I Write On Trains

Most writers do a fair amount of travelling.

 We travel to do research (I can’t write about a character until I know the place they grew up), we travel to lead workshops, we travel to see agents and publishers and we travel to promote books. Plus, we have families and friends and go on holiday like everybody else, so we travel those places, too. Which often end up being research or book promotion by accident – but that’s a whole ‘nother blog.

 When writers travel, writers write.

 Some writers get so good at writing on trains that they find it hard to write anywhere else. Trains are wonderful, anonymous places, where time is ring-fenced and phone reception limited. If you’re a writer who likes to stare at the wall while you think – you’ve got the seat back in front of you. If you’re the kind who likes to look at a view, you’ve got the window. If you like to people watch, you’ve got that, too. Can’t really go wrong with a train.

 Cars are more tricky. I feel sick if I read too much when I’m being driven, so writing is out of the question. And although I plead guilty to sometimes making notes on a pad propped against the steering wheel, writing when driving is out of the question. But in the car, I often work out plots or think about characters.

 In the car, especially during a long and well-known journey, I can tease out bits of dreams and ponder them. I can notice something I’m driving by and imagine how it got there. I can see a house and wonder what it would be like to live there.  I’m American, so I feel most like me when I’m behind the wheel of a car. I take chances with my imagination when I feel that strong.

 At the end of the train journey pictured above, I was driven to the environmental centre where I would give my workshop the next day. And I saw a bright orange, big-eared fox, trotting carelessly in the headlights. It felt important, and the journey down the valley to the centre is always momentous, always carries a sense of coming back in time to a place of sustenance and nurture.

 There’s something in that. I think I’ll go for a long walk and think about it…


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