(The idea of an Amtrak Residency, where writers book a round-trip ticket to work there and back, is fascinating. Here’s how I convinced myself to go.)
I make my living by, mostly, arranging letters into words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into stories. Whether I’m running a Facebook campaign, tweeting incessantly, or crafting a blog post, I’m a write by trade whether I like it or not.
For years, I’ve scoffed at this idea. Why? Writers are fickle. Often I’ve read about writers living in hotels to write books, taking long “vacations” to cabins, and shutting themselves away from the world to pen their latest. But I resist, because of, well, reasons.
I have bills to pay. Responsibilities to keep. Clients to make happy. A wife and dog to hang out with. Ya know, a life to live. I can’t go off on some personal write-about expecting to come back with a great novel only to ignore the fantastic life I’m already living.
So Mostly True Tales From My Somewhat Fictional Life sits unfinished, victim of too many excuses and not enough time. Surely there must be some way to both take some time away, stay productive, and not spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on a quiet cabin/room with enough steady noise to keep my mind occupied?
Train rides could be the answer. Short-term, relatively-inexpensive, most-amenity-provided cross-country train rides are perfect. There’d be plenty of distractions (like beautiful scenery and enough hubbub for white noise) while enough limitations (no, you can’t go running or watch a video or visit with friends) with a solid deadline (tracks eventual run out, I’m told) to make the perfect writer getaway.
Even better, if I took a train from Portland to Los Angeles, I could work with my photographer friend Don on pictures for my next HipCider book, allowing me to finish huge chunks of two projects in one time frame.
Who wants to deal with the stress of the TSA and the altitude pressure and the recycled air and the cramped quarters of a plane when a train has all of the advantages with almost none of those drawbacks? I would not, which is why I’m already looking at booking a ticket in the coming months.
Finally, a chance to focus on writing and nothing else. Self-imposed deadlines are key. Let’d do this, Amtrak.