[“The Book I’ve Been Avoiding Writing” (a.k.a. “Three Years of Writing and 40+ Years of Thinking About The Lion’s Gate“) is a mini-series about the writing of my new book, The Lion’s Gate. Thanks for tuning in as it runs Mondays and Fridays over the next few weeks.]

I’m having panic attacks now that I’m here in Israel. It has nothing to do with fearing rocket barrages or suicide bombers. Those, I’m cool with.

If a Jew is going to die, I figure, he might as well die here and die from something like that.

No, my terror is much more free-floating.

I have no idea of its source.

It comes on, for some reason, when I’m alone in my hotel room. I’m consumed with dread and feelings of inadequacy. What if I can’t make this project work? What if I fail? What if I get into these interviews and my mind goes blank?

Late at night when I’m trying to upload the interviews to Dropbox so I won’t lose them if my hard drive crashes, I keep making mistakes. I have to crunch the Lion’s Gate files to MP3 format. I can do this in my sleep. But now, here with the self-imposed time pressure of grabbing a few winks before tomorrow morning, I screw it up again and again.

I’m compulsively bungling simple, everyday tasks. Here’s the form it takes. Yesterday I was supposed to be ready with my rental Toyota when Danny came by the hotel at eight; we were heading to an interview. Instead I locked myself in the underground parking garage. I could not figure out how to make my card work to open the security gate. It took me twenty minutes to get out. I was in a state of semi-hysteria.

This morning I was prepared. I had figured out what I did wrong yesterday. Except last night I forgot to turn off the headlights of my rental car. This AM: dead battery. Two hours to get it fixed.

Waking in the morning I am paralyzed with fear. Of what? The interviews? Being out of my comfort zone?

Highway signs here have English names along with Arabic and Hebrew. But I still get lost every time I drive. Danny has introduced me to a bagel place in a shopping center called Cinema City that is within sight of my hotel room. Yet I can’t find it when I drive out of the lot. I break into a blue-balled sweat simply exiting the parking garage.


I have no idea.

I wish I could to go home. I’m sorry I ever started this project. If it weren’t for the shame and the expense, I’d bail right now.

And yet nothing is going wrong. The people I’ve interviewed so far–Eli’s guys, Uzi Dayan, Cheetah Cohen, Ran Ronen–have been fascinating, articulate, and very open and friendly.

Still I am terrified.

Standing in the morning at the sink in my hotel room, I have to literally instruct myself:

“Now pick up the toothbrush.

“Now put toothpaste on the bristles.

“Now brush.”

I know it sounds crazy, but it is the hardest thing I have ever done.

  • Steven – I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. It was an act of bravery during what is clearly a very scary time for you. You’re doing it, anyway. You’re showing up in the middle of all this anxiety and terror and you are doing what you need to do. That’s what pros do. They fight the good fight. Keep fighting. You’re not alone.

  • Mary Doyle

    Steve, you already know what it is – Resistance – and it sounds like it’s pulled out a new bag of especially nasty tricks to try to break you. Andrea (in the first comment above) gave you good advice – keep fighting. Think of all of us out here rooting for you!

  • I felt this way all my life. By chance I was introduced to a Neurologist. He explained to me what was happening in my head when these hideous bouts occurred. I now blow everyday about how I’ve overcome them, what I’ve learnt and how much better my life is for it. Thanks for sharing what is quite a personal matter.

  • blow=blog.

  • Thibaud

    Maybe it’s because of “the life you’ve been avoiding to live”, I might have done that too… You have all my sympathy.

  • beth

    Thank you Steven for sharing this aspect of your life. You write a lot about Resistance, but I tend to always think that no one suffers the almost paralyzing doubt, fear and disgust with themselves that I do. It sounds like maybe you do. And you go on and put out the work anyway. I’m so sorry that you are going through this right now. I hope the panic burns off soon and that you are able to enjoy the rest of your time in Israel. Best wishes to you.

  • Jeanette

    Fabulous! Kindred souls, we all have this and it is to the n-th degree at times.

