Writing (riding) on the train

Have you heard by now that Amtrak is considering a residency on its trains for writers? You can read a bit more about it here. It sounds like so much fun to me. To ride on the train, talk to people, hear their stories. Write about the people, the places, the train itself. Take photos. Spin the stories and photos together.

Then I wonder, will this work for most writers? Writers tend to be solitary creatures. Many of them are introverts who come alive in the written world but are mute when faced with people who want to chat. Would the writer in residency just sit and write at his/her laptop? Would passengers watch this or would they just be aware that a writer was onboard? Would the writer be an observer and do the actual writing upon arrival at their destination? Lots of interesting possibilities.

I have been thinking about a train trip to Oregon, along the Coast Starlight route. I have heard from friends that it can be quite long, with unexpected delays along the line. One friend who took it all the way to Seattle and then back to Fresno had to get on a bus for part of the trip due to the track being flooded or torn up for repairs after a flooding. I forget all the details except that it took her an extra day to get back. That wouldn’t be bad if you had no schedule to meet, no appointments to keep. Much like my current life.

When on  a train, plane, bus, or trolley car, I am the person who sits down next to you and attempts to strike up a conversation. Some of you absolutely hate this. If rebuffed, I usually shut up and just sit quietly. Many, though, enjoy engaging in a conversation. I’m also the person who will tell you MY story if you are reluctant to share your own. Today, on Cowbird, I read the story of a man who took a bus from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. On the bus, at the front, was an elderly man who was of interest to the writer, and the story had the old gent as the main character, but the writer never engaged the man in conversation. I thought that was just too sad. I would have sat down, right beside the elderly gentleman, and learned his story, first hand.


11 responses to “Writing (riding) on the train

  1. I love your characterization of the average writer. Yes, writing is a solitary activity. I would have to take David along on the train trip. He is the extrovert.

  2. well, you sound like a nice person Delaine!

  3. While writers may be introverts, photographers are not. As a former photojournalist and, If I were younger and in better health, i would all over this residency thing.

    • Doesn’t it sound like fun, Bruce? My husband, the photographer, and I are going to a workshop on Saturday in conjunction with Yosemite’s 150th anniversary. We will hear about photography and story telling. That too sounds like fun.

  4. You and your husband will be doing this together? It sounds absolutely perfect to me, and I look forward to hearing what transpires from this adventure. 🙂

    • DJan, the Yosemite seminar is different from Amtrak proposal. It is in conjunction with the park’s 150th anniversary celebration. I’m planning a post about it after Saturday.

  5. Someday I’d like to sit next to you on a plane, bus or train. I’d bet you’d make the hours fly by. The writers on the train initiative is quite intriguing, I must say.

    • Kay, wouldn’t it be fun for a whole group of older bloggers to be on a train together? We could talk, write, photograph, and spread the joy of our time together.

  6. The best part of trains is that they are not planes. On planes, when I write, I sprinkle my prose with very bad words every time we hit turbulence. On the other hand, on an Alaskan Railroad ride to Denali, I wrote without using any bad words. I had everything I needed: fine food on a white tablecloth, large windows filled with magnificent scenery, and freedom from my muse-killing fear of flying. I love the idea of a writers’ residency! Thanks for sharing.

  7. certainabsurdity

    I just heard about this on Public Radio today. Sounds cool!

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