Writing on a train, Duquesne style

Addison Smith | Opinions Editor

Every writer has his ideal writing location. Agatha Christie preferred to write in the bathtub while eating apples. Maya Angelou preferred to write in solitude in a hotel room. Benjamin Franklin preferred to write in a hotel room while traipsing around naked.

Needless to say, writers are strange creatures, and America’s train and railroad company, Amtrak, has realized that. They opened an application for writers to apply to participate in the Amtrak Residency program, a new solitude for writers to, well, write.

The 24 winners of the residency were recently announced and they will be provided with a sleeping car, meals, access to the observation desk and time to write for free. There are no requirements for the writers while they ride around, but many are obviously hoping to write while onboard.

Needless to say, these writers cannot Ben Franklin around the train due to public indecency laws. They can however enjoy some quality writing time while admiring the scenery of the United States.

Writer Jen Carlson, deputy editor at Gothamist, hopes to ride the train from Seattle to Los Angeles on a 36-hour route, while others like Ph.D. student Hyde Parker Korey Gerald Garibaldi from the University of Chicago hopes to go from the East coast all the way to the West, preferably Portland. Some treks may be longer or shorter than others, but the goal of the trips is the same for all writers: to write.

The Amtrak Residency program is significant for these writers, it’s a chance for them to start something new, edit something old or add onto an ongoing work. The solitude of the train will provide a great environment for them to attempt to accomplish something within their writing.

While we all cannot ride a train round-trip across the country, the Amtrak Residency program and some of the great writers in history have provided us with a great life lesson: don’t be afraid to retreat to write. While a train ride from Pittsburgh to Denver is not recommended (although it would be amazing), there are places to hide away and finish homework or a paper all throughout campus and Pittsburgh.

Don’t be afraid to walk downtown and indulge in a café, a coffee shop or a hotel lobby. Find a bagel shop, get some coffee and bagels to power you through writing, and just commit. There’s nothing better than breaking away from your norms to spice things up and give you the opportunity to really focus.

Plug in your headphones and just walk. You’ll find a new secret studying and writing hole that you can call your own. You’ll be able to close yourself off and concentrate in a new environment with no Duquesne distractions.

There are a million and one ways to become a more focused writer, but only so many can be done in your college environment. You can’t exactly justify renting out a hotel room and stroll around naked, a la Benjamin Franklin, but maybe you can adjust Agatha Christie’s method with a long shower to help you think. If you live in Brottier, Lysol your bathtub and pull an actual Agatha Christie and write in the bath (on a notebook, I am not liable for your computer’s damage if you take it into your bubble bath).

It’s midterm week and it’s time for you to focus up. If you’re free this weekend, book a trip to Chicago and back on Amtrak and get a sleeping car (meals included!), but if you can’t afford that financially or time wise, take some of the earlier advice and just walk. You’ll find a place you’ll want to claim as your own study hole, or at the very least, find a really good scone that you will remember for the rest of your life. Don’t be afraid to eat alone to study or write, you’ll enjoy the solitude for a little while.

In the meantime, start working on your application to ride a train for free in 2015. It’s a great place to think and a great place to hang out. Plus, there will be free food and every college student loves that.