  • Everyone’s already made the comments I came to add. This book has scared you the most from the very beginning, so it makes sense that Resistance would show up now when it most needs to defeat you. And like Mary said, with a whole new tactic.

    What it doesn’t know is that you’ve already defeated it, and now you’ve raised an army that stands with you when you share this with us…. and oh, how grateful I am that you do. Because it lets me know that I’m not alone.

    And neither are you. We’ve got your back. I know that probably doesn’t help when you’re the one who’s alone in a hotel room and feeling the terror in that moment, but we are here, cheering you on, and rooting for you to slay this dragon one more time.

    • Thanks, everyone who is writing in. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that this post is striking a nerve. There must be a lot of PANIC out there!

      • Arthur Shapiro


        You have indeed hit a nerve. The Resistance (thanks to you i know what to call it, do about and realize I’m not alone) can come at you in many ways. Both emotional and even physical.


      • Yosi Ben-Hanan

        Dear Steve,
        I follow you here and I know how dedicated you have been all the way. I suggest that our King David at his time was also quite nervous when he faced Goliat…..
        I am waiting to read the BOOK and to learn if the hardship you lived while writing the book – “pay” back.
        I wish you success!
        Shalom -Yosi

  • Susan

    Steve, thank you for writing this post. It is so real. Brings tears to my eyes and a sense of relief.

  • Leah

    I relate to your description of anxiety. I love that you are rational enough to say I feel this way. It feels like crap and I know there’s nothing wrong. Nothing really wrong. Even though everything inside you says that everything is wrong. I have come to know that this is a sign that you’re doing something that is very important. Very important to your soul. And what you have created will have a life way beyond you. Sending you + thoughts

  • Gary emineth


    “All the world is a stage and all the men and women are merely players they have their exits and entrances and one man in his time plays many parts”.

    Shakespeare’s quote came to mind as I read your post this AM… As a Christian I have always seen Israel as a focal point on the world stage…this is a spiritual battle from my perspective and you have an important role in this drama not yet written.

  • Dear Steven,
    I’ve read many of your books in Greek translation. I have always been moved by the warrior spirit and the vividness of your work. And I grab the opportunity reading this post on panick attacks to tell you that you are a true warrior and a great soul. Thank you deeply for all the inspiration that you have given me.
    Greetings from Greece,

  • Boy do I know that feeling! Thanks for sharing this Steve… Maryanne

  • I think it was Keith Richards, who when asked, “What’s the secret to long life?” answered “Just keep breathing.” It’s the best advice I’ve ever heard in dealing with my own anxiety. A bit simple maybe, but most of life’s best answers are. Thanks for sharing your story Steven. And just keep breathing.

  • walt trauth

    Simple. You’re nuts. First, don’t be offended. We’re all nuts to one degree or another. And the degree changes all the time. Second, nuts is a big topic. Plenty of material there.
    Write on Stevie boy. I like reading you. I need the help. Thanks for your work and your honesty.

    • Ian

      I love this comment.

  • The subconscious is a complex thing. As writer’s we sometimes come across a project that has more importance to us on a deeper level. Sometimes when writing non fiction it is not just important to us on a personal level, but we realise the significance it will mean to others, thus it is experienced as anxiety. I think it’s the pressure we allow ourselves to feel. But on the upside, writers and artists who feel this anxiety tend to put a lot of themselves in their work, thus creating magnificent pieces that others can share, identify with and experience.

    • Maddi, you may have hit the nail on the head here. One does feel a responsibility to others on certain projects. It’s not just a “creative venture.” Kinda like athletes when they play for their country, say, at the Olympic Games. The pressure is higher.

      • Sometimes it takes courage to just say the truth. I agree with so much of what has been said.

        If I recall correctly, you didn’t even know you were Jewish until you were 13? Perhaps being in Israel, a country that in some ways carries the heart of the world, you’re feeling the added tension of place? Of it’s place in your life, and whatever past life connection you might have.

        About 6 mos before 9/11 I began feeling an almost unbearable anxiety. Remembering something a rabbi had once said, I began to surmise that something must be going on in or about Jerusalem and I was feeling it here. The anxiety stopped when 9/11 hit. It was the it I’d been feeling.

