Keep Doubt From Stealing Your Dream

Originally published in the JumpStart newsletter
Copyright 2001 by Shirley Jump

A friend sent me the following quote from Shakespeare: “Doubt is a thief that often makes us fear to tread where we might have won.”

Ah, the words of the immortal bard. Have you seen “Shakespeare in Love?” In that movie, Shakespeare goes through many doubts and has to conquer a number of fears (not to mention a few disgruntled Brits) to get his first play written and on the stage. He loves his writing, but isn’t sure he is doing the right thing, even after the standing ovation for “Romeo and Juliet.”

That is, until his lady love steps forward and tells him not to give up. Now, that part may be pure fiction, written into the story to make it sell, but it could also be based partly on reality. Undoubtedly, there were people who encouraged Shakespeare, others who scoffed at his dream, and a few who cheered wanly in his corner, not sure if he’d ever make it.

Imagine where we would be in literature today if he had let Doubt conquer him. Imagine the plays, the poetry, the sheer magic of entertainment we would have missed, had Shakespeare given in to Doubt and let it take away his glory before he could achieve it. I love Shakespeare, and have always loved his amazing gift for iambic pentameter that is both funny and tragic. I wasn’t a big fan in Freshman English, when the plays were required reading, but by college, I had recognized his talent and appreciated the gift he gave the literary world.

Don’t doubt that you can’t be the next Shakespeare. Ah, don’t scoff now. Shakespeare didn’t know he’d be THE Shakespeare. He was just some poor playwright penning his stories by hand (and if you feel like complaining about revising on a computer, imagine doing all your work – in metered rhyme no less-by hand, with a quill and ink on tiny pieces of paper that couldn’t be wasted!). He had no idea that he would influence literary works for generations. He just wanted to write. So he beat back the Doubt Demons and did it.

Today, pull a Shakespeare. Ignore the doubt and write your brains out. If you choose to do it with a quill and ink, hey, be my guest. No matter how you do it – just do it.

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