Writing with Post-It Notes | Kasem Kharsa | Skillshare

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Writing with Post-It Notes

teacher avatar Kasem Kharsa, Artist-Filmmaker

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Supplies List


    • 3.

      Step 1 - Start Anywhere


    • 4.

      Step 2 - Follow Your Intuition


    • 5.

      Step 3 - Making Connections


    • 6.

      Step 4 - Shaping the Mess


    • 7.

      Your Project


    • 8.

      Documenting Variations


    • 9.

      Elements of Creative Ideas


    • 10.

      Parting Words


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About This Class

In this short class I'll be demonstrating how you can use the simple tool of post-it notes to flesh out your raw writing ideas into something more substantial. Post-its allow us to be tactile, spatial and visual with our ideas - so they're a great break from the rigid computer screen.

If you've taken any of my previous classes, then you know I tend to lead with theory - but this class will be a change of pace as we jump right into 'the action' as you watch me demonstrate the technique with a real example from my own work. 

We can use post-its at any stage of the writing, whether we're stuck on the first draft and we only have an image or word . . . or if we're further along and we're trying to revise our tenth draft. 

If you've struggled in the past with developing your ideas or you've set writing quotas for yourself and failed miserably, then this way of working might be productive and enjoyable. This class is intended for fiction and non-fiction works in progress - short stories, novels, poems, screenplays, articles or even a college paper - as well as all experience levels.

I hope you join us!


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Meet Your Teacher

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Kasem Kharsa



Make sure to sign up for my teaching newsletter. 

I'm a visual artist and filmmaker. My preoccupations are with memory and narrative, the stories we tell ourselves. I've participated in several writing workshops and learning environments so I try to bring that experience into my own teaching.