        Carl Jung thought he was going crazy at the point he decided to start writing what became The Red Book. Later, he realized he was also picking up on the energy that culminated in the war.

        The Red Book became something hugely important, a work of art and psychology.

        Sounds like you’re at HALT, never get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired. All the cliches about keeping things simple, and the results are in the higher powers’ hands.

        This is the dream and you’re living it. Thank you for showing up.

    • Maddi, thank you. That explanation reads like a diagnosis, and once we can name the problem, we can start solving it. Resistance is a great name, but as Steve’s pointed out again and again, Resistance is a wily opponent. How perfectly devious that it would ruin the writer’s ambition with good intentions. Fight, fight, fight. Write, write, write.

  • Steven,

    Wallace Wattles reminds us that we are all perfect. It’s when we’re tired, hungry, feeling out of sorts, etc. that those moods creep in and our job is to stay off of the emotional roller coaster. We’re either coming from a place of fear or love. Choose love. Seems somewhat surreal that I’m sharing advice to someone who has contributed so much to my life but I hope I do in some small way.

    We’re all connect, we’re all ONE and we’re all perfect. If you’re hurting we all are. But we all love you too and it will all unfold as it needs to and it’ll be fabulous!

    Thank you for having the courage to share. You continue to be an inspiration.

  • reminded me of a line in Karate Kid 2010. “Pick up the jacket”.

  • Steve, I went through some similar internal turmoil as I worked through my Ph.D. program. There were times when I just didn’t know if I could do it. It was a hard time in so many ways and the easy way would have been to chuck it all and go back to full-time work (which would have been less work than I was doing).

    My wife and kids headed out to grandma’s one Saturday morning while I stayed behind to work. As I wandered through the house to get a cup of coffee, I fell into my (old, worn-out) chair and cried for about a half-hour. When I finished, I got up, went to my workroom, and got back to work.

    There were several places along the way when help arrived just in time to keep me from quitting. But I didn’t quit. It took me a couple more years to finish.

  • Hey, try this for scary. I used to be a performer in a dance company. What if I blank out? What would happen if I just do something bizarre and involuntary on stage? What if I sleep through the whole thing? What if I bungle it for everyone? What if I just don’t have the will to energize? Eeeek. Finally you just have to say to yourself: Yep, I AM walking the plank. I intend to march into the face of all these devils. But they are not me. Come out blazing with your scimitar. There’s a good reason that there’s such a thing as a battle cry to mobilize frightened soldiers. Whoop it up boy!

  • Dear Steve,
    Damn! This blog totally confirms the ‘there’s no there there’ theme I’ve had in many of my talks. Goals are terrific, they give us fuel–but once one accomplishes a goal, the rest of one’s life is still in front of them…so now what?

    Your honesty is so brave it humbles me. The lazy part of me reads this post and thinks, “Damn–isn’t it ever easy? Don’t you ever just make it, and relax?”

    It is a rather sad fact of the human condition. Produce and face Resistance, fear, self-hatred. Do not produce and face Resistance, fear, self-hatred. Kind of screwed either way, so I guess there should be something to show for the troubles.

    I cannot wait to read the results of your efforts. I know it will stay with me for the rest of my life.

  • The greater the project and the nearer the completion, the more powerful and devious the resistance. Your unconscious mind knows what to do. Trust that and do the work, one step at a time. Thank you Steven for all that you have taught me.

  • Laura Woodworth

    Love reading the background to this book! Quick question – how do you record your interviews? iPhone? Digital recorder? I’m on a project and trying to determine the best way to record good audio. Also looking into adding a mic to my iPhone (Rode). Any input?

  • Well, of course, it is both inspiring and comforting to read that another author struggles with anxiety – especially the one who articulated for all of us the concept of Resistance. (Like darkness in light, or fog in sun, Resistance and its sycophants like so-called “writer’s block” dissipate when named or exposed.)

    But in this case, there’s something deeper. Or perhaps, if we want to use the term, a soul-level Resistance. The core. The panic attack is not everyday or even important project resistance.

