I’ve been longing for the train. Never has my writing brain worked so well as on a 126-hour, 5000-mile Amtrak trip across the country last fall. Sitting by my husband on a heating pad with a shawl around my shoulders, watching the ever-varied scenery out my seat-to-ceiling window, hearing the rumble of wheels on the tracks, and swaying with the train—all this helped me write better and faster than ever before.
It was like I could feel the neurons firing across the bumps and groves of my brain. The lobes—the frontal and the temporal and the occipital—each did a part, syncing as I plotted and polished. And chapters flowed from my fingers.
But I can’t climb on a train every day.
So when I put my hands to the keys to write a daunting revision this week, I settled for next-best—train cam videos on YouTube. On dozens of channels, millions of viewers a day watch hundreds of trains, some recorded, others in real time.
I joined the millions this week. Sitting in my living room on a leather recliner even more comfortable than a train seat, I clicked away on my computer. One day I wrote as a train lumbered up mountain passes and bored through the tunnels to make its way across Montenegro to the Adriatic Sea.
Another day, when I was stuck on a word, I looked up to see a train screeching to a stop in Elkhart, Indiana. I’ve been across those railroad tracks, I thought. And maybe because I had quit trying, I found the word I needed.
“No hurry,” I told myself one afternoon when I couldn’t get it right. “Slow down, and it will come.”
It was, after all, another nine hours to the Norwegian Arctic Circle.
All week, I took my pick: winter in the Swiss Alps, spring in the Netherlands, summer in New England, and harvest in the U.S. Midwest.
I’d rather be moving with a train than watching one. But with train cam, I can almost forget I’m sitting still and concentrate on writing.