo, can’t wait!

Knowing how to write well is an important skill for just about anything, but have you ever considered that doing it for the web requires even more thought and energy? Because we look for quick answers on the Internet and social media nowadays, online content has to be short, engaging, helpful, applicable, and easy to find all at once. This course will help just about anyone — from journalists to technical writers to developers to aspiring bloggers — create content that really engages.