    The anxiety comes from essence – the soul facing itself. For a long time, being a Jew was an empty space in your life. A word that did not yet resonate.

    And then, there you are, in Israel, facing that ultimate reality you write about in almost all your work, the war, the warrior ethos, facing the enemy within (Virtues of War).

    “I’m having panic attacks now that I’m here in Israel…If a Jew is going to die, I figure, he might as well die here.”

    But first, one must live.

    “No, my terror is much more free-floating. I have no idea of its source. It comes on, for some reason, when I’m alone in my hotel room.”

    Because when you were alone in your hotel room, you had to face yourself, alone, claim your identity as a Jew.

    Which is why even though “… nothing is going wrong” the anxiety came. In a sense that’s why: “The people I’ve interviewed so far…have been fascinating, articulate, and very open and friendly.” Yes, open, friendly, accepting.

    Sometimes that makes it harder for us to accept ourselves.

    Thanks. I’ll take the echo of this into Shabbat.

  • Dear Steven,
    I have them too. The free floating terrors, I mean. They are wicked in their intensity, but I know they have something to say so I try to listen. What has helped me is to let it be okay to be a mess sometimes. To accept my own limitations and weaknesses. To ask for help, and to go slow and be really kind to myself. Simple, but hard things, and they have helped tremendously.

    I am heartened by your courage and humility. Carry on Largo, you got this.


  • Barry

    Thanks so much for sharing the vulnerability! (Makes me feel more normal.)

    If it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done, with your track record, we’re going to be in for something great!

    Could it be you are in a crucible of sorts? Just looked it up, “Crucible: a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development… a crucible makes you ready to face extreme challenges.”

    I think it is in The War of Art where you talk about Reistance and (forgive me for butchering this), how if you are going towards something that is easier, like going from working in Mother Teresa’s Center in Calcutta to become a direct marketer, no resitance. If you are doing something that is going to have a positive impact and help elevate humanity, be ready for significant Resistance.

    Could some of the challenges be due to being out of sync with your normal rituals? Do you have any of the things you have at home with you? I remember something about when you sit down to write, you point a canon this way and do this and that… Anything you can do to bring some rituals of home?

    I’ve had similar bouts of anxiety my entire life. The things that also seem to help me are a lot of exercise and drinking a lot of water / keeping super hydrated.

    You’ll settle in, and you’ll beat that mother f*$%er Resistance once again.

    You have all of us out here rooting for you!

    Keep going, keep moving, keep taking the next step!

  • That was awesome! Seeing someone with your level of success and understanding of the world show such vulnerability is a breath of fresh air. We all know that the end result will be great, but I thank you ever so much for sharing as you go through the process.

    I know what it’s like to freak out when things are going well too…and that’s okay. 🙂

  • Words of encouragement are never redundant, so I will add mine to all these fine comments. To share these terrors with us is like Alexander pouring out that one precious bit of water in front of his troops. We believe in you, even as Resistance is trying to make you lose faith in yourself. You got this, Steve.

  • Steven, thanks for being so truthful and raw with us. We’ve all faced these “panics” in some form or another, before a performance, an interview, an important event, but the difference is most quit so not to face it. Keep strong and push through. It sounds like you’re on the right path there with your work. Peace to you and breathe.

  • I am working on a project that I’ve put off for years – the one that terrifies me. In fact, the final motivator for me was your decision to work on your avoided book.

    So I know this. I’m living this right now. I had a panic attack meltdown this morning because my monitor was acting up again for the 1 billionth time. My husband ran in circles trying to fix what is basically unfixable.

    Thank you for articulating what I haven’t. Blessings on your journey. I’m right behind you.

  • Lana Vaughan

    What’s most surprising is that you seem surprised. Hasn’t everything you’ve experienced and learned prepared and led you to this place, this time, this story? The Lion’s Gate is fear itself. It is the fear that separates. It is the fear that isolates. It is the fear that burns away the hay and straw and stubble leaving only the gold.

    Go for the gold!

