One Little Word for 2020

Tonight I’m (literally) writing my way into the new year, which I’m choosing to interpret as symbolic rather than as a symptom of procrastination. Since writing is the vehicle that will bring my one little word for 2020 to life, beginning the year with laptop a-tapping feels apropos.

The inspiration for my one little word came out of some blogging I did a couple of weeks ago (link to post). Faced with a potential fork in the road of my writing life, I was absolutely spinning, and once I had written my way through it, I felt calm. Clear. I could see the opportunities in front of me. The question shifted to whether or not I would dare to do something about it.

There is something a little irreverent in the word dare, an implied understanding that feathers might be ruffled, norms disrupted. A flicker in the belly that signals the unexpected might happen. There is no safety in the word dare. 

To me the word dare is about agency. It’s not about an outside force pressuring me to do something (no, “I triple dog dare you!”); it’s about spurring myself to action. It’s about taking risks—because I can feel deep down in my bones that I’m ready. Because in order for me to maintain full engagement in my own professional life—and I have high expectations in that department—I have to be moving with intention toward the kinds of actions that are challenging and compelling enough to knock the intellectual wind out of me. 

This is a state I crave, cognitive dissonance combined with deep investment in whatever learning and application is needed to work my way through it to the next big question. And while my role as an instructional coach provides endless opportunities for this type of collaboration and thinking work, I can feel myself seeking more. Perhaps “more” isn’t the right word. . . seeking a more highly specialized focus for this intense cognitive and emotional engagement. 

The word dare communicates boldness, an unapologetic pursuit of goals that align all the way to my core—even if, or perhaps especially if, those goals seem out of reach. 

For me that core is writing: my own writing (fiction and professional) and the teaching of writing. I want to take actions that prioritize these strengths and that open new doors. I love my work as an instructional coach. . . and it is true that not nearly enough of it is centered around writing. In 2020, I dare to imagine a future in which writing and writing instruction comprise the majority of my professional life, as opposed to where they fit in now as periodic waves and around the edges as a building-based coach.

It’s daring (and terrifying) to consider what it will take to make this happen (and to say it out loud). What sacrifices might be necessary? Which safety nets might need to be removed? How will I differentiate between small steps forward and great, big jumps—what counts as daring? I’m excited to figure all this out, and I appreciate the opportunity to share my thinking as part of the One Little Word Challenge with Two Writing Teachers blog.


  1. glenda funk

    I thought about something Brene Brown says in “Daring Greatly” as I pondered your OLW: “ The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.”


    1. Amy Ellerman

      Agreed! There’s almost an inertia to putting ourselves out there. Once we start, it becomes less scary the next time.

      I need to give that book another go. I started it at one point last year and couldn’t get into it. Perhaps it wasn’t the right time.


  2. Therapi Zaw-Kaplan

    Amy, my word OWL is vulnerable. I think dare is synonymous to it as we are uncertain of the outcome, yet we will continue to put ourselves out there. I’m left inspired after reading your OWL. Happiest of New Year’s to you, and thank you!


    1. Amy Ellerman

      Thanks so much, Therapi! We are definitely on similar journeys this year. I love the metaphor you share in your post of being in the arena—so true. Let’s cheer each other on as we embrace vulnerability and dare to put ourselves out there!


  3. Marina Rodriguez

    “an implied understanding that feathers might be ruffled, norms disrupted. A flicker in the belly that signals the unexpected might happen.”

    I love the way you described your word here. It drives inspiration in such an exciting way. I wish you best of luck living your word this year, Amy!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. MJ

    As often is the case, your writing inspires me—it is so honest and real. As you enter into the new year, I think your continued writing will guide you and give you all the answers you need. Happy New Year!


  5. Betsy Hubbard

    I love how you explained what daring really means. So much truth here and reflection. I can’t wait to see and read what you dare to do, dare to become, dare to achieve. 2020 is going to be an exciting year for you.


  6. Stacey Shubitz

    It is daring of you to consider new opportunities and avenues for your writing, Amy. (I went back and read the post you wrote two weeks ago. Two weeks in Vermont learning from the best of the best would be incredible.) I wish you luck on your journey as you dare to become the writer you want to be.


  7. Melanie Meehan

    I love the word DARE as your OLW for 2020. I’ve never considered it before, and it encompasses A LOT! I had brave as a word one year, and it feels a little similar, but different, too! Looking forward to hearing about your DARE adventures.


  8. Lanny Ball

    Wow, what an awesome word, Amy! I only met you once, but this word definitely seems to fit with what I learned about you and certainly the encouragement you’ve provided me to be more daring in my own professional life. I’m currently working to incorporate it and will let your word fuel my pursuits. Thanks, and happy new year!


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