Dear You:

Wow. That was unexpected. And extraordinary. And a bit, um,  embarrassing.

My recent post on how I walked away from this blog and other Internatterings provoked loads of readers to write long and beautiful encouragements in the comments section. I am really touched that you took the trouble.

Thank you.

I feel a little Sally Fieldian that I provoked this outpouring but what the hell. It’s nice to hear from you.

Writing is a funny business. When you read, it feels like the author is talking to you, sitting in your head, sharing the most intimate dialogue. But if the voice coming off the page seems to be talking to someone else or is barking into a megaphone or is distracted or dishonest, it’s a turn-off. So when you write, you have to be appropriate in your tone, pitching your words to a reader you understand. After all, you’ve been together for many pages, you are old friends, and the reader expects and deserves a connection and an understanding.

Sometimes I forget who I am talking to.

Maybe that comes from my years in advertising, when my writing process had to slalom through market research, through layers of agency bureaucracy, through strata of client approvals, through the limitations of the form, character counts and such.  And when you write an ad, you aren’t meant to be expressing your point of view (though I was a good copywriter because I usually was trying to express my self from behind the golden microphone I’d been handed). You are there to speak on behalf of something inanimate, a corporation or a product, and not only speak on its behalf but sell it, and often to a reader who was indifferent at best. It’s a weird way to write, especially when you strive for authenticity, which is the core of decent writing.

I forget also because I don’t actually know you. Many of the commenters point out that we are strangers and, technically, we are. I have a sense of you, of your median age, background, various demographic info. But none of that’s really the point. I think I do know you and you me because we are drawn together by a certain point of view and interest. Like me, you are creative, you are thoughtful, you are curious, and that’s what matters, this nexis.

When I think of the writers that have meant the most to me over the years, from Gerald Durrell to Karl Ove Knaussgard, they are voices that reflect honestly and amusingly on their lives and give me heart. They let me know I am not alone in being who I am. They tell me new things but also remind me of old ones. Their voices sound like better, wiser versions of my own.

When I read your comments, I was reminded again that you are not Other. You come here to share what we have in common. And I come here to express that same thing in me so that I can share it with you and know that you share it too. A blog is a web log, a journal, a diary. It’s not a soapbox or a stage or a commercial break. It’s a place for self-reflection, for honesty, for trust.

There are people out there who are Other. Loads of them. But the miracle of the Internet is that we can each sieve ourselves from the undifferentiated mass and find a community of people who are not Other. And that’s what we have done when we come here or go to a klass at Sketchbook Skool. We have found each other. We may not look like each other, we may not come from the same background or education or families, but we are connected by our creative urges and all the joys and tolls that come with these urges.

… alone in a windswept wasteland clutching a single, dog-eared, remaindered copy of the book I toiled over for years, alone but for the monkey toldyousoing in my ear. Not pretty.

I sometimes forget that. When I come here, launch my blog dashboard and start to write, I may have different motivations for doing that. I may feel like I need to be an ad guy and sell the market a book. That’s a shitty place to start a conversation with you and I apologize. I needn’t hawk stuff at you, belabor you with hyperbole, threaten and cajole you. That would be horrifyingly inappropriate if we were having lunch together, so I shouldn’t do it here.

Why do I? Because, to some degree, it is dyed into me, it is my scorpion nature. I am a recovering copywriter and the anxieties and arrogance of my trade are hard to shake. And also because I am prone to anxiety and abandonment issues, to a fear that if I don’t sell my books or kourses, no one will help or care, my dreams will wither, and I will be left alone in a windswept wasteland clutching a single, dog-eared, remaindered copy of the book I toiled over for years, alone but for the monkey toldyousoing in my ear. Not pretty.

I also forget who you are because you don’t tell me. Studies show (that’s a copywriter’s favorite term) that 99% of readers never post comments on the Internet (I am certainly in that silent lurking majority too). But when you do, it is so interesting and helpful because it stops me from blathering like a boring narcissist and instead focus on you as a person.

