Amtrak to Offer Free* Trips for Writers

This is one of the wonders of social media, folks: someone has a good idea that involves a large organization, large organization hears about it and agrees it’s a good idea, makes it happen. Incredible.
The idea is that trains are particularly good for inducing writing. This story doesn’t explain further, but I have theories:
  • Trains get you out of your comfort zone
  • You’re trapped for hours, which halts many avoidance techniques
  • You can look at the window to see things pass by. The changing view is nice to look at when your brain needs a break.
  • Internet is spotty, if available at all (at least in my area). No hours of “research” (ie. looking at cats being silly)
  • No one wants to talk to strangers, so people pretty much leave you alone.
I don’t know if this is something I would do. I rode the train to and from college a few times, and it was a weird anachronistic experience. That probably has a lot to do with my routes: Texas to Missouri doesn’t get a lot of traffic. (It was somewhat more busy on the St. Louis to Chicago route. Chicago was absolutely bustling; the Texas stops were very much out of an old Western.)
I wasn’t actively writing at the time, but it would have been a good place for it; I got a lot of reading done, and met a really sweet little old lady from a very small town, and a young family from Wisconsin (they said the cheese thing was true.) It was nice to be forced to interact with strangers in that way, if a little weird. It was only exciting to be on a train for about 2 hours, then the rhythm got a little sleep-inducing. (I quite liked buying food from the little restaurant, even if it wasn’t very good. I felt like I was in Harry Potter.) And falling asleep while sitting upright in a chair you’ve been stuck in all day sort of sucked, especially when the train stopped at 3 a.m. to pick up more passengers (goodbye sleep!).
It was an odd experience, but not a bad one. I wouldn’t be happy to get to a place then instantly leave again; I’d want at least a day or so in the new place. It probably would be productive, and at least makes for an interesting story in and of itself.
Would you want an Amtrack residency? Does writing on a train appeal to you?


Filed under writing

4 responses to “Amtrak to Offer Free* Trips for Writers

  1. I have thrown my hat in the ring for this, but I won’t go unless I get one of their sleepers 🙂

  2. When I used to take the train up to LA to visit Becky I would write on the way up there. I started to think that I should take advantage of my surroundings and use the train to explore southern and central california.

    I regret not doing that while I had the chance. Though now I plan to do the same thing on the east coast.

  3. Just FYI, I have heard Amtrak retains rights to your work with this program. 😦

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