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, my name is costs. Um, I'm a filmmaker as well as a teacher here at skill share. As a teacher, I'm really fascinated by the creative process, specifically the tools that we use and the way those tools can help us and sometimes hurt us. Take writing, for example. In writing, many of us have an idea of what serious writing looks like. Serious writers. They sit over their laptop, hunched over, staring at the blank screen, and they set a goal for themselves. I'm gonna write 1000 words. I'm gonna write 2000 words today consistently clock in, clock out. And it's this kind of like a grueling physical workout. For many writers, that approach makes sense because the way they write is very linear. It's very orderly, but for the rest of us, myself included, that way of of writing, especially in the first draft stage, can lead to a lot of frustration. It can lead to a lot of feelings of I have nothing to say and I'm not really a writer, and my take on that is maybe we need a different approach. Maybe we need an approach that is a little bit more ambiguous. That allows us the kind of hunt to look for what we're trying to say. That allows us to, you know, build a network or constellation of ideas and phrases and words and characters, and you know that we think could belong in the same piece. But we're not quite sure yet. We're still looking for it, and that's what this class is about. It's about taking a break from the computer, these kind of digital tools and working in a more analog way. Playful, intuitive, physical, tactile. And we're gonna be doing all of that with simple posted posted notes were going to allow us to build our pieces from very small ingredient. And we're going to see these small pieces kind of build and take on Mass and take on a shape over time. And that's gonna be very useful, especially again in that first draft state when we're when we're kind of hunting for what we want to say, regardless of your experience level, regardless of what you're working on. I think this class would be helpful to you, especially if you're so used to working on computers and being hunched over like that. If you're tired of doing that. If you're tired of feeling frustrated, if you're tired of feeling maybe like this, if you want to write more freely, then join us and you just you just call himself a peacock. 2. Supplies List: so the supplies for the class are pretty simple. And in fact, I have left the supplies list for you under the project. But I wanted to go through each item and just kind of give you some tips, some some things to avoid. I don't want you make the same mistakes that I've made. And I thought maybe maybe the best way to explain each item was to start off with a sort of session of brainstorming session in mid session. So this is just for pretend your project is not probably not going to get this crazy, and in fact, our demonstration is not going to get this crazy, but I thought this would help us kind of explain each item. Um, first of all that, the whole point of the class again is to take a break from your desk, your computer. So when you do this project for yourself, I really want you standing up and doing this against the wall, a wall that somewhere in your house or apartment that is both accessible. You're going to see it when you're doing things around the house. But it's also private somehow, like no one else is going to disturb it. No one's gonna come by and just rip posted notes, offer, rearrange things, you know. So it needs that somehow be a private studio that you're still gonna be. You know, the great thing about this is that it's very visual, right? Like whenever I pass by this wall, I'm reminded of what I'm working on. And sometimes I have a bit of inspiration, and I just quickly jot something down and put it here. So that's the great thing about working on a wolf. But some of you I know because of space because of maybe you can't stand for long periods of time. This doesn't work for you. You can't do this. So in that case, you can go with a coffee table or dining table. If that's the table that other people going to be using or you're going to be maybe working on a very large project that takes several weeks, several months, then you can lay down some Kraft paper or any kind of cheap paper like newsprint. Use that as a as a canvas, and then put your posted notes on that. And then when you are done with that brainstorming session. You can fold up that piece of Kraft paper or whatever and, you know, stored away. And then when you're ready to to start again, just open and everything is still it's right. Ordered wreck arrangement. Three. Other thing that you need, obviously for this class of Post It notes right now for Post It notes. You they come in all colors, all sizes, becoming even bigger sizes like this. I really like the three by three sides. The basic because what I'm looking for in a post it note is the ability, uh, the ability right on it without being intimidated by its size. Right? Because the other point, the classes were trying to get away from the blank screen because that that screen could be very intimidating at the first stages of our riding. When we when we don't have anything and with a post it note, I can write, ah, word phrase a sentence and feel like I've accomplished something. I mean, it's something really small, just a crime. But, um, it's just very stress free is very relaxed, and then I can start to when I add those posting those together, I can start to feel like this is flushing out. This is something more substantial. Other thing with Post it notes is, before you get to this stage, you want to test the posted. No, you want to make sure the adhesive is that it's not too sticky that there's, you know, like with off brand, especially with off brand posted knows that really cheap dirt cheap stuff. They can leave a residue on the wall that can leave a kind of glaze on the wall. They can damage your wall, damage the paint. So whatever you buy, you want to test the Post it note on a corner of the wall just to make sure you're not doing any damage. Please don't get to this stage. Find out. So they robbed the president's. Also you need, of course, is a writing instrument. I liked Sharpies. I feel like sharpies pair really well with Post it notes. There's just something again about that ease of writing, and I'm not, you know, freaking