But I don’t want to lay this at your feet. That’s bullshit. Please don’t feel obliged to comment. That’s not why I lose my way as a writer. If I’m honest with myself, I already know (and well) what you expect from reading my words. It’s what I expect too. Something interesting. Something true. Something funny. Something odd. I get it.

And if I do have something new to tell you about — a book I’ve written, a kourse I’m teaching, a six volume album of my accordion playing — I’ll just tell you. Not sell you. If you want it, you’ll buy it. If not, we’ll get back to our conversation.

Thanks as always for setting me straight, for caring enough to bother, for sharing my life. I have the feeling that what I did and didn’t do this summer will carry me far over the next year and beyond. Thanks for being part of it.

Your pal,

Danny

 

41 thoughts on “Dear You:”

  1. Danny – I think it’s all good. Being open is a hard thing to maintain, and you are a lovely thoughtful human being. Thanks for continuing onwards.

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  2. Thanks Danny,
    While the actual truth may be that you don’t know each of us (personally) i am sure many of us feel that indeed you do, especially if you recognize our names from semester after Semester at SBS. That is such a great feeling (to be known and acknowledged by someone we consider at least our mentor in all things art). You are right… No need to ‘sell’ us your new books or anything else for that matter because we already seek out anything that is coming from your pen, your video streaming and if we were close enough, anywhere you are offering a live session. To me, you represent motivation (in the best possible way). Maybe you don’t know you are a cheereader for all those people like me with naysing monkeys on their shoulders. I feel like you are really encouraging me on in pursuit of all things artsy that actually relate to my life and the hurdles I have to navigate. Thankfully, I have not become disillusioned and resigned to an idea that you might be another ‘snake oil’ peddler promising art (through books and classes). To this day, I tell people that I meet and who like my drawings that a little book by a guy in NYC called Danny Gregory literally changed my outlook on life and started me on a lifelong great habit of recording life as it unfolds. You have given so many of us the power to tell a story!!!

    Conclusion….no need to ‘hawk your wares’ ever….we will seek them out an buy them anyway….because we like you and we love who you are to us….thanks Danny, you make it possible for many of us to actually feel like we know you and you know us!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Carol, I could not have said it any better! These are the perfect sentiments for me, and most likely the majority of those of us who do not comment on every blog…. Just the same, I too think Danny has given us such a gift…one that will continue for a lifetime!

      Teach them to fish…..

      Thank you Carol, and Danny!!!!

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  3. Hi Danny,

    You ought to wear blush more often. Adorable!

    Your writing is honest, funny and inspiring. Love the tone and rhythm of it all. Your art come out the same way. You are quite the spectacular creature…and I am grateful to have met you. (Maybe someday in person).

    Cheerios- Darlene

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  4. So I’m among the 1% that comment? I’m not sure if that’s daring or that I’m just mouthy. I read this because it’s intelligent, witty and substinate. Youre part of my tribe now. So you see, it’s really all about me! I did miss you. You write it, I will read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carol (above comment) basically said it all. I was so happy to discover you and your books because you were and are so real and made me feel it was okay to struggle with drawing and making art . Okay to just do it because I love it, not for any other reason. It has been a joyful journey for me getting back into art largely because of your mentorship…..whether you knew it or not.

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  6. Danny, you might not feel like you know us but we feel like we know you. You are a friend we are always happy to hear from. We follow not only your insightful thoughts and ideas but your family, travels, dogs and more.

    I have followed you for a VERY long time. I tried the daily sketch habit on and off and it never stuck. But I stuck with you and your blog and was thrilled when you started Sketchbook Skool. Three years ago something clicked. I don’t know why but the drawing habit stuck… It started before SBS but SBS definitely helped me keep it going. Now, I draw every day because I NEED to– still such a weird feeling! And you know what? I’m getting pretty good, i’m selling the occasional drawing and sharing my work with confidence (my monkey is very small these days!)

