composing all the time... burnout ?
invalidusername
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#1
10th February 2011
Old 10th February 2011
  #1
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Thread Starter
composing all the time... burnout ?

anyone find it hard to compose alllll the time ?
i love music, but sometimes i wish i was a rock star that only had to release 10 songs every 4 years... i've made hundreds of tracks, i make a confortable living out of it, but it's also a lot of effort, and a lot of stress.

how many tracks do you compose per months ? how much is too much for you ? did you ever turn down a project to have a composing break ?
#2
10th February 2011
Old 10th February 2011
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Kuba_Pietrzak's Avatar
 

Composing music is one of the hardest jobs, in terms of emotional input.

If you add to it people, who say "this is not, what we looking for", or "we still miss something, this is just not it!", the feelings are going to be stronger and stronger...

If you feel, that it is too much, it is too much...

I have friends, who take as many composing jobs, as they can get, I also have friends, who refuse to take another project, if they feel, that "it is too much".

I remember a post from a guy in DUC, who claimed "I have no more music in me!"... This was really interesting discussion about mental health, organizing work, personal care etc. etc.

regards,
Kuba
invalidusername
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#3
10th February 2011
Old 10th February 2011
  #3
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Thread Starter
feels good to read this !

i think i suffer a lot from the loneliness of this job. alone at home, and i know very few other composers. it helps to know you're not really alone then
#4
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
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jhorsley's Avatar
 

I get burnt quite a bit, not as much from actual composing, but from EVERYTHING that comes with it. Mostly, dealing with client-requested revisions drains me creatively.

I have found that exercise helps me deal and keeps my mind healthy too.
#5
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #5
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This is why I left the music biz. Well, that and not getting paid.
#6
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #6
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charles maynes's Avatar
 

It is like anything else though- the more you do it- the better you get at it- George Gershwin supposedly wrote almost 100 songs a week or something like that when he was on Tin Pan Alley.... I guess just try to expand your palette of melodic and tonal choices and it will always be at least interesting....

but it is still tough and it can still burn you out...
#7
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #7
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Toke up.
#8
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #8
Gear interested
 

I think composing can take a lot out of you...

I've fallen into the trap of never taking any breaks. Initially this is fine as one's enthusiasm can give you a lot of enegy, but it's not sustainable for long periods, so now I find it harder to force myself to sit at the keyboard.

I procrastinate with the work and then it stretches out over 7 days. I've not had a holiday for 2 and a half years and I 'work' almost every weekend. Craziness huh? Even if I only get an hours worth of writing done in a day, the guilt and pressure connected to the amount of work I know I should have completed means I'm mentally worn out - especially after this routine continuing long periods of time.

Working at home is isolating. Morning flirtations with the Polish girl in Starbucks keeps me sane.

I've stopped listening to music. Which is bizarre really seeing I wanted to write music because of my love of it.

I always got a huge buzz out of writing, or trying to write my own little songs (For work I write purely for tv docs and the like). Now I've completely stopped writing music for my own pleasure. It's been over a year since I wrote something 'personal'

As Jhorsley said - client revisions can be a nightmare. Or just clients in general. For example a jobs starts with - 'can you make it sound like Solaris?' and 8 weeks into the edit the series producer says 'can you make it sound like 'The XX'

So you want Solaris or the XX?? Its fair enough really - opinions change as the process goes on, but when you are feeling weary and the budget is small it's hard to deal with!

Anyway that's my rant done with!

It's not all bad and most of these complaints are my own fault or changeable, so I now have a masterplan for a happier composing life - take weekends off, take long breaks, feel the love of music again, write some more of my own crappy songs, try and find a studio outside of my own home etc..

I've yet to impliment these but at least there's hope
#9
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
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Kuba_Pietrzak's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brick View Post
Morning flirtations with the Polish girl in Starbucks keeps me sane.
With Polish girl you say... Ok, I need to show this my wife (who is a Polish girl as I am a Pole too) - I wonder, what she says

Kuba
#10
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #10
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drBill's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by invalidusername View Post
anyone find it hard to compose alllll the time ?
i love music, but sometimes i wish i was a rock star that only had to release 10 songs every 4 years... i've made hundreds of tracks, i make a confortable living out of it, but it's also a lot of effort, and a lot of stress.

how many tracks do you compose per months ? how much is too much for you ? did you ever turn down a project to have a composing break ?
A normal day has me spending about 8-10 hours "writing" - 6 days a week - in addition to other engineering/producing duties that may pop up. For me, writing includes mixing, overdubs, mastering, etc., but I lump it under "writing". Last year I delivered around 1750 minutes of finished, mixed & mastered music - and most of it had multiple overdubs. That's around 30 HOURS of music. That's over 30 minutes finished every week. Honestly, I'm not quite sure how I did that, but I'd say I'm on the path to exceeding that this year if the pace holds.

