Thursday, June 7, 2007

Train Commuting and Creativity

Laura Dietz in her post: Trains of thought: writing and commuting:
Do trains breed novels because they offer the conditions for a writing routine? Strict schedules, set blocks of uninterrupted time, and a special place to work are fixtures of writing advice. Some novelists have a hard time saying goodbye to such routines. [. . .]

It could simply be that writers write wherever they are. First novels typically coexist with jobs, and people with jobs often find themselves on trains. Or perhaps there's something about commuting that actively fosters creativity. [. . .]
It's true that we too have our share of novels that feature scenes from the railway. We recently had Jaideep Varma's novel Local in which Mumbai's Western railway is a prime pivot of the plot. But it is difficult for a commuter like me, who leads half his life in Mumbai's crowded local trains, to imagine that anyone could even attempt to write a novel in trains that are so crowded that you would need to be an adept contortionist if you want to get your writing hand to the pen in your pocket. When it comes to Mumbai's local trains and books, it is what Dietz's writes very early into her post that holds true:
Where would the book business be without commuters? Every morning and evening, novels unfold in their thousands. Crowding and alienation are eased by the company of a book. [. . .]
[. . .] trains and popular literature evolved together. WH Smith was only following a trend when he opened railway station bookstalls to sell, and eventually publish, a safe and legal drug to ease the pain of travel. Anywhere where people are trapped, motionless, with unappetising strangers, there are books. [. . .]

On a related note do also read The Soul of a Commuter.

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