Five Lessons Trains Taught Me About Writing

1) I Think I Can, I Think I Can

We always need to believe in ourselves. If we think we can, we just might be able to accomplish what seems impossible; and if we’re convinced we can’t, we are 100% guaranteed to  fulfill our prediction of failure.

2) Refueling on a Long Journey Is Always Necessary

Writing long-term, is a marathon, not a sprint. Amtrak, not Metro. Modern trains need diesel refueling; steam trains need coal and water.

via Wikimedia Commons

We need to read books, watch movies and trashy reality shows, hang out with friends, spend some quality time with our family, lovers, and vibrators. Whatever fills us up and makes us feel ready to steam on, we need to reserve space and time to do that.

3) The Journey Can Be a Dirty, Messy, Exhausting Process

In every generation, there are are whiners; people who are outraged that, considering how marvelous they are, they must reduce themselves to XYZ indignity to put food on the table or to earn success as a writer.

In 19th century America, some complained about how wearying a train journey was; the enervating effects of hours on a train, the coal dust upon one’s clothing, the inferior food en route. Of course, trains were still easier than walking, taking a sea journey, or a covered wagon. Better yet, there was always staying at home.

Strasburg RR, via Wikimedia Commons
See that dark smoke drifting back? Yep, it’ll get on you.

To embark on a transcontinental voyage, by whatever means, we had to want it. If we did, we accepted the reality that more than likely, bad shit was gonna happen along the way.

Suck it up, Buttercup. Every writer has always had to make sacrifices and/or accommodations to suit the needs of his or her era. In the current market, success as a writer requires Social Media and a lot of hard work, rejection and criticism.

Don’t like it? Don’t board the train, then.

4) Always Have Another Engine Ready To Go in the Roundhouse

If one train gets stuck, is that it? Are we going to just roll over and abandon the dream?

Oh, hell no! We’re going to rev up another engine and get it out there.

via Cliff1066 via Flickr Creative Commons 

5) You Always Need A Cowcatcher

In the American West, they found that livestock was wandering onto the track. Cattle wedged under the wheels made for a very unhappy train. (The cows were none too thrilled, either).

So they devised a “cowcatcher,” an attachment to the front of the train that allowed it to scoop up and funnel out of the way any beastie, bushes or smallish objects that were blocking the train.

Whatever our personal “cows” are, we need to find a way to scoop them out of the way of our writing, without bring our train to a dead halt every time. Some people use a timer, or an internet blocker to force themselves to NOT get bogged down on YouTube or the Random Kitten generator. Some authors use a personal assistant, nanny, or housekeeper; others trade duties with other writers to free up time for pure writing.

via Wikipedia Commons

Whatever “cowcatcher” works for you, use that.

So there’s my top five lessons I learned from trains.

Do you have another “train” lesson?
What cows get on your tracks?
Thoughts? Comments? Twenty dollar bills?