Artist's Way Book Journey · How Writers Write · My Writing

The Artist’s Way, Week 3, Chapter 2: Writer’s Self Doubt

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No Pain, No Gain

This week’s chapter of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way was very good. It made me take a deep breath, grumble and groan, but it was good. I had to face the many ways in which I block myself from writing. I say so many negative things to myself in my head, but actually writing them down and thinking about what they were was painful. Painful, but necessary – as they say, “No pain, no gain”. Ouch.

Instead of trying to summarize this week’s chapter, I will share with you Cameron’s Rules of the Road that she outlines and describes in this chapter:

The Rules of the Road

By Julia Cameron:

  1. Show up at the page. Use the page to rest, to dream, to try.
  2. Fill the well by caring for my artist [sortof like the inner child concept].
  3. Set small and gentle goals, and meet them.
  4. Pray for guidance, courage, and humility.
  5. Remember that it is far harder and more painful to be a blocked artist than it is to do the work.
  6. Be alert, always, for the presence of the Great Creator leading and helping my artist.
  7. Choose companions who encourage me to do the work, not just talk about doing the work or why I am not doing the work.
  8. Remember that the Great Creator loves creativity.
  9. Remember that it is my job to do the work, not judge the work.
  10. Place this sign in my workplace: “Great Creator, I will take care of the quantity. You take care of the quality.”

Silent Conversations

We have daily conversations with ourselves, silently, inside our heads. A lot of this chapter was about our daily inner conversations regarding our art (in my case, my chosen art is writing). We may say a lot of negative things about making our daily word count, why don’t we write enough, why can’t we write like so-and-so, why aren’t we published yet, why can’t our current book be as good as our last, etc. All of this talk is self-defeating and is full of self-doubt.

'I started out in creative writing, began dabbling a bit in creative finance and accounting, and before I knew it, wound up here!'

Cameron gives nice anecdotes and analogies in this chapter about the evil of self-doubt. For example, we keep all of our good, wilder ideas glowing, outside of a room full of things we find comfortable. When we encounter one of those bright ideas and, instead of seeing its delight we are afraid, we shut the door on it. Slam!

The most helpful detail amidst the anecdotes and analogies that stabbed into me was: Pay attention. One can only be delighted in life if we pay attention. Deadening ourselves with doubtful self-talk is a demon of inattentiveness.

They say, “Smell the roses”, and this is the basic idea: Pay attention to the world, and you will find delight and happiness, instead of darkness. Pay attention, Cameron says, and self-doubt will not persuade you to its side.

She does not just leave it at that, though. She gives a list of tasks at the end of the chapter, which include listing 20 things you like, choosing 2 for that week, and then actually doing them. She covers why and how to cut toxic people out of your life, comparing non-active creatives to a group of alcoholic friends that want their newly non-alcoholic friend to return to the familiar fold. Tempting and easy as it may be, Cameron cautions her readers and students against such a move, saying the only way to progress, in a way, is pain.

Paying attention is painful. Growing as a person is painful. Growing as a writer is painful. This is what Cameron communicates in the second week of her book.

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Battling My Dragon

This week was tough for me; I’m a little behind, and still doing some my tasks that were at the end of this chapter. I brought myself on a little shopping trip and let myself get some useful but fun items I had been really wanting. I have yet to bake, which was one item on my list that I enjoy doing but always find excuses not to do.

As for the writing itself, well…my goal today is to just finish one page, that’s how deadened I am inside, how wonder-less, how pained. Right now it hurts to write, because I’ve spent too much time talking to the self-doubt in my head. But I’m just going to go through the pain, and write that page.

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Hopefully I won’t be quite like this, as I try to get more productive on my book…

A sweet thing about this chapter is that continuing to read The Artist’s Way gave me the bravery to look at my book more objectively – as I revise it – and consider rearranging the first few chapters in various ways, to see what events needs to happen first. It’s very exciting and scary! I’ll let you know how it goes, once I’ve decided on an arrangement. After that, I’m moving on past chapter 9 to further revision and rewriting.

