Doubt Not ~it's Fiction Friday!

Welcome to Fiction Friday! Today is a Special Edition because Shirley Jump is here to encourage us with a very timely post. Shirley is a writer that I have learned much from over these last few months, and she is the reigning queen of hand-outs. Her teaching style is one that is easy to understand, connect to, and, on top of that, is fun. Many of my friends are participating in NaNoWriMo (and will be writing a book length manuscript in the month of November!), and others, including me, are simply continuing to work on our manuscripts. What's so cool about Shirley's post is that it can be applied to any of our dreams, whether we're writers or readers.

For those of you looking for Mr. Linky, he's down at the end of this post, waiting for you. Since I'm not posting fiction today, here's Exile, my most recent Faithwriters entry (LoL—well except for this week's, which I slid in just under the wire) in case you're just dying to read some fiction. ;)

By Shirley Jump

One day, 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 alternately funny and tragic iambic pentameter (for someone who has no natural rhythm, and nearly flunked that portion of Poetry in college, I admired anyone who can write it, period). 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.

How do you do that?
There are, surely, plenty of things are getting in your way:

1. Your schedule: Are you doing too much? Overscheduling yourself? There are tons of things that are important, of course (your spouse, your kids, your other family members) and then there are the things that aren’t (the endless Tupperware parties, the bingo games, the trips to the mall). Decide what’s important and what isn’t, and cut back on the non-essential stuff so you can have time to make room for your dream.

2. Your own negativity: Are you letting your doubts feed your procrastination? We all do it. We may not sit there and consciously think about those doubts, but you know when you find other ways to fill your time. Like watching TV…instead of writing. Because in the back of your head, you have those fears and doubts, and it’s easier to avoid than do.

Then what do you do?
1. Reduce the schedule: I know, I already said that, but it bears repeating. I see too many people filling their day with things they don’t need to be doing, and then complaining to me that they don’t have time to write. Decide what things are important, and what are time-wasters, and let the time-wasters go.

2. Turn off the TV. Turn off the Internet connection. Both can suck you in and waste hours and hours. You’re not writing if you’re watching “Dr. Phil” or surfing the web. ;-)

3. Stop researching and start writing. I’ve met DOZENS of people who will research for YEARS and not write a word. Write the darn book, and leave those holes, then go back and fill them in. You may not need as much information as you thought. Research can be a procrastination excuse, and you know it ;-)

4. Find writing friends. Real life ones are great because you can sit down face-to-face over a cup of coffee and really connect. The online community is wonderful, but sometimes you just need to find a writer you can talk to.

5. Find a critique group. Probably the BEST thing I ever did before I was published was get a critique partner. Having that weekly meeting forced me to produce something every single week, because I certainly wasn’t going to be the one who showed up empty-handed. Plus it gives you that regular feedback from someone else, to shore you up when you have those inevitable down moments.

6. Surround yourself with inspiration. I have motivational quotes all over my office, a motivational quote of the day calendar. Write yourself a motivational, you can do message and post it over your computer.

7. Find a motivational writing space. If your living room sofa is an energy drainer, then DON’T write there. Go to a coffee shop. Go to a corner of the home where you can set up a small office. Go to the library. Find some place that gives you good writing energy, and fosters the kind of creativity you crave. You are creating the right kind of environment, because that will breed more positive feelings.

Do you see the thinking? Rather than letting those doubts invade, you take the steps you need to in order to push them away. It’s like planting hundreds and hundreds of roses, so there isn’t any room left for the weeds to grow. Doubt (like weeds) will still creep up from time to time, but it will be far easier to deal with if your garden is strong and blooming.

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.


Award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing romantic comedies for Kensington Books (Really Something; Simply the Best) as well as Harlequin Romance (Boardroom Bride and Groom, July 2008) to feed her shoe addiction and avoid cleaning the toilets. She cleverly finds writing time by feeding her kids junk food, allowing them to dress in the clothes they find on the floor and encouraging the dogs to double as vacuum cleaners. Visit her website at or read recipes and life adventures at

She also writes horror young adult under the pen name AJ Whitten with her teen daughter. The first of these books, The Well, will be released in fall of 2009 under Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Graphia imprint. When Shirley’s daughter first read the premise for The Well, the story of a boy whose mother is trying to kill him, she asked her mother if there was anything she should know. Shirley claims it’s all fiction. Learn more about AJ Whitten at
Christmas Weddings is now in stores!


Thank you for joining us for Fiction Friday! If you have a short story, simply add your name and the url to your story to Mr. Linky below. The more the merrier, so invite your friends along!

Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


  1. Thanks Shirley, for these wise tips. I found that getting away from my internet chatting spot in the living room helps immensely.
    I move my laptop to the kitchen table and just write. My mind knows that this is the place where it needs to be serious and get down to business.

  2. These were great tips. I'm one that would research my life away and not write a word. I needed that reminder!

    Thanks Shirley and Patty!

  3. What excellent, EXCELLENT advice! Thank you, Shirley, for sharing with us here. Wonderful stuff.

  4. So glad to be here! And thanks to Patty for having me!! Great idea, Yvonne, on moving the laptop away. I agree with you that the brain does have that "this is the workspace" mode.


  5. Oh wow, I'm inhaling this advice. I'm the Queen of Distractions. Yup, that's me. I don't do TV, but I often have my brain and efforts into too many things at once. Good things, but things. I guess the philosophy "Good can be the enemy of best" can apply in writing as well.

    Thank you, Shirley, for this wisdom and Patty, for posting. You blessed my day!

  6. Glad to help, Betsy and LauraLee! I know distractions can be such an issue -- hey, I have two kids, three dogs, a cat and a husband. There are distractions aplenty in my house ;-)


  7. sir
    m k harikumar


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