A series of 140 character messages sparked Amtrak to consider a new opportunity for writers. As individual wordsmiths began to collectively tweet about their love of writing on trains, the #AmtrakResidency idea developed. Months later, Amtrak is now offering a two to five day on-board residency program for writers. Moving across the American countryside as they draw ink across pages, these 24 individuals will be sponsored by the company to pursue their creative passions on rails. Amtrak is offering a sleeper car with a desk and amenities to each writer. If you are reading this post on this blog, it is likely that you have an interest in the written word--or at least believe in its ability to be a medium for art--so consider applying to the program here.
Imagine sitting in motion. Your mind is moving while your body is still, with the exception of your hand scribbling words on a page. The train is moving, the country stationary. You are still within the train but are carried with it. No physical effort is required on your part. You are travelling, but there is no destination. The only goal is mental. A blinking cursor that your want to keep moving as words are left in its wake or a series of lines and letters being drawn upon a sheet of paper as your mind dances between the concrete and abstract, trying to form art in the wake of your fingertips. Constant inspiration outside the window above your desk--always moving, not pausing for a moment. Not predetermined, no plot, not rehearsed, no acting, and not fabricated, no screen. An authentic experience that stimulates your mind and forces you into thinking--moving over mental barriers, unobstructed by writer's block, continuing to push forward, vomit more words, and make progress while moving nowhere. The train deposits you where it picked you up and you have a heap of words in your hands when the rails screech.
There is something about motion that is stimulating. It is romantic, exciting, filled with uncertainty and new experiences. This dynamic and nomadic lifestyle is foreign for many. Most of us live in stable homes with solid roofs and steady incomes and scheduled meals. Living in motion--like on a train--is not a lifestyle for most, but an activity with a beginning and an end. While the Amtrak Residency program is a wonderful opportunity to embrace the beauty of motion and stimulate the mind into creative productivity, it is not a lifestyle. It is a vacation, a dynamic oasis, that can produce desired written works, but it does not hold the bold romanticism of a nomadic lifestyle. To leave behind the stability of a normal life and take up the romanticized lifestyle of motion has many unknown futures. This continued motion and instability may offer even greater inspirations for an unsettled mind.
Hop on a train with no destination.