Why journeys are good for writers

Dog in surf cr Judy DarleyLast week I travelled from Bristol to Penzance by train and it reminded me why journeys are so good for writers.

In part, yes, it’s about seeing new things, meeting new people, being open to new experiences, but equally valuable is the power of the journey itself.

For starters, providing you’re not controlling whatever vehicle you choose to travel by, getting from A to B invariably carves out a space of precious time, which can be filled by putting pen to paper or finger to laptop key.

The views scrolling endlessly past the window provide just the right amount of distraction to nudge ideas forwards, breath life into characters, and I find myself grasping the right words to express those ideas and characters with uncommon ease.

Of course, some journeys are better for this than others. Ideally it should last more than an hour, to allow time for you to relax into your mobile environment. And the views should encompass more sky than rooftops. The ultimate ones for me are the West Highland Line from Glasgow to Oban with First ScotRail, and the First Great Western route from Bristol to Penzance.

The latter of these gains a particular beauty just after Exeter, when the train almost seems tempted to rush into the bay, contenting itself instead with hugging the coast where wading birds leave their starry prints and boats lean against the shining mud, past beaches where dogs chase pebbles into the surf.

Viaducts soar you over small valleys for a fleeting affinity with the gulls, and each station offers the promise of an idyllic village to explore, with plenty of sea-facing benches at which to sit and scribble.

But for now, I find, I’m content to remain right here, at my carriage window, soaking up views and spilling out words to the unceasing rhythm of the train.

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