I hope that all of you are doing well in writing, doing whatever it is that makes you feel successful in it, whether that be researching, revising, drafting, doodling…but if you aren’t feeling good about it right now, take heart. I’m in the same spot as you. You’re not alone. And the pain you’re feeling right now, you CAN work through it, and you won’t be despondent or unproductive forever. Remember that.

And maybe pick up your own copy of The Artist’s Way!

Until next week,

Chaitanya

 

Artist's Way Book Journey · My Writing · Young Writers

The Artist’s Way, Week 2, Ch. 1: The Artist’s Date & Morning Pages

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My Second Chapter of Reading The Artist’s Way

Reading chapter 1 of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way was not easy. My mind wanted me to skip over it, or parts of it. It said, “What are you doing? This is stupid. You read this just last year! What a waste of time.” But I told my mind to just shut up and keep reading. I told it, this will help me write. Don’t you want it to write?

My mind, however demoniac it can be, however distracting and worried and stupid, it does enjoy writing. It knows that when everything in life is dull, I can turn to writing, and find a reliable old friend.

So I slogged through anecdote after anecdote, and thought about how I should pen down each moral or writing-related gem at the end of each anecdote, but I didn’t. They flew through one ear and out the other, I admit.

Challenges on the Way

This workbook is tough. Why? Because it requires me to change myself. Humans seem to protest or fear change, sometimes, and I confess to being one such human. I don’t want to change. I get stubborn and rebellious. I get scared. I get confused and angry. This stops me from progressing in writing and in life.

But one day, as someone said, you’ve got to just get so sick of your own bullshit that you pick yourself up and go, right?

So that’s what I did. I read the entire chapter, and noted down two very special things:

The Artist’s Date

  1. The Artist’s Date. This is a day every week where you shut up your inner editor with Harry underneath the cupboard under the stairs, and run about with your inner child, AKA your creative side. You let it live and let it “take the bit” and “have its head”, to use horse terms. This could mean, for you, the peacefulness of painting the sunset from your back yard. Going on a walk in nature. Having a romantic date with yourself. Making a collage of your favorite celebrities from the magazines at CVS. Playing some games at Chuck E Cheese, even though you’re about 20 years too old for it, now.

 

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(By the way, these pictures above are from real artist’s dates people did).

The point of the Artist’s Date is to let yourself go wild. Don’t judge or try to change the inner child artist. Just let him or her be and do whomever he wants. Let him have some freedom.

The result of this freedom, at least over time, if not immediately – one hopes! – is that you can shut up the inner editor during your creative work and get more done, and get better work done, and not become one of those “I wish I was a novelist” people, and actually write a novel.

The Morning Pages

The second item the chapter gifts the reader is:

 

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2. The Morning Pages. These are 3 pages of anything whatsoever that you dedicate yourself to write EVERY. DAMN. DAY. Not when you feel like it. Not after your shower and yoga. You scribble that S*** down every morning, ideally as soon as you wake up! You can doodle, draw, write down a to-do-list, write down your worries, but make it 3 pages, and do it EVERY day.

This can seem trite and annoying but in actuality it helps, somehow. My personal feelings are that it helps me clear my head so that when I sit down to write, I’m not thinking of the dishes or the laundry or an important phone call, etc., because I wrote about it, and I either plan to do it after, or I already did. But if I already did it, or I haven’t, and I DIDN’T write the morning pages about my worries or to-dos, then…somehow, a little hole is open where non-writing thoughts sneak in.

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When I Failed

Then the whole thing just goes to crap, and I get nothing done, to be honest. I go on Pinterest to look at Pre-Raphaelite art or even writing TIPS, HA!, or check email, Facebook. etc. so much CHECKING to be done…and little to no writing gets done that day. Because when I’m done wasting time on the computer – which was supposed to be my writing time – I have to spend time with people, or get that to-do-list done, or sleep…and there goes that writing time good-bye. *sniffle!*

Today I did the morning pages. I did them late, but I DID them! And what did I do tonight, for two hours at Starbucks? I wrote! I started and finished an entire chapter of my book-in-revision, and I took notes down for the next chapter. I hope to write that chapter tomorrow, thanks to my morning pages. *smile* =)

See? It works!

