But It Seemed So Real


Dreams are strange creatures (“creature” late 13c., “anything created”). All anyone else knows about what you dream is what you tell them. By all reports, though, it would seem that dreams are–just like dreamers–staggeringly original and predictable.


Mine tend to be cinematic. With scenes and settings. They seem to have plot woven through, but that doesn’t normally stand much waking scrutiny.

They’re sort of like small, small Coen Brothers films.

One thing: when I’ve forgotten everything but the notes I’ve made or description I tried to give someone else, the settings remain. I could open some of them right now, move around on their stages, peek into windows and drawers. Invent stories.

Now that may not be the way dreams work for you, but I’ll bet there are backgrounds from novels and movies that you could move into this very moment. They are as real to you as life is. The Hundred Acre Wood, Oz, General Hospital, Monument Valley (yes, I know it’s real, real. but it’s the world of John Ford’s westerns), places from your own stories. Intentional dreamscapes.
I want you to work some. First: get a pen and paper–no computers here. Go into your mind and find one of those good places. Don’t try to describe the place for us. Seat, set, settle yourself there. When you are comfortable, “move” around, and be curious. Find things. Make a brief note about what you find, and move on.
Use the notes–not the dreamscape/scene itself–as the base for your poem/fiction.
If your notes are good, you may have more than one poem there. You may also want to take another trip. If you want, you can tell us about it as a footnote to what you’ve written, but do remember that telling will make the place more fixed . There will be fewer surprises if you want to go back.

(If you’re really stumped, maybe one of these will remind you of something)

Too Much of a Good Thing

How do you know when to quit? How do you learn?

Obviously, I don’t know. (See below.  Too much–too too much)

But keep the question in mind when you write.

These ideas are from the Writing Prompt Generator on the website Seventh Sanctum. (Great place to browse.)
Pick ONE. Write for a while, and a little while longer. Then go back and use about ¼– or less.


  • There is a story about a man.
  • It was fall, the season of war and dreaming.
  • People think we survived the drought by hiding in this bar.
  • She was howling.
  • I was eternally a boy, you will despise me in the end.
  • That woman, with her suits.
  • I will be a boring woman, with my wonderful houses.
  • Attack kindness as long as you are speaking.
  • My life is basically the story of Aladdin.
  • It was the day of wisdom, the day of madness, the day that ____ found the meaning of ignorance.
  • I survived the war by hiding in a library.
  • It was the age of rogue robots, the age of security officers.
  • That girl, that creature of total ambition.
  • I am a good-looking girl, with my ugly hat.
  • I have a tale about ignorance, getting old, and being a ______



About Now



This is a new venture. Even though it’s built on the old, it’s new. As every day is new, and every breath. Consider this: All the living diversity in the known universe rises from arrangements of the same few atoms. All the stories and songs in the English language, the novels and poems and knock-knock jokes are built using the same small–surprisingly small–puddle of words.

Is it using the same words over that makes us so often stale, stuck, thinking the same thoughts and seeing things from the same angle? Using that same old language we began learning before we could think, how do we identify and express those daily fragments of curiosity, surprise, disgust, hunger, awe that keep us from curling into language-less balls, that make life worth the trouble of speech?

Damned if I know.

But this is a call of sorts, a request and an explanation. I want us all to–not to make language new, I don’t believe what’s new can be understandable–to try to notice. 

Along with the world around us, to notice our own response, and notice the words we use when we try to tell or explain. Let’s give, pay, exercise attention.




The Ayes Have It

Our January prompts end today, but we’ll be keeping up the good work with weeklies, beginning Thursday, February 2.

That’s Groundhog’s Day. The way the weather’s behaving, marmot shadows are about as reliable as any other mode of prognostication.