Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 7, 2012

Fear is a Writer’s Worst Enemy: Attack the Ambush by Bob Mayer

The Author Chronicles gives a warm welcome to NY Times best-selling author Bob Mayer, co-founder of Who Dares Wins Publishing and the Write It Forward program.

In the US Army Ranger School you’re taught to do things you wouldn’t normally do.  One thing you are trained to deal with is getting ambushed.

Your patrol is walking along a trail and suddenly you are fired upon from the right. Your fear wants you to jump in the convenient ditch to the left—to avoid the ambush.

However, if the ambush is set up correctly—that ditch is mined and you’ll die if you do that. In life, avoiding problems by running from them doesn’t solve the problem.

Your next fear-driven instinct is to just hit the ground. Stay where you’re at and do nothing. Except you’re in the kill zone and if you stay there, well, you’ll get killed.  We all want to ignore problems.  Because that’s the inherent nature of a problem. But ignoring your greatest problem will keep you in the kill zone and the result is inevitable.

The third thing you want to do is run forward or back on the trail to get out of the kill zone—escape.

Except, if the ambush is done right, the heaviest weapons are firing on either end of the kill zone. And you’ll die.  We want to avoid problems by going back to the past or imaging it will get better in the future even if we don’t change anything.

The correct solution is the hardest choice because it requires courage: you must conquer your fear, turn right and assault into the ambushing force. It is the best way to not only survive, but win. To tackle problems, you must face them.

In my Write It Forward program, we focus on developing authors.  Most writing programs focus on the writing, but I believe it’s important to focus on the person producing the writing.  And, as Stephen King says:  “I believe fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

Here’s a question every writer has to answer:  “I’ll do whatever it takes to succeed except don’t ask me to do ?????.”

What that one thing is, is the one thing you must do to succeed.

Write what you know—maybe write what you are afraid to know. I see many writers who avoid writing what they should be writing because it would mean confronting their fears. Be curious about your fear—it’s a cave, but instead of a monster inside treasure could be inside.

Remember fear is an emotion. Action can occur even when your emotions are fighting it. Taking action is the key to conquering fear.  Attacking the ambush.

How do you expand your comfort zone by venturing into your courage zone?

Every day try to do something that you dislike doing, but need to do.

If you’re introverted, talk to a stranger every day.

If you’re a practical person, do something intuitive every day.

Do the opposite of your Myers-Briggs character.

Attack the ambush!

Bob Mayer is a NY Times Best-Selling multi-published author. He is a West Point graduate, served in the Infantry and Special Forces (Green Beret) commanding an A-Team and as a Special Forces operations officer, and was an instructor at Fort Bragg. He teaches Novel Writing, Warrior Writer and does keynote speeches. For more information on Bob visit his website.


  1. I’d be the first one who jumps into the ditch… but I can recommend “Write it Forward”, which goes beyond the craft to tackle the inner writer – the person you need to become to survive in the world of publishing!


  2. Once upon a time, many years ago (but in this galaxy), I was shy, introverted and afraid of everything. I did exactly what you mentioned: I did the opposite of what I “was”. I “faked it” and then I made it.

    It’s all a matter of exercising a “muscle” you’re not used to using and soon it becomes strong.

    Good post, Bob.


  3. […] Bob Mayer wrote a guest post (way better than I could) about fear called Fear is a Writer’s Worst Enemy: Attack the Ambush. […]


  4. Wow, this really hits home for me. Thanks!


  5. Great post, Bob,
    I was just thinking about this over the weekend that I needed to make some changes in my career path. I signed up for a 3-day workshop in NYC & joined a new writers group that offer more craft/writers workshops. They say (maybe you said) the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Well I’m trying something different, pushing the comfort zone and working on my weak areas.


  6. […] Fear Is The Writer’s Worst Enemy by Bob Mayer […]


  7. I know that fear is my biggest enemy in writing and in life. I fight it every day. And some days I lose. Maybe I need better weapons. Anyone have a cannon for sale?


  8. […] When fear engulfs you, fight back, says writer/publisher Bob Mayer on The Author Chronicles blog. “Remember fear is an emotion. Action can occur even when your emotions are fighting it. Taking action is the key to conquering fear.  Attacking the ambush.” More intriguing is his following suggestion: “Do the opposite of your Myers-Briggs character.” […]


  9. […] Bob Mayer wrote a guest post (way better than I could) about fear called Fear is a Writer’s Worst Enemy: Attack the Ambush. […]


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