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Read With Me!!

Pick up an Artist’s Way book and try it out for yourself. I think this blog series would be so much more fun if we all read and did the exercises together, wouldn’t it?

If you have read, are reading, or plan to read the Artist’s Way, please tell me in the comments. I’ve only read chapter 1 so far, and you have an entire week until I post about chapter 2, so – this is your chance! Pick up a book, order it online today, and this can become a Read-Along. You can get your writing or art, or any creative project you may have, done! You can create quality work and shut out the Inner Editor! Just pick up this book, work on yourself, do the exercises, and you will see results.

I promise I’m not getting paid to say all this. I genuinely feel this way. I hope reading about my journey can help you in your creative efforts, and I enjoy sharing.

Until next time,

Chaitanya

 

Artist's Way Book Journey · How Writers Write · Musings

The Artist’s Way, Week 1, Ch. 0: The 10 Principles Creative People Should Live By

After so long, I am so excited – scared! nervous! ack! – to finally be starting my Artist’s Way journey. Again. With you! It is both nerve-wracking and wonderful. When I started this book last spring/summer with a group of friends, it was a group adventure. We were all in it together, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was just glad to be doing a group activity, and curious about the book’s tagline: “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity”, and it’s second tagline, or hook, as you could call it, which runs across the cover: “A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self”.

My First Attempt

During my first attempt at said course, I met with my friends once a week. During our week, we brought ourselves on “artist’s dates”, meant to rejuvenate our non-judgmental inner artist and child, and journalled – or attempted to, or procrastinated! – daily, writing our 3 “morning pages”.

I really liked the experience. I am usually one of the more creative people in my group of friends, especially with words, so it felt very comforting to be in a group where people were trying to be more creative. Usually groups I’m in are related to work, or in the past, school. Creativity was never in very high demand. So here I saw, all of a sudden, in a group where being a creative weirdling was an advantage. Yay! My heart sang.

 

My Experience with Morning Pages

The group activities we did were always full of laughter. For me, one of the most freeing things I did alone was the morning pages experience. Sometimes I was busy or reluctant and did not do them, I’ll admit. But! When I did, wow! The feeling surprised me. I felt so relieved. I unburdened my worries and anxieties onto three little pages, and then was able to go about my day. It was amazing how writing down the negative thoughts helped me to not think of them during the day or evening. I was even safe from the demons before bed! It was such a relief.

On the days I didn’t do the morning pages, I really felt the difference. I found myself more cranky, more worried, and likely to experience heart palpitations or anxiety attacks (which I do suffer from, sometimes). I knew it was because I had forgotten my morning pages. This made me more determined.

Increased Self-Esteem!

Besides this, I also found that Julia Cameron’s book did help me gain some self-esteem. I felt more determined to finish my current work-in-progress fantasy book. I wrote more eagerly, more often, and the quality of my work improved. It was so exhilarating. After months of struggle, scenes flowed into my mind. After months of working creatively and feeling alone in my endeavors, I had a group of friends who were also trying to re-ignite their creative sparks. After so long of back-and-forths, I could finally sit down at a determined convenient time each day and write. And I didn’t throw out everything I wrote, either. I kept it. It was good stuff! It has now led me into a third draft of the first 7 chapters of my book.

Starting Over

Unfortunately, I stopped the momentum when I moved from California to Florida, which was a big move. And I didn’t resume my journey, and made excuses, one of them being that my group did not continue without me – they, too, got swamped by life.

But now I am starting it again, and it’s because of you guys! I noticed extra interest in all the posts where I mentioned Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and seeing your heart respond, I remembered how mine had responded, too. So now I start my journey over, and instead of my physical group with me, I have all of you to witness my progress (or lack thereof – we’ll see!).

Today is Day 0, because so far I have read the book’s Introduction and Foreward. In it, Cameron gives a magical list of absolute gem advice, which she calls the Basic Principles. They are as follows, and I will let you think on them and judge them, take them up, or leave them by the wayside – whatever you wish:

Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron’s Basic Principles Creative People Should Live By

  1. “Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.

  2. “There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life – including ourselves.