    So what I’m trying to say is thank you. You gave so much encouragement and so much inspiration. I couldn’t have done it without you.

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  7. I am one of ‘those’ 99% who read and dont respond, however if you could hear what I say in my head, almost daily..you would preen and strut your stuff… I draw eveyday and love it..love it love it and Sir Danny of Gregory, I owe it all to you and a used book of yours I bought so long ago..your kindness and generous (its ok to earn money, really) spirit has given me back my personal and private (usually) time with a pen, pencil and sketchbook ..or paper on table in restaurant..if my drawing that day is good, really good, or a complete flop? its ok because Sir Danny said so..much love from an understanding abandonment-issues pal, Sandra

    Liked by 1 person

  8. *Phew* that was refreshing! I’ve grown tired of monkey-obsession and sales, as you now seem to have figured out. Yes, I come for a sharing of the creative spirit… Looking forward to the ‘old Danny’ who shared about dogs, and kids, and meanderings. You know, that guy who launched everyday matters and focused on Now. Yes I love SBS and all of you great instruktors. But I stuck around to watch and to grow, not be lectured or marketed to. Thanks, for the beginnings. Looking toward further adventures together.

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  9. Hi, Danny, you always give me “food for thought! ” no we have never actually “met”, face to face, for even FAceBook to Facebook, but we are old friends….as I read and encountered you and your sketches from Everyday Matters to The Monkey, and as I sketched my way through my daily life! Jack was a toddler, now a grown man and out in the art world himself….thanks for being an Art Friend!

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  10. Well and thoughtfully said. I don’t often comment except for when I am overwhelmingly compelled to and your post about the summer was one of those moments. You may not “know” us, even those of us you have met in person, but you still speak to us and your voice sounds like someone we are having coffee with while chatting about our inspirations and our hopes and our dreams and the things that keeps us from achieving them. All of that stuff that rattles around in your head and ours even if we are very different. It is part of that common bond you refer to. Thanks for being willing to share with us and to be our creative friend.
    Warm regards,
    Lenore

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  11. Tell you not sell you- I like that. I liked the personal videos you for for some of the SBS videos- they were imperfect but you spoke from the heart. You were what sold me on Polishing, I think. You’re usually authentic. I think that’s important.

    Thank you for making your musings public. For those of us in the early days of blogland, they’re very interesting and have given me some valuable reflections.

    I don’t feel like I HAVE to comment, but it’s been a timely reminder on the importance of genuine engagement, and the fact that a blog is a chance to have a conversation- a chance I should probably take up more!

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  12. I’m guilty of being one of those readers who never comments, but I almost always click on your blog posts when they show up in my email and I can’t say that about many people. I confess to being disappointed when the post is a sales pitch, but I’m always delighted when it’s one of your insightful, funny, interesting or encouraging posts about the process of making art. I do have some of your books, not all, and I’ve taken almost all the SBS classes before life got in the way a bit.

    The reason I first got into your writing was your profound book about your wife’s accident and how that helped you find your way to drawing. That open, honest, raw sharing was so powerful and I expect that’s why your recent writing has resonated with people too.

    I don’t think you’ll ever be left alone on a windswept anything … you have built a tribe and we’re with you whether you want us or not!

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  13. Hi Danny – good to know you’re feeling better about things – speaking personally, I miss your old blogs about your life and your art – always enjoyed your videos showing how you created your work – Pat (A Sketchbook Skool Student from England)

    From: Danny Gregory To: franklypatw1@yahoo.co.uk Sent: Saturday, 10 September 2016, 13:11 Subject: [New post] Dear You: #yiv7133775201 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv7133775201 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv7133775201 a.yiv7133775201primaryactionlink:link, #yiv7133775201 a.yiv7133775201primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv7133775201 a.yiv7133775201primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv7133775201 a.yiv7133775201primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv7133775201 WordPress.com | dannygregory posted: “Wow. That was unexpected. And extraordinary. And a bit, um,  embarrassing.My recent post on how I walked away from this blog and other Internatterings provoked loads of readers to write long and beautiful encouragements in the comments section. I am rea” | |