You've got to find what it is that pushes your "go/easy" button. When you find that, it becomes a lot easier. I've found mine, but that doesn't mean it will work for you.

Being a composer - a real working one - is a hard job. It IS stressful, it IS difficult, it IS emotionally draining, and it IS a consuming, all encompassing occupation. It's also one of the best jobs in the world IMO. When you can't remember what you wrote last week (and maybe don't care), THEN you're a hard working composer. (I'm pretty sure I've arrived there.)
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#11
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #11
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Sonsey@mac.com's Avatar
 

FWIW, I've found that I burn out, when my output is much higher than my input. It's easy to lock yourself away from the world, even essential to a point, but it's also important, when you're feeling burnt out, to "come up for air" so to speak. Listen to some NEW music, watch a movie, go for a long walk in the woods (while listening to new music if you like), heck even learn a new instrument. Anything that makes your brain start working in a different way helps. A first it seems that you're "wasting time", but the creative output that follows usually more than makes up the difference.

At least, works for me... as always YMMV...
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#12
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #12
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dasindevin's Avatar
 

listening to music is my best source when i just feel drained...
If i don't know where to go with a composition or even vibe... pulling up grooveshark or taking a good drive with the ipod can get those synaptic reactions firing again

although i usually compose with my composin' partner so if one of us isn't feeling creative, the other usually can poop something out to get us creating

and i couldn't agree with ya more... the never ending revision game can be so tedious
#13
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #13
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kenn.michael's Avatar
 

This is a great thread. I don't have a lot of composer friends, so it's great to hear from others about how they deal with the emotional drain of composing day in and day out. Let's keep sharing!
#14
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #14
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JSt0rm's Avatar
 

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#15
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #15
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Moscow's Avatar
 

i feel its important to work out certain formulas to writing music. A lot of the time when i am composing a really large amount of music, the standard doesnt have to be THAT high (professional but nothing ground breaking) therefore i often recycle chord progressions and melodys by tranposing them into different keys etc etc.

This allows me to have a certain distance from the music i'm making and let me write more interesting things in my own time
invalidusername
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#16
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSt0rm View Post
I am a sound effects editor and designer by trade but I wanted to offer up this interesting ted talk for your enjoyment. I think all of us who work creatively have certain challenges unique to what we do.

Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity | Video on TED.com
nice one. thanks.

i deeply believe in the paranormal bit. something we can't control. i'm chasing it, it's way more interesting than buying gear

i wish our clients would understand that you the more impossible are the things they want, the harder it will be to bring a glimpse of soul into it.
#17
11th February 2011
Old 11th February 2011
  #17
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JSt0rm's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by invalidusername View Post
nice one. thanks.

i deeply believe in the paranormal bit. something we can't control. i'm chasing it, it's way more interesting than buying gear

i wish our clients would understand that you the more impossible are the things they want, the harder it will be to bring a glimpse of soul into it.
I think that the source is inside of us. If you can catch the wave then I think that certain chems are released and we can slide down the spark. the key I think is to push past the initial block and get into it. The excitement will come. I do think we need some balance though to help this stuff flow. I try and exercise atleast 3 times a week. I think it helps a lot to get the endorphins firing and its a perfect time to listen to music. When I'm really busy I put myself on a very good diet and I supplement it everyday with some spirulina (in pill form). It will give you a small boost of good food energy - I tend to do that around 1 or 2 pm. Coffee helps too!
#18
13th February 2011
Old 13th February 2011
  #18
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Some interesting points.

If you are the type of person who does not like being, or working alone (usually at home) for extended periods of time, compsing for a living is not for you. I personally LOVE being left alone to my own devices, and not having constant human interaction. But if you are in need of interacting, this is not the best career choice for you.

