Train Company Amtrak Offers Free Rides to Writers


Nothing is quite as inspirational as coming up with ideas and writing while on a long-haul journey. It’s the perfect time and place to get ideas flowing and put pen to paper. That’s why American train company Amtrak is offering a “writers’ residency” initiative on their train. Budding writers can apply online to join the scheme where the company will shuttle them across the country with a place to eat, write and sleep – all free of charge.

The idea spawned on Twitter from the senior editor of Quartz, Zach Seward, and New York-based writer Jessica Gross, who both piped up in response to seeing Alexander Chee’s article that mentioned how writing on trains is great and how he wished such an initiative existed. Amtrak was wise to jump in and offer an off-the-cuff trial of such a journey.

One thing led to another and now there’s the opportunity to hop aboard a free Amtrak cross-country train in the name of creative nourishment. 24 lucky writers will be picked from a panel of judges. Naturally, it won’t be open to riff-raff wanting to bum a free ride and I imagine the process is very selective, but wow, pretty cool idea.

Good marketing for Amtrak and good experience and exposure for up and coming writers. Win win!

A similar initiative taking place is the opportunity to stay on a private island of writer and speaker Fredrik Härén for free to get the creative juices flowing…


Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It takes place in November every year and it is a hectic, scribbly, Red Bull-fuelled month in which budding writers are encouraged to churn out the workings of a novel of 50,000 or more words over the course of 30 days.

Oh, OK. That sounds like a lot of work but it sounds fun too. Why should I do it?

Because if you have always wanted to write something but never have had the proper kick up the arse you wanted, this is a great opportunity. The idea behind the ordeal is to surpass all the mental and day-to-day obstacles that come with creativity and writing, and to take November as an opportunity to just let it all go and write that novel that you have been wanting to put to paper for ages.

Proper kick up the arse, you say? So there is a load of people doing this?

Yes. The concept took off several years ago and has had its numbers increase with over 170,000 participants, according to the website’s tally. On its official site, there are forums so that logged in users can motivate one another, statistics settings to track your own progress, and means of encouragement in the form of pep talks and even opportunities for users to meet both online and offline. You can take part and do it for yourself if you need but there is a community out there that are there to support you.

Sounds great, sign me up!

But wait! NaNoWriMo is not for the faint of heart. Or the procrastinator. Or the genuinely busy. Or those who actually have things on their plate. Writing an average of 1667 words per day is not as easy as it sounds. Blogging at least twice a week even for me takes its toll so to produce that volume of words while juggling other life commitments is unbelievably tough. So what you write will be absolute shite.

That’s not very nice about other people’s capabilities of writing. Your blog isn’t even that well-written for you to say such a thing, ya prick.

No no no, by that, I mean the process encourages the output of quantity over quality. Getting the words out is the most difficult part of writing so producing the volume of words is considered more important than fine-tuning and turd-polishing, at least during November. On hitting your 50,000 words, if you proclaim so on the website, you will have a community that will congratulate you for your efforts. And when you have edited it, you can upload your creations to the site or go even further and try your hand at (self-)publishing your efforts.

I see. Are you speaking from experience then?

Oh god, no. I attempted it three years ago. I got as far as 19,021 words before I deleted my hours of work out of cringe.

Haha, you mess. How do you feel about it now?

I’m so glad you asked. I guess I forgot at the end of the day that what you write is supposed to be the literary equivalent of used toilet paper, so I regret deleting it all. I fell behind in my schedule as well and I just couldn’t keep up so I ragequit. I’d like to read what I wrote right now both because it’d be hilariously cringe to do so and also because I could do with some sort of additional motivation to make me consider trying it again this year.

What was your story about?

It’s not important…

No, let’s hear it!

No no, please…

Fine. So you’re going to do it again this year then?

Um, maybe? Next month either has the potential to be the start of a new and busy chapter in my life or it very well has the potential to be a continuation of the frustration and crippling ennui that is my post-graduation NEET life, so who knows.

What do you think about the process as a whole?

I think it is good for people that want to start writing and require the much-needed motivation for committing to such an unbelievably time- and energy-consuming activity. I can’t really think of any negatives except perhaps that it gives a platform for people to write some really godawful stuff even after they go through the editing process, but as long as the writer is happy with their own work, then haters gonna hate, I guess.

Do you have anything else to say about NaNoWriMo before you go and make something out of the chicken you have in the fridge?

Nothing else, really. Just go for it if you think you are up for it!