out freaking out about what I'm writing, and there's a great boldness to it, right, But you can use a pen, pens or great on. We might use them in a demonstration when we have a lot of text to write. But just again use whatever you have handy final thing that you will need for me. Personally, I really like images. I find that images are a great way to brainstorm. They triggered other ideas. I'm able to begin to flesh out an ad posted notes around that image, and you'll see that in the demonstration. So on. These are images that I find on Tumblr or whatever, so I like to have painter's tape. Painter's tape is made to be put on walls and taking off walls. Don't use Scotch tape. Don't use packing tape. That is the supply list again. There will be a pdf just summarizing this, but I just wanted to go through some some tips. I don't want you to make the same mistakes that I've made, and we are ready for the demonstration 3. Step 1 - Start Anywhere: What I thought I would do was go through a kind of re enactment of something that I did for myself when I was writing a story a short screenplay on and I documented that process. So I do can't remember what I did and moments of where I was stuck and what the faces were . So what I would do is go through that process on, try to skip over the boring parts. So I do want to give you some details of what I'm doing, so that you can kind of understand the phase. I understand the logic in the thought process, but not get too into the actual details of what I'm working on, because what matters is what you're working on. But hopefully, by choosing some specific thing, this technique tool will not be so abstract. In my case, I had seen an image and hopefully you can make this out. I had seen this image and there waas for me something. There was a story I didn't know what exactly, But I knew that there was something there was something there and I couldn't articulate it and thats where this tool could be really useful in those in that phase in that stage where you can't articulate what you're feeling and what you want to write about. So and I was kind of haunted by this image, this child, and so I thought, let me let me see if I can write a fictional story about him and about where he came from and what happened, in a way, kind of what happened before this image was taken, what happened afterwards, but again, fictional. And so I start off with this, right? This is gonna be my anchor point. And I could change this, You know, during the process, this this image could at some point become useless to me. But I got to start somewhere. So I try to put this in the centre somehow, and I'm using my pain or state so I don't damage My walls were Yeah, it's somehow the center. Um and that's all I had. That was starting point. So, you know, I had that image and I didn't really know. You know where to go from there. Andi, After, I guess a week or two weeks. I thought You know what? Let me go back to the article. that I found this image in. And the article I provide the link of my project in the Project gallery. The article came from vice dot com, and it was about illegal oil fields in Syria. And, you know, the people who have to do this kind of very crude refining to make kerosene. And so I went back to the article. I thought, you know, it might be useful because I have never been to this place in Syria. I've never experienced this, and I do want some element of reality. I do. I want this thing that I'm working on to be somehow grounded in reality because I don't have anything else. I don't know where else to start. Let me go to the article and highlight phrases, words and any details that I think might be useful. Now. I might not end up using these things in my final product, but I'm just right now in the process. You know, I'm I'm struggling, trying to find a way to start. And so I went to the article, highlighted phrases, words, details, images, just anything and again. I might throw some of these out later on, and I converted them into posted nets, right? So I put each of the highlighted phrases words into, opposed to note, and I made sure to put them in sort of quotation works that way. I knew that I'm taking it from somewhere else so that I don't just, like, lifted or copy it into my final piece that I make sure to reward things or whatever that it's an excerpt in a way. So the next thing for me to do would be to put some of these posted notes on this visual workplace that that I'm that I'm using right now. So I've got some material of No, I'm starting to feel less, uh, less like a failure. You know, I feel like I'm I'm starting with something I'm getting somewhere. Somehow I noticed that I have highlighted some words and phrases that actually described the process of the image and describe this boy again. We're still in the rial world. I haven't added my own fictional. Take it. I'm still I'm still doing research, right? So what I've done so far is gonna be valid whether you work on fiction or nonfiction. I'm still just trying to get a hold of the reality before I start messing with it too much . So some some of the words that I've come up with to describe this boy. So it kind of makes sense for me to group some of those posted notes around that image instead of being so half as half hazard and then the other post it notes that are not related at all. Maybe they describe some other element of my future story. I put somewhere else so that I began to kind of get some kind of logic, some kind of order to this to this campus that I'm working on, so let me do that. 4. Step 2 - Follow Your Intuition: I was stuck for a couple of days, and then I found another image, and it was just kind of by accident. I was also I was doing a little bit more reading and research about Syria, and I found this image and I'll blow this up so you can see it. And there was again something cinematic. There was something strange. There was a story on and it felt like it was part. It could be part of this same constellation of things that working with and I don't know and I might be wrong, and I might be going down very bad avenue or the wrong avenue. But all I can do is try at this point. So this is another image that I want to tape up. And then I want Toe C can help me in some way can trigger other ideas. So these air now two characters, potential characters in a story that I'm more hand on. What I noticed in looking at my Post