Could you give yourself a writing dare?

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about why you should set yourself a writing dare.

As a writing coach, I generally focus on helping writers set small, non-scary goals. Usually the smaller the better.

Why? Because when people set large, daunting goals, they are far more likely to procrastinate. Not because they are lazy, but because they are overwhelmed. Remove the overwhelm and they can do the writing. And, over time, that writing will add up to something significant.

But a recent post by Susann Cokal on Jane Friedman’s writing blog offered a fascinating tweak. Under the headline, “Instead of Setting a Goal, Try a Writing Dare,” Cokal advocates pushing yourself — just a little bit more.

Here’s how she puts it:

My thinking has always been that if you assess, realistically, what you are able to do in the time you have—let’s say a couple of weeks—you will underestimate what you can actually do. You might think you can produce, say, 40 creditable pages. That’s a good, solid number. If you were your own employee, you’d sign off on the memo and be pleased when the employee (you) actually delivered.

Now try telling yourself that you’re going to write 50 pages. That’s a less reasonable goal, but it’s a good dare. It feels just a bit out of reach, yet not too far beyond what you know you can do.

If you end up with 50 pages you like, wonderful, and you will be very proud of yourself. Even if you don’t quite make it, you can still be proud, because you’ve done good work and almost conquered an ambitious challenge. You came a long way.

I like Cokal’s idea of giving yourself a writing dare. And I love that word dare, which has a sense of fun and rebelliousness — perfect for writers like me who secretly enjoy breaking the rules.

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