“Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins” (1985) and the power of fear

Fear is nothing more than a feeling. You feel hot. You feel hungry. You feel angry. You feel afraid. Fear can never kill you.” Chiun (Joel Gray)

(This series is designed to create my first writing book: A BOOK A YEAR IN A SENTENCE A DAY. To that effect, I’m polishing chunks of a talk given at a writing conference, pulling out and emphasizing different aspects.)


There is a principle in sales: “tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them. Because it is critical that you understand a few basic things, I’m doing to follow this notion and pray that it works. My total commitment is to helping anyone who really wants to be a writer to be a writer. And secondarily, to teach you the value of the “Minimum sustainable dosage” notion, which can work in any area of your life.

If you are willing to play this game, wiling to let me help you, please continue!

So, here are the basic steps, the things that will drive the entire system:

  1. Write at least one sentence every day. That’s it. Write at least one sentence every day. Raise your hands when you’re done writing.
  2. Write one to four short stories every month
  3. Finish what you write and submit for publication.
  4. Do not rewrite, except to editorial request.
  5. Read 10 times as much as you write.
  6. Repeat this process 100 times.


Now, let’s go back to number one, write at least one sentence a day.

I would like you to consider a simple proposition: You are what you do. You’re not what you think you are, you’re not what you say you are, you’re not what other people say you are.

An example: There are basically just three things that I actually care about in life. My family, things connected to that, writing and things connected to that, and martial arts. If it’s not one of those three things, I don’t do it.

I define myself as a writer, and people ask me, how do you maintain the discipline? I don’t have any discipline. I have hunger. Do you have to discipline yourself to eat a Mrs. Fields cookie? Do you have to discipline yourself to eat Sushi? No, you have hunger for certain things. Okay? When you define yourself as a thing, you either do that thing, or you will feel pain because you have not.

I am a writer, and if you ask writers about themselves, the only thing in common is that they write. So…every day that I want to call myself a writer, guess what I have to do?

I am a father and a husband, so I have to love my son every day, I have to tell my wife that I adore her every single day. Reach out to my darling daughter Nicki and my long-suffering sister Joyce as often as possible. If I don’t, I am not those things that I have said that I am.

I am a martial artist, that means I have to train every day, every day. Preferably I’m either taking classes or I’m teaching as well, because that’s who I am.

And what I’m suggesting to you is that you define yourself as a writer. From now on, this is who you are. Because if you do that, if you start organizing your mind and your heart to support the notion … what identity do I need in order to accomplish this thing I want to do? You have to say it, you have to own it, and all the fear will come up, and that’s okay.

You do NOT have to be unafraid in order to do something. You have to have the fear in the correct position in your life.


If your fear is between you and your goal, then it inhibits you.


But if the thing you want is in front of you, and the fear is behind you…if you “put your fear behind you, your love in front of you, and run like hell” then the same amount of fear actually POWERS YOUR ACTIONS.

And this is something I know very well. I went into the martial arts to learn how to deal with fear. I had morbid fear in some very specific ways. It took me SEVENTEEN YEARS to earn my first black belt, because I was dealing with such paralyzing levels of terror.

And what you need to know is that the fear doesn’t go away, but your relationship with your fear changes. You start understanding the fear doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean you can’t, you shouldn’t, you mustn’t. It doesn’t mean any of that, it just means you’re afraid. There’s a movie called “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.” In it, a cop named Remo is turned into a ninja super-spy under the tutilage of “Chiun”, Korean master of the art of Sinanju (well…he’s played by Joel Gray, but we’ll save that discussion for another day.) Anyway, there is a sequence where Remo is running around the edge of a high building to train his balance. And got scared. And this is where an otherwise unremarkable film touches something profound.

“Fear is nothing more than a feeling.” Chuin says, in a rare moment of sympathy. “You feel hot. You feel hungry. You feel angry. You feel afraid. Fear can never kill you.”

It is a feeling. Like other feelings. But unlike the others, we judge ourselves horribly, call ourselves cowards, or think that fear means we can’t, or shouldn’t, or mustn’t. No.

It is just fear.

And once you grasp that, without guilt, blame, or shame, you can simply say: “I want to write, but I am afraid to write (or submit, or finish, or start the next project). Okay, let me learn how to deal with that fear.”

Once defined like that, Google is your friend. It’s the denial that you’re afraid that will kill your dreams.

To bring this down to earth, let’s take a close look at the phenomenon called “Writer’s block.” Let’s define it in the clearest, most useful way I know:

Writer’s block is anything that stops you from writing, finishing what you write, submitting what you write, continuing to write the next project, continuing to grow, on a steady basis.

In other words, any interruptions in that chain break the chain. You are “blocked.”

And we will investigate that more deeply in the next chapter.