Friday, March 07, 2008

Guest Blogger - Cheryl St. John

Let's give a big Playground welcome to today's guest blogger - Cheryl St. John!

Is Fear Holding You Back?
In one form or another fear is probably the number one culprit that keeps us from going after our dreams. Fear is often insidious, disguised as procrastination or poor time management, but it can be debilitating in any form. I guess the first step to overcoming fear is to figure out exactly what it is that scares you.

Are you afraid of trying to write because you might find out you’re not very good at it? Are you concerned you might give it your all and never get published? Recognizing that something is holding you back is s huge step. Now take another one and figure out exactly what it is you’re worried will happen.

First, understand this: The first thing you write won’t be publishable. Neither will the first book, most likely (okay it does happen) and most likely neither will the second. But you will never learn, you will never grow, you will never know that you can, until you put the words on the paper. It took me a long time to figure this out, but once I did it was a revelation, so if this sinks in for you, I’ll consider this a successful blog: They are only words. You can write more.

Repeat after me: They are only words. You can write more. If they’re not great, you can toss them out and come up with different ones. There are plenty more words where those came from. Thousands, millions, in all sorts of combinations and patterns. And -- you don’t have to get them all right the first time! Now, that’s liberating.

Whenever a new member joins my RWA chapter or my critique group, I understand their nervousness. I was in their shoes once. I make it a point to tell them: “We all started out in the same place.”

Years ago my brother knew I was writing, and he brought me a newspaper article featuring a published author whose husband had been transferred to the air force base in my city. This woman was forming an RWA chapter. I’d never heard of RWA. I was too inexperienced and uncertain to even call the contact number. Another year or more went by and one of the chapter members was featured in the Sunday paper. My brother brought me that article, too and said, “You have to get with these people.”

It took me weeks to get the courage to call that phone number. And when I did, I got an answering machine and hung up without leaving a message. I felt completely out of my league. I knew I’d be stepping into a world of English and history majors, all professional people of course, and who was I? Just little old me making up stories after my kids went to bed.

Well, I finally did it. I made the call and left a message. The woman called me back and she was warm and welcoming and delightful. I went to my first meeting with my knees knocking and learned everyone there was someone like me – someone just making up stories for the pure love of it. It was months later when I finally showed a manuscript to that founding published author. She Xed out page after page and wrote “nothing happening” in red in the margins. That hurt. But she also showed me the things I did well, and showed me how to change and fix and rework the story. She was the first person who said to me, “You can do this.” Her name was Diane Wicker Davis, a warm Southern lady who mentored other writers and shared her knowledge. She passed away over a year ago, and everyone who knew her remembers her laugh and her encouragement.

I pushed on after her critique, learning, studying, rewriting, until a few years had slipped by and a stack of rejections piled up. I became so frustrated and so hungry for someone to tell me I could do this thing.

No one can tell you whether or not you’re going to sell a book, publish fifty more or be a success. As much as we’d love for there to be, there’s no writer’s crystal ball to foretell the future. We all wonder if we have the stuff it takes. As beginners we wonder if we have an inkling of talent. Once other writers and readers validate our talent, we still wonder if it’s good enough, if we have what it takes. It’s good to acknowledge that we don’t know it all and we must have a desire to learn and grow.

But sometimes doubt holds us back.

We shoot ourselves in the foot by creating and feeding feelings of inadequacy, by being unwilling to stick our necks out and show our work. Submission requires opening ourselves up to criticism and rejection. I know a few writers who don’t even submit for fear of rejection.

Confidence comes with practice and with maturity.

Consider an athlete. He might have a desire to run a hundred meter race. So he goes out and gives it a shot, but he doesn’t do very well. Why not? Because he didn’t practice! He didn’t study how other runners achieve endurance through diet and exercise. He doesn’t know how good he really is until he’s trained by learning all he can, eating properly for energy and muscle and all that -- and after he’s ready, after he’s prepared, by stretching to limber up and then by RUNNING. Then running again and again and again until he’s fast and he knows he’s fast, and he’s ready to compete.