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  14. That voice, the one in this post, is why I started reading, years ago, and why I bought your book (back in the day. I think it was your first one). I laughed at “recovering copywriter” (mainly because that is how I earn my keep, writing for a travel agency) and I felt a certain relief at the thought of having that voice back on the interwebs. I like that voice. The old school blog voice. The guy who sits on the sidewalk in NYC drawing with his buds. You know what i mean. Cheers to old school blogging and thanks for all the words, Danny, not just the drawings. Keep ’em coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Danny– I’m Theresa in Minneapolis, almost 52, a writer who has always had an interest in more visual art but didn’t know what to do with those urges. I’d go to art supply stores and buy pens and journals, look longingly at the other stuff… until I eventually started buying some. I’d go home and put them in a drawer (still didn’t know what to do with them) but your Creative License helped me get started, and then Sketchbook Skool came along and I’ve been happily learning along. Anyway, nice to meet you Danny! (Well, I felt like I “met” you years ago, but now you know a little about me.)

    I did miss you this summer, and was checking on your blog to see if you were back, looked at the podcast page to see if there was anything new. But I’ve blogged myself and I know it’s a lot of work to keep up, so I tend to go in bursts and I don’t expect other bloggers to keep it going for my entertainment. It’s a gift that I’m happy to receive when it’s given.

    I enjoyed the podcast and it has given me a lot of things to think about and process for myself, a bonus to the book. I never called to share my story because frankly, I’m still dealing with that monkey all the time– not just with my creativity, but in other areas of my life, too. It’s a struggle, but I know I’m getting somewhere. Thanks for doing the podcast– I can only imagine how much work it is to put one together, making it and getting guests and all that.

    It *is* a weird relationship, a writer or blogger who puts their life out there, and the reader who feels like they know that writer, who just sees the readers as a blurry entity, and it isn’t a two-way personal street. I appreciate you sharing your frustrations with all that, and how this lack of connection affects you. I know some writers use Facebook as a way to have conversations with their audience, and it’s an interesting use of social media. A lot of people think there’s a lack of intimacy or connection with social media– I have found it to enhance intimacy and connection when it is used well.

    Mostly I just wanted to say I like you, I missed you, and thank you for all you do, since it’s really had an impact on my life. And you’re funny! Come to Minneapolis sometime… we could have a fun little Sketcbhook Skool gathering with you and Roz and many of us creative people here.

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  16. Hi Danny, I am one of the 99% . Although I just lurk I look forward to your new posts and books.
    Your philosophy on creativity and Art, and playful approach has been life changing – Thank you !

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  17. hello, just to give my review of your book “Art Before Breakfast.” I bought the book for three months and has been like a Bible for me because I started to read it in sequence and now I read whenever I miss it. Very good indeed. I had read your book “The Creative License” in 2011 which led me to daily charts and sketchers urban and now not off my notebook. Thank you.

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  18. Dear Danny – I’ve never posted a comment before because I’m sort of a private person, but after your two recent posts, I wanted to put in my 2 bits about how important your blogs have been to me.

    I grew up in family where art was narrowly defined and actively discouraged for study. And my parents were Mama and Papa Monkey. Needless to say, I inherited the monkey big time and, now, decades later (and after years of counseling learning to tame my inner critic), I’ve begun to pursue making art in earnest and it’s SO wonderful to be able to play and experiment and it’s deeply healing.

    One thing that had totally intimidated me was drawing. I could do a respectable stick figure and that was about it. Then I started reading your blog, and all the older posts. You are a gifted teacher. In a few minutes, you got me beyond the mystery of things like negative space. I bought your Art Before Breakfast and started sketching while my tea steeped. You taught me how to SEE. It was wonderful to learn that drawing was not something “you were born being able to do” but something that could be learned by simply learning to see and practicing. You write in easy-to-understand and delightfully humorous language. Your illustrations are wonderful and so encouraging – they make me reach but feel like being able to draw is not out of reach. Your guest’s posts are terrific, too. When I was “stuck”, I began to “frame my day” and had a major (and fun) leap forward.

