As an elementary school kid, my most vivid recurrent dream featured a road trip.
In it, I’m in the driver’s seat, although it’s the car that’s in control. My two-years-younger brother and our two best neighborhood friends are also along for the ride. We are on a straight stretch of the two-lane highway that leads out of town, our headlights piercing the otherwise intense darkness. The beams snag on the hungry arms of the craggy pines that crowd along the edge of the road. The grasping trees try to pull us back, but they never catch us; instead, the car just keeps barreling ahead, faster and faster down the highway.
I always woke up before we reached a destination, feeling puffed up with expectation, as if the wind whipping through the open windows of the vehicle had inﬂated me in anticipation of whatever waited for us at the end of that nighttime ride.
I dreamt this often enough that I can still recapture the feeling of it, immersing myself again in the emotions of a
time when it was starting to seem like each year, my own sturdy little vehicle was picking up speed as it raced towards an unknown place called “being a grown up.”
One of my best writing prompts for young writers taps into the power of the much-anticipated state of adulthood, that accomplishment that kids covet or fear, sometimes in equal measure. Even better, the prompt works well for a wide range of students: those who are barely through the opening paragraphs of their lives, and those who are a few chapters further along into life’s story.
Ask your students to write for a few minutes about where they hope to be in ten or ﬁfteen years (or whatever number will have them just entering their early twenties). What do they want their lives to look like? Who do they want to be sharing their time with? What ambitions do they hope to be working towards at that point?
Writing can help them tap into that place deep inside where our subconscious keeps its secrets, the place where it hides both our dreams and our futures.