In many ways submitting a book is a lot like that. Your manuscript will be compared to all the others that cross an editor’s desk. It will be scrutinized for its ability to make the publishing house money in the marketplace. Bottom line in this business: Will your manuscript make an editor look good if she buys it? Will your book make money for the publisher? The only way you can have the confidence to know you’re submitting something with a chance of making it past that test is to learn your craft and practice, practice, practice. Work at writing and work at it until you get better, until you hit your personal stride.

Sure, sometimes self-doubt is much deeper, it’s inadequacies we’ve carried with us from childhood and relationships and past hurts and experiences. But there’s help for those things, too, in recognizing it and getting help if need be and working on it. You’re a valuable person. You’re worth it. You deserve to give yourself the gift of improving yourself and reaching for your dream.

What else holds you back?

Fear of Embarrassment
Honesty time. This is actually your pride getting the best of you. We all had to start somewhere. We all wrote crap when we first started--well most of us anyway. When babies first learn to feed themselves and walk, we don’t make fun of them; they don’t know any better. You didn’t get on a bicycle the first time and smoothly take off. Training wheels aren’t embarrassing to a four-year-old. Why do we think our first attempts at writing are humiliating? You have to be willing to make mistakes.

You have to be willing to write poorly. You can fix bad. You can’t fix nothing.

Sometimes we’re just our own worst enemy!

Fear of Failure
What if I do the very best I can, give it my all, and fail? Failure means to fall short; failure is a lack of success. This is where your thinking needs to change. Set realistic goals. Goals must be things within our control. Instead of setting a goal like selling a book this year, set your goal for taking all the steps to finish and edit and submit the best possible manuscript. You can’t control whether or not the book is contracted, but you can control the steps it takes to make a publishable product.

Then when we go back and look at the realistic goals we planned for ourselves, we can see where we didn’t fall short in our commitment or resolve or our mission. If you take the steps you planned to reach your goal, you succeed in doing the things that are within your power. Taking that action reduces fear and increases your options. Since failure is defined as an omission to perform an expected action, you haven’t failed if you’ve taken the steps to reach your goal.

Failure is not in being rejected; it’s in not taking the steps. You can succeed by changing your thinking and your self-defeating behaviors.

And here’s the question I’m famous for asking. I ask it of myself and then I ask if of others who hesitate: WHAT IS THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?

Okay, people, we’re talking about writing a book here, not jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle! The worst thing that could happen?

Your first three chapters could suck bilge water and need to be thrown out. Remember, I said there are more words where those came from.

It could take you three years to sell a book once you know how. This is my story – it is so bad?

You could write four books over twice as many years, not sell a one and give up. So? You met wonderful people, you had a great time, you learned a lot, and you stayed out of the casino. What was the worst thing about that?

I’m giving you things to think about. I’m asking you to face your fears. I’m suggesting you take steps to put doubt and lack of confidence under your feet and stomp on them a few times -- then don’t pick them up and resuscitate them!

"I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship." ~ Louisa May Alcott

Fear is a lack of knowledge. Learn all you can about yourself, about how you work and the things that get you motivated or the things that hold you back and then take the menace out of the hindrances by taking positive action to put them behind you.

Remember, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. If you want to kick it up a notch and get rid of some junk that’s holding you back, face your fears and plan new strategies to defeat them.

Ask yourself now:
How do you want to do things differently to see better results?

P.S. I'd like to send autographed books to two visitors who comment today. You can choose from any books available from my backlist. Check out my backlist here: I'll draw names tonight!

You can visit Cheryl at her website and her blog.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, good question. Cant think what to say, but I like what you said doing what you always do and you will get what you always got.

Pat L.

Cheryl said...

Great Question.

I want to be less of a procrastinator and get more exercise.
The way I see this happening is to make myself a list of all the benefits to staying healthy and posting it in an area where I will see it everyday as a reminder to get moving, even if this means a quick 15 minute walk during my break at work.

Thanks Cheryl

cas2ajs said...

Great post. The fear of embarrassment held me back from trying a lot of things when I was younger, afraid of what those watching might think. Then I realized most everyone else was too busy worrying about what they were doing to be watching to see if I fell flat on my face. Now if it's something I really want to try, I do.

Cheryl S.

nascarandbeans said...

boy what a great post. I think not only is this awesome advice for writing but life in general. Last month i let fear hold me back from applying for my dream job. I talked myself out of applying for a hundred reasons, including it was too many hours and i still have one daughter in elementary etc.. i still regret not applying. I think it was still the fear of quitting one job that i know i am doing and its steady to trying something new and failing..
I know jobs at a veterinarians office come along again so next time hopefully i will have the guts to go for it..

