Writing prompts to help you find the treasure in the dark.


“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
—Joseph Campbell

When was the last time you read something you really didn’t like?

Is there a particular genre or characterization or point of view you just can’t stand

Have you ever read an essay or article that made you so angry you felt sick?

We all have our own interesting dislikes. The next time you’re offended by something you read, see if you can regard the feeling with careful curiosity, as if it were a deep sea creature lurking in your peripheral vision. It just flicked a tentacle, and then moved out of sight. 

Wait… what was that thing? 

Your feeling of repulsion might be pointing you to something interesting that lives in your subconscious.

This might be something you want to feel or know, but you’re not sure you’re okay with your desire to experience it, if that makes sense. 

We all have our own weird sea creatures lurking in the depths of our unconscious. And our conscious minds are righteous, well-intentioned, overprotective lifeguards. They keep us buoyed by flotation devices, so we never have to go down there.

Everything is good up here! LALALALALALA! 

The things we strongly don’t want to read, write about, or remember… these are our richest caves of writing material, and a powerful energy source.

What is your horror trying to tell you?

Here are shadow writing prompts to help you go into that dark water, and find the treasures hiding in the cave.

Spend 10-15 minutes on the following:

  1. Write a letter back to the character that offended you, but write it from the point of view of an ancient oak tree. The tree has something important to say.

  2. Create a character based on an author you can’t stand reading. Write a portrait — describe their physical appearance. Give them a habit, a tic, a memory, or a fear/nightmare that you have yourself. Now put that person in a setting that makes them feel uncomfortable. Describe the scene.

  3. What is something you would never, EVER do/say? Describe it. Now, freewrite from one or more of the following: 

    a) I LOVE (doing this thing I would never do) because it makes me feel…
    b)  When I (do this thing I would never do) I get to feel…
    c) People think I shouldn’t (do this thing I would never do) but that’s just because they…

May you transform your fear into flow, and discover sparkling gems of truth in your cave.


Photo credit: Tengyart on Unsplash.

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1 comment

em christie

thanks so much...this is exactly what i needed...i have three books half finished and your words summed them up perfectly...m

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