  • Barry

    Oh, one more thing. From everything I’ve read by Dr. Daniel Amen, the one thing everyone who has anxiety needs to avoid is stimulants.

    And as Janet says above, breathe.

    Much love

  • Steve,
    So I just had another thought about the fear you’re feeling in this post. Everyone one you meet is a true warrior who fought for that little patch of dirt you’re visiting for the first time.

    While you fought for the US, I wonder if there is a growing, gnawing sense of inadequacy that you may feel around these guys. I am familiar with that feeling as well. It was early in the war, when some units had deployed–and we were not sure if we were going to go before it all ended. I did not volunteer to deploy with an organization–although the commander asked. I was like, “Don’t ask me, order me. This is the Army.”

    When these guys returned, many of us felt lesser.

    In the end, I did have a chance to face my fears overseas. Our minds can be so devious when trying to find and prove our own faults and weaknesses.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I had this sense that maybe you felt like you were not worthy of the company that you were keeping, nor the freedom they represented–simply because you were not in the trenches with them.

  • Aaron

    Sometimes we write things and know things but forget them when they apply to us. All logic goes out the window and our emotions take over. I am sure I have heard you mention somewhere how you will get the most resistance when you’re closest to your true purpose, your real goal. It sounds like you’re close. This means a lot to you, and obviously to your muse. It takes courage to go there. More courage than I have, certainly. So many people respect and admire you for where you are right now, and the help you give others. You will persevere. You will thrive. There is a lot of love coming your way from us here. I’m sorry this is part of your journey right now, but now is the time you need to trust what you have written. Sending love.

  • abby

    big hugs. you can do it. one pant leg at a time.

  • You’re making magic happen. Thank you.

  • Stacy

    Steve, this whole endeavor was and is very brave of you on so many levels. It’s weird how, intellectually, we know we’re experiencing Resistance and yet it can still seep in when we least expect it. Peace to you, sir.

  • julian

    my short answer to yr question, steve : fear of success.

    resistance relies on failure like fish rely on water.

    also, who doesn’t get nervous when they instinctively feel how close they are to a good thing? a great thing? maybe the best thing ever?

    you were probably experiencing alot of both.

  • Ha! Were you channeling I Love Lucy in that parking garage? I experienced some weird shit in Israel as well, and my sleep was screwed up, waking at all hours, wondering if He was there with me in the holiest of places or was I just nuts.

    When the stakes are high, temporal weirdness kicks in. You obviously walk the talk, and I appreciate you all the more for sharing such raw, good stuff about yourself.

    If people only knew what it takes to write a book!

    Shalom, Sharon

  • Pamela Seley

    Steve, thanks for the video interviews with you and Shawn in the email I received yesterday. I watched all 12 of them. You’ve given much detail behind the scenes about the writing of your book. I’m glad there remains the historical part the publisher wanted you to take out. I have a better understanding of why you brought up your Jewish heritage. Everyone interested in your book should watch those video interviews. I was too late in opening my email and didn’t win one of the 100 books, but I’m hooked so I’ll be buying it. You have a lot of humility that you are not afraid to blog about having a panic attack.

    Every home I close for my clients there has to be at least one meltdown, some are more intense than others. The last one I lost my client’s identification in a parking lot within 10 minutes. I broke out in a sweat and started hyperventilating. Almost started to weep and thought I can’t do this job, how can I be so stupid, so irresponsible, I’m not good enough, as I’m banging my head in the front seat of my car, suddenly it seemed as if someone touched me on the shoulder and whispered look. I looked down and there was the lost ID on the ground. lol You should write a book about the writing of your book, but then you already are, blog posts from Israel. Steve, you are an amazing story teller, but I think you already know that. Shalom.

  • Brent Carr

    Steve, timing (coincidence) is sometimes staggering. As I start my 5th or 6th business venture (and I’m confident this is the one will actually succeed 🙂 a strange thing happened.

    Getting very close to opening my doors, on April 29th I wrote in my journal of Odysseus’s men opening his bag of winds. Perhaps reminding myself to be prepared.