CrystalGB said...

Wow, what a powerful post. I find that I let all those things hold me back from pursuing what I want. I am introverted and shy. Lately, I have been making small steps toward being more confident and optimistic. I tell myself I have to bite the bullet and take a chance.

Playground Monitor said...

It's scary how much of myself I see in this.

What do I want to do differently? I need to be more focused and develop more discipline. I'm easily distracted and I need to learn how to avoid the temptations. I could go to Starbucks and write every day where there's no internet (well, there is, but it's not free) but that doesn't really teach me discipline. It just shows me avoidance. *sigh*

Great message, Cheryl!


CherylStJohn said...

Thank you, Pat. It really helps to develop a couple of life philosphies and then stick by them.

Cheryl, I love lists! You could make a list of the damages you're doing by procrastinating and eating poorly, as well as a list of the benefits, and then compare them. I'm extremely visual and lists motivate me.

Then keep notes on your calendar and even give yourself stickers or smiley faces for the days you succeed.

My goodness, is Cheryl THE name of the day? LOL Yes, being concerned about what we'll look like to other people can definitely hold us back, and that's a good point. That fear goes along with fear of failure and embarrassment. Good for you for overcoming your hesitation to do the things you really want to do.

Nascar, don't you hate it when you know you've let something slip right through your fingers? I've done it, too. You have to chalk it up to a lesson learned, put it behind you and move forward. The good news is, you're prepared to not let it happen again. I hope your perfect dream job comes along.

Exactly, Crystal. You've recognized it, so that's good. Now ask yourself what you've got to lose by trying.

PM, I think that's something we all struggle with. And deadline panic doesn't even help if the motivation doesn't come from within. Thanks!

Kathy said...

Welcome to the playground, Cheryl!

Convicted. Yes, I stand convicted. I couldn't have seen a more truthful post. OMG! Something clicked inside my head. I'm your posterchild! I'm not an English major, I'm not a journalist, I baulked at joining my local writer's group because of familial obligations and then made that nerve wracking entrance into a meeting that changed my life forever. And now I owe thanks to the playfriends and my local writing chapter for opening my eyes and helping me find my wings.

What I determine to do differently...

*Let go.
*Take pleasure in the words.
*Make better use of my time.
*Remember I'm an Ameri'can' not an Ameri'can't!!!!

Now for something completely different.... How have you juggled family with writing time?

Are you a panster or a plotter?

Do you listen to music to get you into the historical setting?

Love your website!!!

Instigator said...

Wonderful post, Cheryl! It was something I really needed to hear. I need to hear that message every now and then to remind myself that I'm really the only person holding me back. Sometimes it's hard to remember that if I want things to change I need to make some changes first.


Mary Connealy said...

LOL, you stayed out of the casino. An excellent point. Of all the possible hobbies in the world, writing a book is pretty inexpensive and it keeps you off the streets.

HollyJacobs said...


Great post. I know that for me, I considered myself a writer the day I said the words, "I'm a writer." I think those words were the scariest I ever uttered.

Thanks for reminding us all to face those fears.


rebekah said...

What a wonderful blog. It really hit home with me. The biggest thing that hold be back is fear of failure. I have learn that if I try it is never failing beacuase I actually tried. If I would give up I feel that is failing. I can look at myself and feel I have accomplished something because I put all that I have into it and tried.

Mark said...

I don't think fear of failure is the biggie for most, I think it really is fear of embarrassment. Your analogy of children doesn't really work because as adults we are expecting a good quality work. If I took up painting, I would not show any of my paintings to the world until I had something decent enough to show, same with writing.

The problem with writing is that most people know what is "good" and they begin writing without any training or any real plan (i.e. seat of the pants) then realize that its not as good as they hope and get bogged down.

I think the hardest part for most budding writers is to finish an entire manuscript. Its easy to generate a thousand ideas, its easy to go back and polish and repolish the first 3 chapters as you think of things.

During Nano, its seems the majority of people are in the "wrote 10k of 5 novels so far" - I suspect a lot of the fear could be removed by sufficient upfront planning (just like in virtually all other scenarios)

CherylStJohn said...