Composing can take alot out of you, even if you love what you do. You can in fact get emotionally drained, but if it is fun for you, and if you enjoy being creative, and if you enjoy sitting back, and admiring the end result and saying, "hey - I created that!" than a composing career can be very rewarding in more ways than one.

Best way to deal with feelng drained, is walk away - even if only for a few minutes. Make a few calls, say hi to a friend; call your mom. Watch some TV. Browse the internet. And get a good night's sleep. Sometimes not easy to do when there is an unrealistic deadline, but sleep is important.

Also, plenty of water to help you stay hydrated, and a healthy diet with alot of leafy green veggies and lean protien will help. Wheatgrass juice gets a nod here. Stay away from simple carbs, and sugar. If you need a fix, don't go for that chocolate bar or that donught, have an apple, or an orange. And realize that you are a lucky person to be doing for a living what they love. How many people get to say that?

Cheers.
#19
14th February 2011
Old 14th February 2011
  #19
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mmoeding's Avatar
 

I feel quite the opposite. I'm a person that loves social contact and I'm fueled by the energy I get from others. That said I love working alone in my studio and can get irritated if there are other people that don't need to be there hanging around without contribution. I don't think I could ever work at home because then you are totally isolated. I think its good to find a place that you can do your work in where you are surrounded by other people working on the same productions. That way when you take breaks you can have social contact with others in the office or studio complex, have some laughs, maybe have someone pop in to listen to something with an objective ear, and then get back to it and do your thing. I agree that staying in shape and working out is a very sensible and safe way to get an escape, but I can say that my nicotine addiction helps me take regular breaks (I don't call them smoke breaks, I call them my required "ear soothing" sessions haha) not the best, but it works for now. I do editing and mixing for film/tv and music, as well as music production and scoring, and I find that the above applies to all of these things.
#20
8th June 2012
Old 8th June 2012
  #20
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Amber's Avatar
 

Sorry to bump this thread but due to feeling pretty overwhelmed with work right now, I wanted to find someone to relate to.

It's hard to explain to someone how draining it can be to keep writing music.

I used to send my parents all the work I did but now I can't keep up and got to a point where I don't care if anyone but the client likes it. Once it's done I'm onto the next. I don't listen to any music but my own.

I hate revisions. "So you want the ambient piece to have a jazz vibe?"

I've started charging for revisions.

Anyone else finish a project and get an email summarising the whole thing saying it was great working with you but get paranoia wondering if they actually liked what you did or if they just didn't have time to find anyone else last minute?

I've got into the habit of asking for samples of music they like and doing an non-obvious copy when someone can't explain what they want.

Don't even get me started on the CCed emails where everyone is commenting on the music making different requests that cancel each other out.

I'm looking to go the way of having a bunch of music ready for music supervisors and looking to steer away from music written to spec I think. I used to want to be an A list composer but unless I can find my Darren Aronofsky to my Clint Mansell (they seem to have a fairly straight forward working relationship and I've read the editors have rough music of Clint's to edit to so Clint doesn't have to worry about writing to hits so much) I'm going to focus on working on music to sync etc.
#21
8th June 2012
Old 8th June 2012
  #21
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Well I'm no composer. But i do mix music as well as films and tv series.
Personally id say worry less about hitting a moment and more about flow and feel. To many composers worry about hitting events and spend to little of their time working on mood and feel.
#22
8th June 2012
Old 8th June 2012
  #22
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Amber's Avatar
 

Yeah, I have a style that pretty much avoids hits. Could never do that to be honest, seems like a lot of stress etc.
#23
9th June 2012
Old 9th June 2012
  #23
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aaeronn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
Also, plenty of water to help you stay hydrated, and a healthy diet with alot of leafy green veggies and lean protien will help. Wheatgrass juice gets a nod here. Stay away from simple carbs, and sugar. If you need a fix, don't go for that chocolate bar or that donught, have an apple, or an orange. And realize that you are a lucky person to be doing for a living what they love. How many people get to say that?
It is so obvious (but ignored or misunderstood by many) how your dietary choices affect your outlook.