  3. “When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creatior’s creativity within us and our lives.

  4. “We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.

  5. “Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

  6. “The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

  7. “When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.

  8. “As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.

  9. “It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.

  10. “Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move towards our dreams, we move toward our divinity.”

 

Now wait, WAIT! Before the word “God” or the idea of our creativity being given to us has you deciding to leave – please just wait. Know that I, too, take Cameron’s word with skepticism. Hear me out.

Thoughts on Writing + Spirituality

When I read these the first time – and even now, to be honest – I wasn’t sure how to feel about them. Part of me said, “Wait a second. God wants me to use my creativity. But what if I don’t want to write about God? What if I write about murderers, or something dark, why would God want me to write about that?” Similar thoughts in that train circled through my head, and I determined that Cameron was taking the Higher Power (or God, or whatever you may want to call Him or Her, or maybe you don’t believe in any thing at all) too seriously and linked Him too much with what was, really, a selfish sort of thing we do for ourselves.

So then came a dilemma for me, in a way. Because I am a person of faith, who believes in serving God, but I am also creative. How to balance that out? Well, it’s another, long sortof story, but let’s just say…I’ve accepted my identity as a writer, who isn’t likely to stop writing, who is also trying to become a good servant of God. And that’s okay. It’s where I’m at.

And I also believe that we can use our creativity to write about spiritual experiences. I’m not sure if I do believe, as Cameron implies, that the act of writing is inherently spiritual. But! Though this may deter you from wanting to read my Artist’s Way journey further, don’t fear – I DO read on, I DO find tremendous creative benefit from reading her book, and who is to know what happens when I get past chapter 6? That was the furthest I got with my group before. Suffice to say, I have seen and experienced the benefits of Cameron’s work, regardless of her personal philosophy, or in spite of, or because of – it doesn’t matter. What matters is, it works.

What’s Coming Next…

Want to see if I’m right? Well then, keep an eye peeled! (What does that even mean? Who would want to PEEL their own eye? Maybe a study of weird phrases is worth a separate post some day, hmmm….haha!) I will be posting an Artist’s Way post every week now, steadily. My day is Thursday. And I may squeeze in another post or two on other topics, as they come to me, or I land a couple special guest post ideas I’ve been meditating on.

Would love to hear your thoughts on Cameron’s Basic Principles!

See you next week,

Chaitanya

10-Day Blog Makeover · Announcements · Musings

My Blog Mission – Makeover Day 1

mission-statement

The first assignment I got today as part of the 10 Day Blog Makeover, by Daniela Uslan, was this:

Write your blog mission statement.

Uslan goes on to say that the mission of your blog is the fuel for your blog. It’s what everything in your blog should center around – even your headings!

Fortunately, she doesn’t just leave it at that, and gives a simple formula around which to form a mission statement around.

I am happy to say I figured out my mission statement pretty quickly. I think this shows that this blog DOES have focus. Writing is a very broad category to write under, but I do have a certain mood pervading all of my posts. I had to think about what it was exactly, for a while, and then how to word it succinctly, but…I came up with something. It is a rough, and I may change it later…but honestly? I don’t think I will. I think this is it. I think I got the GOLD!

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This Blog’s Mission Statement:

I, C.S. Kinnaird, blog about writing in order to help writers find a balance between writing with their hearts and writing with their minds. I do this because I want to know how creativity works psychologically and how we can put our heart’s struggles and triumphs into every piece we write.

What do you think? Does it make sense? I hope it made it clear and not too abstract. I want writers to read that statement and feel excited about what this blog has to offer. Do you?

In case it isn’t clear, I guess I’ll explain myself a little bit.

There are a lot of websites out there that tell us how to write. They give us “the five best techniques for writing your villain”, or, “10 steps to finishing a first draft”. I see them all over Pinterest, and I see a lot of technical articles on big writing websites. All of these articles are helpful, and some of them are super fantastic.

But once you’ve read all those and digested them and learned how to implement them in your daily writing work…it’s still just you, and only you, who can write those pages. It’s you who has to search inside and figure out what you want to write, and why, and how. Some people are just beginning writing, and that can be a very floundering time. Other writers are published authors and have done tons of books, and yet even they have struggles. Sometimes they get stuck, too. A lot, actually.