Thanks, Kathy! It helps to know we're all human and we all started out in the same place. And thanks for your compliment about my website. It's ready for a complete overhaul and update, I fear. I spend WAY more time at my blog. *G*

<< How have you juggled family with writing time? >>

Early on, my family was completely supportive, allowing me much-needed time to write, since I was working a full-time job. When I had my younger children at home, they learned to help out and each had a night of the week that they fixed supper. Predictably we knew we'd have spaghetti one night and pizza another, but that was just fine with me.

Now my grown up children host holidays and events to take the entire responsibility from me, and I appreciate that so much.

Now writing is my full-time job. I do care for my grandson. He and my daughter live with us, so as soon as I get him off to school, I hit the keys. Summers are more difficult to manage with him home, but he has learned that this is my job, and he respects my work time. We plan activities around my writing.

One of the things I love about being an author is the ability to schedule my writing life so that it works for me and my family.

<< Are you a panster or a plotter? >>

I used to think I was a panster, and I still believe I am, to a degree. However, I believe a writer must have an outline of some sort, be it a synopsis or plot points, or a detailed "idea" written down, in order to make sure there's enough conflict to sustain the story and to know where you're going.

Because I sell on proposal, I write the synopsis first. Sometimes I do write the first scene, just to get me into the characters, but the plotting comes first. I use the Story Magic grid, which I've tweaked to add goal, motivation and conflict, and from that I can write my synopsis. I also make a list of 25 Things That Could Happen and for each character, I fill out a sheet of traits and tags to help me know my story people.

When I get to the middle of the book, of course nothing has gone the way I thought it would, and some unexpected twists have occured, but I can look at my plot points and the main structure of the story and know where I'm going.

Writers who have no direction when they start out oten run into problems later. Originally they were excited about the idea and ran with it. But nine times out of ten, the story stalls after three or four chapters and the writer loses enthusiasm for the project. I think that's because they don't know where they're going.

Even though I plot, my characters do tell me where to go. Each scene motivates the next, but I still need general guidelines for conflict and major themes, even incidents that need to happen.

That was probably more information than you asked for, but the answer is: I'm both.

<< Do you listen to music to get you into the historical setting? >>

Rarely. My office is sound-proofed by four walls of books and I like to work in silence. The few times that there's been roofing or other construction going on around me, it's driven me nuts. I watch favorite movies for inspiration.

CherylStJohn said...

Thank you, Instigator! Glad you enjoyed my post.

Hi, Mary and Holly! Thanks for stopping by.

Rebekah, it sounds as though you have your thinking corrected and you're moving forward. Good for you.

All good points, Mark. You wouldn't show your paintings to the world, but would you show them to your art class? Your mentor? Would you ask for or want feedback?

You're spot on about Nano. I'm doing an online workshp next fall before Nano, and it's all about self-editing and polishing. This year my agent told me that on the agents loop they all dread November, because they can predict an avalanche of hastily-written and unpolished manuscripts hitting their mailboxes.

CherylStJohn said...

Oh, and typos don't count in blogs. LOL

Pam Crooks said...

To this day, I have fear of the blank computer screen. It's worse when I'm starting a new book and I know I'm taking on this mammoth project of commitment. It really
scares me the book will be poor quality and BORING . . ..

Great post!

Carla Cassidy said...

Terrific post! You know, it's funny, as I grow older I've grown less afraid of being embarrassed or trying new things. I've kind of embraced the whole I'm old enough now to not worry about what other think of me as I travel my particular path through life. It's a freeing thing, to let go of fear!
Thanks for the great words,
Carla Cassidy

Michelle Styles said...

Lovely post Cheryl.
I am constantly plagued by the Crows of Doubt. They caw very loudly and sometimes drown things.
I also do not think once you sell that it necessarily gets any easier-- you just another whole flock of fears and doubts.
But htere again, I am far nicer person when I am writing as I can put the drama in my writing rather into my life...

Kathy said...