    On April 30th I FINALLY tested a crucial piece of equipment I had bought USED 45 days earlier… and… of course… I found it unusable and with two serious malfunctions. It was my bag of winds, sitting there for 45 days while I took some sort of mental nap. Ultimate self-sabotage, in the most diabolical form… Resistance.

    Thanks to The War of Art on constant play through my iPod Shuffle, I’m over-coming this lunacy with the best enthusiasm. Thank you.

    Push through these panic attacks, for as you know the stronger the Resistance the better it’s going to be when you’re through it. The world wants you!

  • You were at the center of the world, and things are just different there. It’s strange the way memories of Israel intensify, rather than fade over time. You are compelled to return, for reasons you cannot explain.

    That feeling of vague familiarity and internal turmoil isn’t exclusive to Jews. This Gentile Christian experienced it from the moment I saw Tel Aviv from the air. The feeling of connection has never gone away,

    I am so looking forward to reading Lions Gate, but I am thoroughly enjoying these glimpses of that amazing place and people through your eyes. Thank you for sharing, brother.

    • David

      As has been noted by a few people, Israel is a mystical place with mystical effects. For a purple hearted war hero in the battle of resistance to be brought to such a state, there must be something else going on. I don’t buy it as just another battle with resistance. If physical illness or a food related condition has been ruled out, I’ll go with the land having some spiritual effect that is asking for some new awareness. Chaos precedes order, darkness before light, etc the cosmological/spiritual law, more intensely at play in the most spiritual place.

  • Ishita

    Hey S – sending so much love to you right now. I have been HERE, exactly, for the last few weeks myself and your courage in being open about it has allowed me to – no joke – carry on with my day without freaking out. Thank you always for the courage that allows us to also see we have it in us. Keep on keeping on.

  • BING

    WOW – all these posts. Hey Steve, I thought buy now you have become bullet proof. I have heard that if your religious, Israel can really mess you up because there are a ton of wacked out fanactics there. I was told you really have to be grounded in what you believe. Perhaps the next correct thing to do would be to get the hell out of there. I feel strongly if you came home you would sort it out quickly. For a lot of complex reason’s you may at this time be way over your head. You can always go back. I’m sure the last thing the enemy wants is for you to find your Jewish roots.
    I will be praying for you – BING

  • Dan

    You are so brave. It takes genuine strength to be transparent to vulnerability. There is power in it.

    Just as an aside, have you ever had a sleep study done? I had zero clue I had severe sleep apnea and treating it has dramatically improved my anxiety.

  • Barbara

    Wow! What a warrior! Your honesty and bravery are breathtaking just to hear, let alone trying to emulate. Thank you.

  • Hi Steve. Shalom.

    Israel evokes something in your subconscious that is bringing you to your knees spiritually and physically.Once you discover what that is, the fear and confusion will abate.

    Some years back, I visited the city of my alma mater. I was to speak before the university’s Board of Directors. Before the speech, while alone at lunch, I became physically ill. Finally, I realized that I had been several different people in that same town–a student, a reporter, a wife, a divorced person, and now a newly remarried wife. As soon as I put it all together, the converging forces stopped their havoc and I was able to collect myself. I did fine.

  • chris

    i just had this on a project contract i was working on. i was working in the studio of a very calm and focussed artist and i was making every mistake in the book. it was like my brain just turned hopelessly stupid. wrong cone packs in kilns, in wrong places, forgetting stuff, getting confused, knowing how everything was laid-out one minute and the next no idea in the world which tray was which…

    i had the warewithal to put one foot in front of the other and just keep going, but oh boy was it stressful.

  • Doing what we are called to do bears our souls.
    Our souls need clothes to feel comfortable.
    Sometimes we can’t let our souls be comfortable.

    Please write more about panic attacks, if you can. This is resonating with others. I have only recently become aware of them myself. Funny as it sounds, experiencing one or two has made me feel like I’m getting closer to the eye of the storm.

    So few people do the hard thing. I like that you don’t allow yourself to press the easy button.

  • So powerful.

    What makes it so powerful is that you are writing while it is still live, not after you’ve fixed the problem and gone on to super success.

    Thank you so much!