    I had wondered about your summer silence but then again, I live in one of those places where summer is tourist-crazy, so many of us stop the things we do the other 9 months of the year. I just hoped you hadn’t stopped because something awful had happened, but I had such a difficult summer that I didn’t think to write.

    Circumstances have kept me from enrolling in Skool, but I do plan, hopefully in the winter. PLEASE don’t go away!! Esp the Skool. Being able to take a course remotely would be so helpful for me because of my circumstances. I cannot tell you how important finding your site has been to me – your personal sharing (esp of how healing making art has been through your dark days), your blogs and books, showing up regularly in my inbox (doesn’t need to be weekly – please don’t pressure yourself – very not good for one, believe me!). You are a gifted writer! Thank you so much.

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  19. Danny, you may not really know us … well you know some us by name and you’ve had the occasional chat by email, Facebook comment etc – but we know you so much better. Because we’ve read your heartfelt blogs and we’ve read the books, not just the art books but the illustrated journals, Everyday Matters, A Kiss Before You Go – the books in which you bare your very soul, so we yes, even if we’ve never met you in person, we feel like you are most definitely a friend. And also you’re a mentor, someone many of us have been inspired by for many years. And I don’t know about the other commenters but when I write a list of the 10 people, dead or alive, I’ve never met but would most like to have dinner with, you’re on it alongside Koosje, JJ Abrams, Shakespeare and Barack Obama. Make of that what you will, lol!

    But we also know that you have another life, a private life, a separate life – not least because we know that we have private separate lives from our social media lives. I know that I am a very different, quieter person when I am not in Sketchbook Skool – skool gives me so much energy but if I was that energised all the time I’d burn out! You are absolutely entitled to take time for yourself and you need to do that – if you don’t look after yourself and your own creativity you wouldn’t be able to (or want to) give your amazing gifts to all those who follow you. And when we miss you we just have to go pick up one of your books to be reminded of those gifts. I loved reading dina’s reference able to “Art Before Breakfast” as her bible – I have always regarded “The Creative License” as my art bible. I go back to it whenever I need guidance or am feeling a little lost, and to Everyday Matters when I need reminding why I draw.

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  20. Just catching up with your posts and just to say I WAS concerned if you were ok and wondered if something had happened (bad of course – know the prone to anxiety) but it seemed too personal a thing to ask. Decided to conclude you were busy with other stuff. If I’m really honest, now I know through reading your posts (as I always do), I would have appreciated knowing beforehand and not worrying. But again, this is not really knowing someone and that seems far too much to expect. Anyway I’m glad all is well and am looking forward to Veronica Lawler. I do think what you and Koosje have done in creating Sketchbook Skool is quite something.

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  21. I came across your blog last year and signed up with SBS as soon as I could. I bought Art Before Breakfast and took a pic of it against a standing stone and doodled when I was on holiday. Thanks to you, I make room for this childhood love of mine. Thanks to you, I discovered fantastic teachers online. Your blog matters, and it’s read in Scotland as well.

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  22. I am so happy that you are back! Over the summer I kept checking to see if you were there, and always I would see that you had not added to your blog. With no explanation of where you were, I started looking around the web to see if something sad had happened. But, you were just gone. And now, pleasant surprise, you are back! I truly love reading about your thoughts, and throughout the day, I often think about what you might have put out there. I sometimes comment (rarely) and I know that isn’t fair, sort of. I imagine you releasing your words out into cyberspace, and wondering what will happen. The thoughts float around the internet until something that you say sticks. And then I hesitantly respond. I am not as brave as you. My words fall flat upon the page (screen) and I think, Danny is too busy. He can’t possibly read all of the comments made. (Is that a monkeyonmyback talking?) But, because I so enjoy your blog and your insights, and because you are back, I am going to make a more concerted effort to let you know how much I appreciate you. The other commenters always say such witty, beautifully crafted things. I will just say it in my own voice: I am happy you had a chance to refresh, regroup, re-energize. We all need a break. Just next time, can you give us a heads up so we don’t think you have fallen of the face of the earth?