it notes were one of my one my post it notes about this true illegal oil kerosene refinery waas. I had highlighted the refinery owner for some reason. I don't know why. But when I read the article highlighted that, and I thought, Well, could this be the refinery owner? You know, I put my post in there, and I got It's a hunch. I don't know, my right and wrong. These might be very silly ideas, but I'm starting to feel like I'm inventing something now, right? I'm taking elements that did not belong in the same story, and these were both rial images starting to create a fiction out of them in a way. And it's not by accident. I'm not just throwing things together and seeing what happens. I'm actually using my intuition, my gut on my feelings, my reactions to things. And I'm saying, Yeah, I think that they belong in the same universe. Um, so it was kind of it was kind of nice how those two things lined up and looking at this image knife. If I just focus on the image, I feel that I can, without an article with any tax that I have attached to it, I feel that I can, um right, some post it notes connected to this, describing this somehow that describing the person describing an event that happens before somehow that this is a This is a trigger for May that the images is that powerful. That inspires me to jot down some other ideas. Not only was I able to describe the image, because again, I'm working on a screenplay, So I have to do that. I have to be able to write out these images, but that this image inspired another event or another scene. Another potential scene in my story. This this not to get too much into the weeds, but just so that you can you see my thought process follow my thought process. This this kind of cowboy like figure inspired the idea that there are kids like him, these kids that are doing this illegal refinery, what they do in the evenings is that they're watch, you know, the old cowboy Indian, American cowboy, Indian, um shows on a TV that they all just kind of group in. There's something about that image, and again, it might be a terrible idea. I have no idea, but all I have on my ideas right and I have to see them through, and then I can I can refine them. I can edit them. I can say that's a bad idea for me to do both at the same time for me to have ideas and then edit them at the same time. And, uh, it's hard, you know, I think I think I think it's a lot easier to kind of separate things. Let's brainstorm was Be free. Let's play, Let's put things down that we might delete later on And then we can kind of we could be more critical with our ideas and with ourselves in the structure is a dramatic and, you know, etcetera. So that's kind of cool. Like things are now beginning to trigger other things like dominoes, Right? We started with his very basic image. I put some post it notes just from the article it didn't require anything, didn't require me and that anything but that led to another connection, which led to another connection. And so I'm in a good place now. I'm gonna be getting to do some work on day will speak through this, and then I'll explain what I've done and why. Why did it and what fought process Waas 5. Step 3 - Making Connections: Okay, So what I've done is looking at the Post. It notes, I realized that I had some that were kind of describing natural process of of illegal oil Refinery. For some reason that process it was important for me to get those details correctly. And, um, that's some that somehow maybe that could be the backbone of part of the action. Or what happens in this story. I don't know yet, but clearly the fact that I highlighted all those those I was interested in, those words and phrases that means something. So I organized them around an icon this is supposed to symbolize a refinery is not a very good picture, but it's a picture that that I understand icon that I understand. I also had an icon for setting. So I had some phrases that were, um, partly partly describing not partly but describing the actual setting like details that made it feel really, those clearly were important to Mallon organized does, in a way. So you see how we're kind of bouncing back and forth between chaos and order and weak. You know, I don't want this to get a little too crazy. Before I tried to get a handle of it. But again, I I followed my instincts. I fell on my good. I'm still not quite seeing a story emerging like I'm not quite sure about. I think my main character could be this boy, but I don't, you know, missing a lot of details about him I'm missing. Um, is he in this place with somebody else? What's his name? Where did he come from? What happened? You know, what is the context of this image? I guess. Like, Like, how did he get here? What happens to him afterwards? Um, and this hand goes for for this guy like, Is there a relationship line between these two and are their characters missing? Are there elements missing? Okay, so I've I've put a little bit more posted notes down, and some of them are related to the previous post it notes. So it's just, like adopt dominoes and some of the post it notes air like a new center. So a new character, new event that I know I want to have. So, for example, um, over several days, over several weeks, I realized Oh, I want another character. I want a father figure for this kid, a grandfather. And it's the two of them that came to this place that came to this oil refinery from their war torn city or their war torn village in Syria. Wherever. And I got some posted. No, just very quickly again brings Stormy, describing the image my mind when I kind of thought of this father figure character and how they got there. So they got there by bus. I'm starting to get some movement now, like I started off with images with things that were very static and that had no riel kinetic energy on. Now I'm starting to think about a Goes to B, and this character meets this character and etcetera, they're starting to get some some connection. I'm still in the early phases, but what I'll do now is continue to flesh this out until we get to a point where, um, I feel like there's a substantial enough of a mass that I can begin to think about. How it away. Organize this before I go to the computer with it, so I'll do that now 6. Step 4 - Shaping the Mess: so I've added some more posted notes. What I've noticed is that I'm really focusing on three or four different places and and in some