Wow! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Cheryl. :-)

And as an Art major, I speak for myself. An artist puts his/her piece out there for critique in class or in art shows. Art varies with the artist. Some do it for show, some for personal therapy. Isn't writing like that? No one can tell an artist that his/her vision is nonsense except a professor of art critiquing an artist for a grade. The ideas, the vision in an artist's mind comes from the heart but in order to be successful, people need to 'get it', get something about the piece in some form or another. And an artist won't know if people do until it is unveiled. Neither will an editor or an agent. At some point we must dive off the cliff and this is what I've learned from you today, Cheryl.


CherylStJohn said...

Pam, facing that first page is DAUNTING, isn't it? Good thing you push past that fear every time and create a great book!

Carla, here's a real fear for ya: We're becoming our mothers! LOL
Love ya.

CherylStJohn said...

Smoooches to you, Michelle, and you're right. The writing challenges don't get easier, they only change into different ones. Like deadlines and aging parents.

Thanks, Kathy. I'm with you. And I can even feel that dip in my stomach as I face the edge of the cliff. I appreciate your comments.

Betina Krahn said...

Cheryl, you have no idea how much I needed to hear these words today. Thanks so much for blogging on this topic.

Fear is something I've really had to battle. . . fear of failure, fear of success, fear of failure AGAIN.

Writing, putting ourselves out there in our stories is so personal that when we hit the inevitable rough patches in a career, we fear-and-doubt ourselves into oblivion.

Unfortunately, making the decision to live in love instead of fear is not a one-time thing. It's something that has to be done every single day of our lives. But it's worth it.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, Cheryl! This post perfectly decribes my struggle with writing. My head is crammed full of plots, scenes and characters. But when it comes down to putting all that on paper - I freeze. Then I get frustrated and go clean or cook something. It drives my family (and me) crazy. I can't seem to just let go and write.

Reading this today was just what I needed. Knowing that others have felt this way and worked through it gives me hope. I will keep telling myself....They are only words. I can write more.
Thank you!
Sherry W.

Carol Townend said...

Hi Cheryl,
Great post!
The most scary (and wonderful) part of writing is the mystery of it. By that I mean that all the plotting and synopsis writing and research in the world can be done, and the book may not necessarily gell. Do you get that? You write and write and you know there is still something missing?
It is almost as though you have to give up in despair (do I hear echoes of Michelle's Crows of Doubt here?) before it works. There is something magical about doing the groundwork and then having to let go. The writing is in control. I have never had a proper understanding of what faith might be, but sometimes you have to have faith in the writing process because logic, on its own, isn't enough!
Best wishes

Julie :) said...

What an a wonderful post, Cheryl! I feel like fear of failure is what's held me back for so many years. That, and not wanting to look like an idiot. LOL. But they are just WORDS. I need to remember that.

Thanks for the inspiration, as always! :)

Linda Broday said...

Hi Cheryl, good topic. Fear stops writers dead in their tracks if they let it. There's always that critical voice in your head that keeps telling you you're not good enough. You must have to learn not to listen. But, it's not always fear of failure that gets new writers. Sometimes it's fear of success. Writers are actually afraid that they will succeed and they're not sure they can handle all the stress--deadlines, publicity, promotion, etc-- that comes with publishing.

CherylStJohn said...

Hey, Betina, you are so right. Writing is personal and often a reflection of who we are. No doubt that's why readers feel that they "know us" after reading our work. It's a pleasure to know this was a timely topic for you.

Sherry, maybe you can look at it like this: When you get to that point of frustration, you are trying too hard. When you disengage from the effort and go bake or walk or whatever, you put that demanding left brain on hold and give your right brain the freedom to step forward and take over. Have you ever found that a solution will come to you out of the blue while you're showering or doing something not writing related? I have convinced my husband that shopping and redecorating are writing-involved tasks because they free my creativity.

Carol, I do have instances where I've done all the preparation, but for some reason, the story just isn't coming together. I have a list of things to go over to check for, like motivation or wrong point of view, things like that. Or sometimes just a few days away from the project will give me new insight when I come back. maybe it's that left-brain, right-brain thing.

Thanks, Julie! No more fear of words. We are the masters of our story universe. LOL

Rebecca Ryan said...

I think, for me, finishing the manuscript is difficult because everything has to be pulled together. As you are writing you can say, "Oh, I'll throw this out there and fix it later." Then you realize that later is NOW!

Rebecca Ryan said...

Oh, I forgot - Great blog Cheryl!

Problem Child said...