A good friend of mine (video / music composer - Apple Inc. media director) was your typical man - didn't give much thought to his diet ( which was somewhere in the middle - didn't eat "well", but wasn't eating burgers everyday either). He started dating a woman that has an intolerance to gluten and dairy. To make life easier on both of them, he adopted her diet - gluten free vegan ( I am not suggesting you go vegan - this is just an example). In less than a year he dropped 50 pounds (no exercise involved - purely from his change in diet) and had more energy than I've ever seen him exhibit before his change in eating habits. One thing he said to me that stuck was "Your food should energize you - make you feel good - not make you want to take a nap or unbutton your pants". It's one of those things that is so simple but not entirely obvious so that when it's pointed out to you, it becomes profound.

To quote Jack Lalane - "If man made it, don't eat it". Except for chocolate Find yourself a good source of chocolate (if you're a chocolate person). Forget the mass market stuff - go for the gold and look for the boutique chocolatiers. Far better for indulging yourself. Savor it.

Drink water. A lot. Hydrate hydrate hydrate. You will not believe how drinking water on a regular basis can improve your wellbeing. This is stupid simple but easy to overlook. Get one of these (or whatever works for you)

CamelBak Podium Big Chill Bottle - 25 fl. oz. at REI.com

drop a few ice cubes in and fill it up - keep it nearby and suck on that nipple regularly (shouldn't be a problem for the men amongst us ). After a few days of flushing your system, life somehow seems a bit better I like this one since it's sealed and there is no risk of spillage. Knock it over, turn it upside down - no leaks - this in the one liquid container I will take near the gear.

When I first met my wife, she was eating poorly - her job requires her to be on the go constantly so she was eating for convenience - drive through and and fast food on a regular basis - no time for cooking - out early in the morning , home late at night. Once we got together though, I was able to prepare good meals for her and there was a very substantial positive change in her energy levels and attitude.

Not trying to push a dietary agenda here - just be mindful of what you consume - it will make a difference.

Find a good vegetarian or vegan cookbook - add something from them into your diet. I still enjoy a good carnitas burrito occasionally - mix it up - add the veggies when you can.

aaeronn
#24
16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
  #24
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gsilbers's Avatar
 

interesting thread. i currently going through the same.
i rememebr i stayed glued to reason and live composing for 8 hours straight .
now i have logic/pt hd tons of gear etc and cant even focus for 5 minutes if i dont have a pending job. so many choices in musical styles, gear etc.
what to do etc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmY4-RMB0YY

anyways.. here is a good video

#25
16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
  #25
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drBill's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ErikG View Post
Personally id say worry less about hitting a moment and more about flow and feel.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
Yeah, I have a style that pretty much avoids hits. Could never do that to be honest, seems like a lot of stress etc.
It IS a lot of stress. Being a composer for TV/Film is one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. But a good composer has to deal with it. And he has to be able to both flow and hit the hits, with it seeming like it's just flowing. Experienced composers have a lot of writing tools that allow them to do this well.

I do not suggest avoiding the hits. You're not likely to get hired next time. Or hire a great music editor or ghost writer or both to fix your score up to professional standards. There are of course exceptions to every rule.
#26
11th January 2013
Old 11th January 2013
  #26
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wakestyle's Avatar
 

Even though I am not a accomplished writer, I love to write and have done on/off since high school.
Recently I've had the opportunity to focus some serious time on writing/producing/recording/practice (everything that I do including tweaking the DAW).
I have typically struggled to 'write' in the zone where you create good stuff, often lacking skills in instrumentation or simply struggled to do what I wanted to simple or complex. I have the freedom to choose what I do day to day with no real expectations for myself except to improve and learn as I continue to do this.
I know have come to the conclusion that writing is the easy part now that I am over a proverbial 'learning curve' in writing. To me, writing is easy I find it very easy to create original tunes daily or 2-3 per day. I'm talking about song-seeds. Riffs, Chorus, Verses, Hooks, Intros, Outros etc.
I wish that I could simply have these ideas completed as easily as written.
I spend easily 3-4 TIMES longer than writing doing stuff like:
getting the perfect take
doubling parts and nailing the accents
experimenting with all the other instrumentation besides the core parts (that means every instrument imaginable)
dedicated listening and self-critique time to accurately judge how my mix is sounding
dealing with the learning curve of using DAW's and getting the whole studio running ergonomically

That is all just for 'demo' to have a high quality sound -which is what I'm looking to have the skills to make.
It could be because I'm realistically not that adept at recording myself more than hacking parts together, having to do everything myself.