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  23. Danny, thanks for being my pal! I do feel like I know you, and the times you’ve responded to my goofy ramblings have made my day. You do know me a bit…you “introduced” me to Roz, which inspired me to draw my dog, and we’ve chatted about writing. It never occurred to me you might get as much from what I say back as I get from your posts. Last year my husband was facing a serious surgery, and I found that carrying my copy of “Everyday Matters” in my purse helped me get through the day. He’ll soon have another (pacemaker this time) and I’ve already pulled the book out again. I know if I ever find myself in NYC, I’ll look for you everywhere just to say thank you. Thanks for being the new voice in my head (although it’s been 8 years now!), the one who says, “you can do this, just keep going, you can make something fresh and new every day, etc.” It means the world. Where you go, I’ll follow 🙂

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  24. Dear Danny,
    We all forget at times, forget who we’re writing to, who we’re talking with. (Grammar forgotten, seems too stiff.) You share your creativity with your “how to”s from your experience. You share what you love and that touches me and many others. “Others.” To me others are strangers because I haven’t found a connection to share, and I’ve forgotten the basic one – we’re both human. Human imperfect. Your imperfect creates space for my imperfections. Your public honestly draws an image of strength and clarity in a heart in my mind. In your blog, your books, and all the work of SBS, you’ve formed a community of like minded people, and even more you continue to invite “strangers” to see a different way and join in also.
    I smile for I too am learning to comment, to be myself in public – the me who gently shares my heart and thoughts and the me who “stands on a soap box.”
    See you here and in Skool! With you from Vermont, Zena

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  25. Hold tight Danny! I know whenever I am feeling like my blog-say-I-space is just ‘silly-non-sense’ I take the time to read and comment and read and comment and read and comment on my fellow-blogger’s-say-I’s-spaces for as long as it takes me to remember….none of ‘this’ is silly. Unless we say so, giggles! As I’m sure you see (by now) you’ve got lots of us who would be awfully sad to see you go….and I’m very glad I had an opportunity to tell you so! Huge hugs to you today for sticking around for a wee-bit more!!

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  26. Danny, I had the honor and pleasure to met you this year at the Ridgewood Library. I was prompted by the head librarian to speak with you since I was brave enough to say that I have been in your SBS classes. I had 5 minutes of your time before you presented and I was forever touched. Your work has inspired me, it has given me ideas to try on my own, it is phenomenal as you describe your life so that I can relate to wanting to capture my very own. I thank you! As I sat there nervously wanted to come up to you, where I have bought every book of yours, poured over them time and time again, where some are dog eared and coffee stained, I am so appreciative of the wisdom and lessons you have provided for me. One part of my life is that my dad passed away last year. I journaled about his hospital stay and sketched his hospital equipment and him being an artist loved that I was capturing the art, the moment, the conversation. It seemed that the art helped me process what was going on at the time. I am forever grateful for your work. When your blog post email hits my in box, I savored it by taking pause in my every day life to breathe, grab a cup of coffee and sit down to read. So whatever you choose to do with the blog post, I embrace it. Just know you make a difference in the world, in the artist community, in your following. I told you that day that I am a scientist by day, using my art at night, I appreciate you stating that there can be overlap in the arts and sciences. For sure, it is true, and I am forever using both in my days and nights, and I am forever grateful for your encouragement!

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  27. Dear Pal Danny, I don’t see reason for you to apologize but to celebrate what you create and share with the lucky ones (me, for example). Awaiting learning how to draw with no talent….

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