I'm blogging from the airport. I love free wi-fi! (Even if I do hate airports.)

We're about to board, but I wanted to say, Welcome Cheryl! Great post.

Y'all behave while I'm gone...

*lizzie starr said...

wonderful post and comments everyone!

Cheryl, you do such an amazing job on this subject and every time I hear or read your words they will hit squarely on another point.

What I deal with right now is under the HUGE heading of focus. Yep, I know there's lots of little bits that add up to the big heading, and I'm working on them.

It's so easy to let life intrude and not take advantage of the good you're given.

thanks always

CherylStJohn said...

My last reply didn't show up. :-(

Thank you, *lizzie. I am dealing with focus right now, too. My whole house is in chaos with a remodel, and I'm a really everything-in-its-place person, so it makes me crazy. It's good to know we're all working on something, isn't it? Hearing that others go through the same stuff and succeed is encouraging.

CherylStJohn said...

Thanks, Rebecca. I always have a stack of post-its on my desk to remind me of all the things I need to tie up.

Thanks, Problem Child. Have a great trip.

Lis said...

Wow, such a great post and wonderful timing too. I'm past fear of failure and moved into what my dad likes to call fear of success.

I guess need to embrace opportunities that come my way a little more and let go of the 'fear' that sometimes can get paralyzing.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Great post, Cheryl! I'm late getting in here today because of doctor appointment stuff, but your post really, really hits a chord with me.

I love that you said they are only words and you can write more. :) I am attempting to do something different lately. I'm a pantser, but I downloaded a Mac program called Scrivener that allows me to make colored outlines, have plot notes on a corkboard, and import pictures and files. I also make notes on the corkboard for stuff I need to remember.

It's not really plotting, but it's an attempt to organize myself better. I like it so far!

I also need to be better about letting go of the work and sending it out. :)

Thanks for the words of wisdom!!

tetewa said...

Glad to see you here today and I enjoyed your post!

CherylStJohn said...

Lis, fear of success is nothing to scoff at. It's a paralyzer, as well, and it's good you're addressing it.

Thanks, Lynn Raye. It sounds as though you're finding out the same thing so many writers do, that we all need the structure of a plan - in whatever form - to make our idea concrete. Your board and notes sound fascinating. Whatever works!

Thanks for your visit, Tetewa!

diane said...

Wonderful post which resounds with me. Having the ability yet lacking the security to try anything new is a problem which I try to conquer. I have accomplished many things but there is still that esteem issue all the time. Thanks for the wonderful writing.

catslady said...

Boy, you got me pegged. I'm afraid of my shadow. I went from having no confidence to feeling just too old. Logically I know that's wrong but emotionally...great post!

LuckyLouPlattsmouthNE said...

Cheryl, great words of insight and wisdom. Went to a Christian writer's group last night to learn about devotionals. Plan to get started on my first efforts.

Thanks for clarifying the other Cheryls weren't you; I thought you were answering yourself!! ROFL

Betina, I have saved all of your books, even an advance copy. If Cheryl has helped you progress on next ones, God bless her even more than he already does!

petite said...

Fascinating and important post which I took to heart. Fear of doing poorly starts early in life with learning and exams. Then in adulthood with our careers. We are not all confident creatures. But I think that we doubt ourselves too much and can be successful. It takes skills, strength and determination to overcome our faults.

Kathleen Grieve said...

GREAT article, Cheryl!

CherylStJohn said...

Thank you, Diane and Catslady. We're all works in progress, aren't we? *G*

Lou Ann, I appreciate your kindness, as always.

Glad my words spoke to you, Petite! Keep at it.

Thanks, Kathleen!

CherylStJohn said...

Thanks to all my gracious hosts at the Writing Playground and to everyone who stopped by and joined the discussion. I enjoyed this day tremendously.

I'm drawing two names, and the winners will each receive a book from my backlist (as long as I have copies--there are a few I don't have), so moving right along:

reaching into the fishbowl....

and the two winners are....

Sherry W



Please select a book from my backlist:

(and a 2nd choice) and send your choice to me at:

And remember: They're only words!

amy*skf said...

I'm way late to this party--but I don't care, this was a message I needed to hear--thank you, thank you, thank you.

CherylStJohn said...

Thanks, Amy!