And sometimes the “stuck” moment isn’t due to your missing out on some technical point on a list. It’s because you’re, say, not sure what your story is about anymore, or you lost track of a character’s motivation. You have to go back to the ideas and feelings that first made you start writing that story. You have to go back to you, to just sitting inside of yourself and thinking of things that hold meaning for you. And then you go back out, bit by bit, to transport that meaning and feeling inside of you onto your pages.

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And when you’re done, if you’ve done that work of looking inside and putting what’s inside on paper, then you have a good book. This is what I believe, based on my experiences as a writer and a reader. You have to write with your heart, not just your mind.

It can be hard to find that balance between heart and mind, in writing. That is why this blog is here!

As for the second part of my mission statement, I’ve referred to the part about heart triumphs and struggles – going inside and grabbing what means something to us and putting it on paper – but what about the psychology of creativity? What do I mean by that?

This was the part where I got stumped, mid-way in making my mission statement. What did I mean by “how creativity works psychologically”? At first I wasn’t even sure.

After some thinking, my conclusion was: Look at Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. She makes her workbook function as a study in how we writers think, where we fail, where we need encouragement, etc. This seeing ourselves helps us to then go out and create. Cameron does this in her books and it really, really helps us a writers to step away a bit and look at ourselves (really, it’s more like stepping in). Cameron calls us out on all of out bullshit and leads us to a solution to our creativity issues – not just by following her formulas, but by being free. Ultimately the work is up to us.

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In a nutshell, by saying the psychology of creativity, I mean how our minds work as creative people and in practicing our craft, and what we can do to manipulate our emotions of doubt, fear, etc. to help us in our work. There is room in “writing by mind” for the technical articles, too; I read them and enjoy them, and include that advice in this blog, too. But by psychology of creativity, I refer to the need to study our trains of thought and catch what’s useful and what isn’t.

Thank you all for reading! Tomorrow, you may see more posts or changes on this blog for the second day of the blog makeover challenge!

Until then,

Chaitanya

 

Just For Fun · My Writing

The Crazy, Starving, Disorganized Writer

This is me right now. Crazy, starving and disorganized.

From Sharon’s Super Secret Eden Blog

I’ll have a moment where I’m totally in the writing, sweetly diving in, getting all these great ideas…zoning out, like the lady in the above picture…

And then I’m like this the next day:

 

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Not a word left in me. Dry. Sad. Going crazy because I can’t write a single page. There are reasons, I tell myself, for being dried up, such as:

  • I’m moving to Florida in 2 weeks
  • I have to get rid of a bunch of belongings to move. This is both terrifying and glorious!
  • I’ve been living up on top of a mountain for 4 months. It’s beautiful, yes, but…seeing the same thing every day? And it’s stinking hot California, to boot? I might need some new scenery right about now.
  • Life. Just…life. People. Arguments. That droning TV sound in the background. Other people’s drama. Car problems. You name it!

Anyway, I’m also this writer:

from Nerd Wallet

Because. You know. Sometimes revising just SUCKS.

And then, of course, we can’t forget the stereotype: starving writer/artist/creative free person singing “la la la” in the corner:

From Romilade’s blog

Anyway, the point of all this is…I have not been able to update this blog, and it makes me really sad. Other points of this blog post should be some inspiring interview or quote where we all come together as writers, sigh and hold hands, and say to ourselves:

“You are amazing. You can do anything. Listen to your soul. I can earn money writing. I can be organized. I am the smartest, best writer on the planet.”

Haha! Right? New age yahoo!

But. Just not feeling that right now. Just missing my writing time and hating moving. I know I should adjust my writing schedule, put in my daily even though life is hectic right now. But instead I’m just being lazy, and it comes and goes in spurts, and I can’t wait to be in my new home in Florida with a nicer, bigger writing desk and all my things organized.

(on that note, have any of you seen Poppin? *DROOL*! I want all of those little colorful doo-dads for my desk!)

