Driving After Dark

Driving after Dark | Lisa Bullard's Writing Road TripAs 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.

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