way not completely generated the kinetic energy that I want or sense of a story that I want. And so, at this stage, what could be helpful for me, and I feel comfortable doing it. It's starting to think about a structure and structure in the basic sense. Just what's the first couple of images? What's the middle on West End? Was the resolution. By trying to fit these posted notes into that structure, it might help me begin to think about what is the connect energy. How are we going to move from this image of this image, this detail or, um, how does a character maybe evolved? You know it. I don't have the answers right now, but by trying to restructure it that way, it might inspire me to fill in the gaps. It might help me see what the gaps are, and I might be able to bring storm. And again, this is happening. Maybe over multiple sessions, not not just one. Now, what I've tried to do is arrange this in kind of a beginning moving forward. So is the beginning of the story. And I'm moving forward to the end on one thing I'm noticing right away as the gaps that I have in my story. I haven't really thought about the resolution. Everything that I've had so far has been, like, set up. So these these problems right, these air, these air and these are good things I would rather know about this. Now they know about it. Find out about the computer. So resolution, I think, is a bit of a gap right now. Another thing that I'm noticing is it probably would be nice if I had some more images, because I think these two images air so prominent. I know that this is the main character in my story. But having this image like this, it really I don't know. I it In your case, if you're a very visual person, you can use as many images as you want to, just so that you don't, Um, just so that you have a sense of really what your story is about could be about. But anyways, so the other thing that I'm noticing is that in my story from beginning to end that I have kind of multiple threats. So I have. I have a story so far about a boy and his grandfather who come to this refinery. They have to start doing this kind of work, and there's characters that they meet. For example, their boss, who is this I guess wannabe cowboy or thinks that he's a cowboy, just from the things that he's seen on television and the fact that he's, I think he's one of the Syrian rebels. I'm not sure yet. I know that there's going to be other kids in this setting. I have some ideas of how to describe the setting from the article again, not to give you too many details of bore you with my story, but basically there is an order that's coming about, and it's coming about organically from the pieces that I have. I It's not that this is right or wrong. It's just that I looked at the material that I had, and I said, you know, kind of where should this be in relation to this etcetera? And I'm starting to see gaps in in my brain storming or things that I need to address and this is good. So this would require again more sessions or not or necessary? Not. I mean, you could You could now navigate back to your computer back to writing desk and basically, you know, jot this down in a way or began to use this as a map. A now outline. It doesn't have to be a linear process, anything. Anything that you do at the computer. If you get stopped, you're not sure about the arrangement or you have two or three different alternatives that you're entertaining. Um, doing it here is a great place because now it's very special. Now I can see those different options visually and try those things out, whereas with the computer it does feel somehow more permanent, more linear. Um, it's hard on the computer to kind of see on the computer screen to see, like, the what ifs. You know, what if I got what if the character goes down this road? Or what if I do this? Or what if I write this, whereas here you can I can very easily, um, you know, make different variations of the same story and and see them side by side and kind of compare, and I don't have to make a decision immediately. Like if I need some time, meditate on it, I can do that. So that's basically and I think you get the idea. I've tried to keep this connected to both the fictional nonfiction needs and writers, but I will. In the next video, I will go over your project and how to address specifically what you're working on and how we can make sure that you you create a similar kind of exciting wall of brainstorming and visuals and that you're playing with a lot of raw ideas. 7. Your Project: So your project, your assignment is basically to apply this very simple tool to whatever it is you're working on or you've been wanting to work on for a while. You've been you've had simmering in your mind for a while and then to kind of document that for us, toe whatever degree of detail you want and whatever phase or level of progress you want to . So, for example, if you do this for just one brainstorming session and you can just photograph that and post that in your project before your project in the project gallery And just describe just to help us describe kind of whatever you think we need to know to understand your project or to understand the Post it notes and again the the objective. The bare minimum is just to do it and have this kind of like proof I did it and this is what I learned. This is this is how it benefitted me. This is, you know, helped me in this area. Didn't help me in this area, etcetera just so that we have that that's that's always useful. But if you are really dedicated, you can keep returning to this. So as you make more and more progress in your peace, whatever that is, you can, um, keep updating your project with those photos. And with those updates, Um, again, I've tried to keep it connected or grounded in all forms of writing. But if you feel like somehow I haven't addressed your needs, For example, if you're a poet and you're not quite sure how this would apply, you can leave a question for me the discussion forum. If you're working on the college s, if if you're working on something very particular and you're not quite sure how this applies, I can try to, as best I can try to give you a starting point. So just just give me the details about what you're working on. But basically, that's the project is to have fun to stand up, if you can, too put things some things on here on the on the wall and see what happened and see if it triggers