To me, writing is the easy part where you simply have to have time to dedicate to doing that, not being distracted, have the opportunity to finish ideas when they come. Waiting to finish an idea later on usually never works IMO.
So, I wish I could write "all the time", but if I did that I would never get anything more productive done than starting new songs - which is not at all bad IMO, just not what I'm after ATM. There is simply much much more to the entire song-making (score) process than just writing. That's where I'm at.
#27
11th January 2013
Old 11th January 2013
  #27
Gear interested
 

Great subject!

I think this is a really fascinating subject InvalideUserName!

I'm what some of you may call a veteren at this, as I've worked in my own studio space in the same "self drive" manner since the mid 70's ..... started on a 4 track Teac tape machine. I've won mainstream awards for movie and tv scores and had a very fruitful career.

I have what many would probably call a "B" list career and never quite climbed to the dizzie heights of the guys that pump out Hollywood hits 5 times a year but have had as my mother would probably say in her eyes would be "a fabulous career"

I'm probably "known" in the business amongst my contemporaries and have made a comfortable living for approaching 40 years and am represented by one of the main London film music agents.

I think we have very sadly been hoisted by our own petard. The wonderful developments in technology that I've based my career on, ( I entered the business in the mid 70's when it was possible for the first time at a cost of around £5,000 to build and work in your own self drive professional studio playing most of your own acoustic instruments and using synths etc) have now become SO cheap that 1000's of "would be's" have flooded the field and the ratio of good quality working professional composers to bad ones out there may have increased exponentially. Simply "having" access to the facilities has become in many cases a reason to choose media music as a career path.

I doubt there will ever again be the quality of movie music output that we've seen this past 50 years because the business (even at the top) is based on the simple question: "can you copy this?" ..... if the answers not "yes", then you won't be completing the gig.

The truly "creative" qualities of all our work are quickly becoming unimportant.

I'm worried by the notion that the movie music business currently has a VERY few left who will not be given temp scores to copy. (I'm lucky in that some of my work is still left to my own interpretation .... these are films with directors that I've had long standing relationships and won't be working in 10 years time)

Producers and executive producers can no longer watch even a rough cut of a movie without a temp score (FOR GOODNESS SAKE GUYS & GIRLS ..... GET IN EARLY & PREP YOUR OWN TEMP SCORES WITH YOUR OWN DEMOES ... IT'S YOUR ONLY CHANCE!!) ... then all they will want is a copy of that.

All the above is to say that I'm worried that we will soon be working in a business where the only ability necessary will be to copy temp scores as quickly copy as possible and few will last long and make the long careers that my generation's had. Burn out time may become quicker and quicker as the gift of "originality" will become less needed.

I've never suffered from burn out as I believe that my work has ALWAYS improved with the pressure of more and more work ..... a kind of law that makes no sense but is the truth for me. Being given the space to be truly creative is the best therapy I've ever had and it scares me to death that this will no longer be the drug that someone like me will ever have enough of in the future. This will inevitably encourage faster burn out for film composers.
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#28
16th January 2013
Old 16th January 2013
  #28
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Arksun's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by gsilbers View Post
interesting thread. i currently going through the same.
i rememebr i stayed glued to reason and live composing for 8 hours straight .
now i have logic/pt hd tons of gear etc and cant even focus for 5 minutes if i dont have a pending job. so many choices in musical styles, gear etc.
what to do etc

John Cleese talks about what is creativity and how to stimulate it. ET FOREDRAG OVER NAKKEN - YouTube

anyways.. here is a good video

wow, one of the finest talks I've ever seen about the creative process, great find!.
#29
21st January 2013
Old 21st January 2013
  #29
Gear addict
 

Bottom line for me is I compose when I'm happy and well oiled. In between studio revisions, personal realities, and my day job, alot of work doesn't get done on my schedule; it happens on the God timeline. When all is well with me and the stars, when the girl is clamping down & getting off and I feel well, do my creative demons come to light.
#30
21st January 2013
Old 21st January 2013
  #30
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famousbass's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonsey@mac.com View Post
FWIW, I've found that I burn out, when my output is much higher than my input.
Nice way of putting it.
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