Friday Writing Prompts

A WRITING PROMPT FROM JOHN BRANSCUM, co-editor of red holler

Each Friday we post one new writing prompt created by a Sarabande author. Prompts like this one are included in our online Reader's Guides along with discussion questions and suggested reading to accompany each title. So if you can't wait a week for the next prompt, visit our Reader's Guide page to find them all in one place!

This week's prompt comes from John Branscum, co-editor of Red Holler.


Both the Buddha and the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu contended that life is like a dream. More recently, a number of neuroscientists have echoed this sentiment. But while the two states of mind may indeed by more alike than we think, we treat them quite differently.

Most notably, as the drama and dream theorist Bert O. States points out, it’s really strange that we treat dreams as symbolic and thus ask of them their deeper meaning and, on the other hand, generally treat waking life as utterly literal. That is, we usually don’t try to analyze it symbolically (the cigar is just a cigar). Instead, we see most of the events of our lives as happenstance or as the results of rational (versus subconscious and irrational) planning.

This exercise asks you instead treat your waking life as a dream, and thus find a way into writing that makes full use of your symbolic mode of perception.

Your Exercise: Analyze your day symbolically: By doing this, you can pick up on patterns that you might not otherwise be aware of in the heat of the moment. Why do you like small dogs and gigantic pick -up trucks? Why do you have the job or the partner you do? What does it mean that you like to do jumping jacks in the nude or always wear your old Red Tide baseball cap? Once you get the hang of this (and it’s a cheap date activity too) through free writing on the symbolic meaning of your day, do this sort of rumination in your writing too.

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