other ideas and see if you if connections begin to form, and if this happens naturally and organically, and then to document that for us and share that with us 8. Documenting Variations: Not only do you want to document what you've done for us, but you want a document for yourself. And so if you feel like you are at a place where you can begin to jot this stuff down and right then if you've done it next to your writing desk, you can, you know, kind of crack open your laptop and use this as a map that you are an outline that you are, um, just just getting down into your actual computer began to flesh it out, began to see where the gaps are. If you get stuck in that process of actual writing writing with computer, you can always go back on. Use this space to brainstorm to rearrange, Um, another option if you're not ready to to go back to the computer is there is an app for both IOS and Android devices that allows you to photograph of a wall of post it notes like this, and it will recognize each individual post it notes and in a way, take a small picture of each of those post it notes and align them and you can rearrange them on your iPad. For example, I've used that at. I think it's pretty self explanatory. The way it works. It's not complicated, so I'll provide a link in the project materials for that other option. Easy option. Most smartphones will have resolution high enough to to photograph this and you'll be able to kind of zoom in and read what you wrote in each place. So oh, yeah, you want to figure out a way to document? I think always. And I think it's nice when when for me it becomes fun when you start to make variations and you photograph that you photograph inebriation or whatever, and then you can. Then you can go back to the computer, um, and and see those differences that I think that's a great mix of kind of analog digital right? Same thing with post it notes app. I think I think that's a great way where you get the best of both worlds. You get to work physically. Tactile e, you know, move things around. But then you also have this, like forever documentation of your work that you can manipulate and stuff like that. So 9. Elements of Creative Ideas: we've applied this for writing. Obviously you can apply this to other areas of creativity, but I felt that writing is the place that makes the most sense is that's logical place. But whenever you have a problem that requires a creative solution, it requires a putting together of different elements and order and sequencing. I think Post it notes, uh, to me make perfect sense. And that's why you met You see posted notes used in any kind of environment, especially designed any place that you have to brainstorm and solve problems, whether those problems air problems of words and how to use them, or their visual problems with the issues of products or marketing or whatever. Because again, what allows you to do is think in elemental way and think about how do you combine those elements? It's something more substantial on. I think, at the most basic level. That's what creativity ISS, that's that's what it means to be created. If that's what it means to be an artist, is how do you put things that exist that we're all aware of? How do you put them together? What what do you add? What do you subtract 10. Parting Words: so hopefully you've had a chance to try out the tool and see for yourself if there's if there's benefit or not to your writing and what you're doing. We started off this class with the idea that, you know, maybe you need a break from the computer and additional screen in the blanks, right and all that. And that wasn't to suggest that, um, computers and digital tools are bad. It was rather to say, You know, maybe we've been over at this extreme for so long and that we need to kind of go over here for a little bit. I think that you I need to know about these different options, these different tools, and choose the tool for the particular phase in particular type of writing that you are trying to do. For example, if you're going up a hill, you would a steep hill, you would you change gears right? And if you start going down a hill, you would change gears again, and you have to do the same thing in the creative process. You're doing something that's hard to begin with, and it's kind of miserable sometimes, and it brings out all these sometimes negative emotions about your abilities and your talent and etcetera. Um, so if we can make it a little bit easier, I think that's better. This class, this style of teaching, was a little bit new for me in my previous classes. It's it's a lot of theory, I think, up front, which I think is good. But I know that, you know, that can become a little bit heavy on eso in this class. I tried to jump right in and just start on and put myself, I guess, out there in a way like that, I'm working on on something and showing you my mistakes. Um, let me know in the reviews or discussion form or whatever, how you felt about that if it was too fast, too slow, useful, not useful. You want to see more of that style, less of that style, etcetera. Please leave me feedback class feedback. It could be positive that could be negative. But just as long as it's constructive, as long as it's something that I can act on and do something about, because then I could get better, Um, and then in the in the discussion form, let me know. You know, if you've got ideas of there's sort of class ideas, they're tangentially related to this. You know things that you want to learn more about or see more about. If the whole idea of this posted nothing was was useful to you, um let me know. And then, you know I can I can think about variations on the class or other sub topics. Like, you know, we got place posted notes to just creative problem solving in general or to productivity or other areas. Finally, most important thing, I think, is Please, please, please, please do the project. Go through it yourself, watching videos and reading text and all of that. It's good, it's useful, but it's not. The same thing is actually doing it for yourself, and I think you know that. So please do it and share your results, because then we can kind of learn from each other, and I can borrow a little bit of what you're doing. You can borrow a little bit of what I'm doing etcetera, and until next time, good luck and especially good luck with your your writing. All right, take care