“Sometimes, a novel is like a train: the first chapter is a comfortable seat in an attractive carriage, and the narrative speeds up. But there are other sorts of trains, and other sorts of novels. They rush by in the dark; passengers framed in the lighted windows are smiling and enjoying themselves.” – Jane Smiley
On our recent trip across western Nebraska we passed mile-after-mile of trains heading east with coal or grain or oil. I kept wanting to stop and take a shot of one of them coming toward me, but something always got in the way, or it wasn’t the right spot. Finally, out of frustration, I just pulled over alongside the road and snapped this shot as the train rolled past and continued on its way.
A train, I thought, can represent a writer’s moment, but just like trying to get that “perfect shot,” I couldn’t find a perfect quote either. And while this one by Jane Smiley is about a passenger train and not a freighter, I liked reading what she said and thought readers might, too. Like photographing moving trains as they race past, writing can be and usually is either elusive or rewarding. At least in our modern writer’s moments we can see immediately if we captured an image to share.
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