I spent the weekend traveling to and from Baltimore on the train, and, as it often does, the trip sparked my imagination. The images I saw outside my window—of buildings, trees, lakes, homes—made me think about my relationship to the world and my place inside of it.
A train is a capsule, able to move across space and yet exist outside of it. In some ways this is what I hope from my writing. As a writer, I enter a space, visualize a setting and create a world based on what I see. I am allowed to enter this space, unobserved for just that moment.
Unlike a moving train, however, I do hope my work will have a larger impact. While I move through towns, in and out for only a moment, I still expect the images I see to impact me. If I see a condemned home, I might create a story for it. I might use the home to represent a town’s economic state or the loss of a character’s self within a community. For the owner of that home though, the condemned house is personal. Perhaps it represents an old life or family he/she has left behind.
While all travel can be conducive to writing, it is train travel, specifically, that seems to generate these thoughts. Train travel involves letting go. The train rolls through the hills and its passengers roll with it. They have little control over the train’s course.
I also believe destination impacts writing, but the impact is not always as immediate. For example, I once lived in Korea for a year. While this experience impacted me greatly, it was many years before I was able to capture this experience and what it meant to me on paper. On the other hand, train travel seems to have an immediate effect. Even when I do not expect it, trains appear in my stories. A man stands on a platform, watching a train pass him by. A couple takes a short trip by train, and it changes their relationship to each other.
I don’t know that travel affects others in quite the same way. I often think, however, that other writers could alleviate writer’s block with just a short trip. Perhaps after taking this trip, writers will return home renewed. They may find the movement in their life has created space within their work.