Got a few notices over the weekend that a lot of my writer friends were starting to follow Amtrak. Who?
Turns out Amtrak is offering a “writers in residence” program, where writers get free roundtrip rides to write while riding. The Atlantic has more about this came about. And one of the first writers to do it Jessica Gross detailed her experience for The Paris Review.
But here’s why I like it:
1) A chance to leave the Internet. Amtrak says it does have limited wi-fi, but still here’s a chance to make a clean break from it. Hopefully with the disruption in routine, and the constant steady motion of the train, the Internet won’t be a distraction. Amtrak could be for serious working. I wrote a lot of my last novel in long hand, and I could see how a train would be a great place to do that as well.
2) A fixed point. It’s kinda like a deadline. The train starts and you know how long it’s going to be. Get it in your head that a couple of drafts are due when the train arrives.
3) The buzz. A lot of writers like coffee shops because there’s a nice, non-specific din all around. The train provides that aural sense as well as visual–things are happening outside, it’s nice to look at, but it doesn’t really concern you. It’s white noise.
4) Place. I mean you’re going somewhere, but then not–just like a book, yeah!
5) Romanticism. Writers like (to think they have a sense of) adventure, so this fills in the romanticism quotient with actual work. Plus, it makes a nice party story.
6) Marketing. Also, writers (like me!) like to well, write. So hopefully they’ll speak and share positive experiences about their trip, generating some free goodwill (like this!) and advertise to their other poor-broke writer friends that hey, Amtrak ain’t half bad! Experience some good ol-fashioned American nostalgia? Why should MegaBus have all the thrills?