I guess this post is just going to be one of those sad little “Just life” posts. I wanted it to be inspiring, but now it’s lunch time so…the leaving bell rings.

Ah! Here we go. Here is a quote that will enliven me, you, and anyone else who’s having a disorganized, crazy, starving writer time:

All things must pass.

– George Harrison album

 

All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.

– Gandalf the Grey

 

Hope that leaves you with a feeling akin to eating a chocolate chip cookie! “Yummm!” and, “I want more!”

Since I’m going to try and keep posting regardless of the craziness, I won’t say “see you when I’m in Florida,” which might be more realistic. But who cares for realism, right? I’m a writer!

See you in a week,

Chaitanya

Artist's Way Book Journey · Musings · My Writing

Recovering Self-Identity: Reading The Artist’s Way, Part 2

Image from fengshuidana.com

As I said in my most recent post, I am now reading Julia Cameron’s famous book on discovering and recovering your creative self, The Artist’s Way. AW is a book that I was skeptic on in the past, and even as I began reading it, I felt skeptical. After all, I have tried many “tried and true” methods for getting my creative battery jump-started when it’s dead. They haven’t all worked for me; in fact, I would say few have worked for me.

Why? Well, maybe it’s something wrong with me; maybe I don’t take the risks or have the guts to really dedicate myself to the many books and method lists for what to do when you get writer’s block, or get rejected, or get discouraged. I have done many journal entries about why I like myself, what are my favorite qualities about myself, etc. in order to boost self-esteem. I feel that AW is the artist’s version of that (for me, the writer’s version).

It sound stupid, but…wow! I can’t believe it’s working. I DO feel that writing affirmations after my Morning Pages is helping me to have more confidence. I have taken a deep breath, and I am having writing ideas return to me. The Censor is lying down snoozing and drinking lemonade, and meanwhile I’m scribbling down ideas in my notebook every couple of days.

Image from fabfreelancewriting.com Do you agree that writing faster is the way? I think I’ll do a separate post in this topic…

What’s more than that, I’m writing again! I am so excited! In the month of March and through the start of April I wrote nothing. I felt discouraged. I didn’t like how the revising of my epic fantasy was going. I didn’t know what to do with my literary novel steampunk “What am I?” second book. So one day I sat down and started writing something, anything…and what came out of me, so far, is a YA sci-fi with a Pocahontas sort of slant.

And what’s been happening as I’ve been reading AW and doing the exercises and homework is…more of the this YA sci-fi is coming out of me, in little spurts. I think I have about 10 pages now. I also write down ideas for my other 2 books; I wrote one more scene in the steampunk book, which felt good. (Later, I made the mistake of looking at that scene and the Censor rose its ugly head, so I learned a lesson not to look back).

The real Pocahontas

The epic fantasy is still intimidating and I haven’t done any work on it since I moved in March. But, I have hope that soon, maybe even this week, I’ll feel encouraged about it again. I *have* been doing some character explorations, since the characters are where I feel the revision is going wonky.

This week’s chapter, week 2, was about recovering a sense of self. The chapter talked about avoiding crazy and discouraging people who dampen your creative spirit. It’s also about exploring the people who gave your encouragement – a teacher in middle school who made you feel good about your writing, or the time you published something in your highschool newspaper.

Try as it might to kill our spirit, the Censor can’t. Because there are always ways that we have been encouraged; we just have to remember them.And, there are always current things we could be doing to help our spirit.

This week, my tasks for AW included describing my childhood room and seeing what was my favorite part of it, and if I could incorporate that into my current bedroom. I also did a great task called Life Pie, where I drew a circle and divided it into six parts: Exercise, Spiritual, Romance/Adventure, Creativity, Work, and Friendships. Then you put a dot in each slice of pie; closer to the center means less attention, further out means more. Connect the dots, and see where you’re out of balance.

Since the Life Pie activity, I have been working harder to re-balance my life. I’m exercising more, calling up friends more, and giving some time to daydream and think creatively – those are the areas where I struggle.

What are some of the activities that you feel you’ve neglected? What do you think would help you recover a sense of identity, creatively or in general?

Until next time,

Chaitanya