Posted by: main street writers | April 16, 2011

Writing on the Slow Train

Writing on the Slow Train


“A good thought, like a good donkey, is something to be nurtured.  Neither likes to be rushed.”

 –Slow Travel Europe

In the world of Slow Travel, getting there can still be half of the fun.  And while some trips do require air travel, Slow Travel embraces the metaphor, if not the literal practice, of travel by donkey.

Creative writing is a lot like Slow Travel.  In many ways, it is a form of travel. It takes us to new places and offers up new perceptions.  It surprises and confounds and, more often than not, nourishes something deep inside.

Creative Writing explores inner landscapes, taking us deeper into stories we thought we already knew.  And, like Slow Travelers,  we are never fully in charge of what happens along the way – nor of when (or whether!) we’ll reach our intended destination.

Fast Likes Fast

Writing moves at donkey pace.  Sometimes that means a spirited trot, or a sure-footed climb up a steep, narrow path.  Other times it means barely moving, or stopping altogether to nuzzle sweet grass at road’s edge.

Writing is like that.  We have to receive it, encourage it, be open to its surprises.  Most of all, we have to not-rush it.

Fast, on the other hand, likes precision.  And promptness.  Fast is not very good  at meandering.  So if we all have fast lives, how do we make room for the unexpected? Travel is one way.  Writing is another.

You Don’t Have to Travel Far to Travel Slow


In the world of writing, Slow is about creating a protected space and time.  It doesn’t matter whether you sign up for the upcoming retreat in Italy, or shove boxes into the corner of the spare room, set up a comfortable chair, close the door – and start writing.

Poetry, fiction, journal entries, dreams, questions, memoirs, lists, recipes, editorials, capital-T Truths, small-t truths, myths, rants, short stories, long lies, ads, gossip, epics, aspersions, eulogies, fables, lyrics, and notes you don’t intend to send:  carve out the time, and there’s no end to the variety of writing that will emerge.

Slow Travel in Your Back Yard

Sometimes all it takes to shift out of Fast is an unfamiliar setting.  If you do your laundry at home, spend a half hour sitting in a laundromat…and write.  Or spend an hour occupying a local park bench.  And write.  Or indulge: test the scones in a different bakery each week – and write as you savor. Settle in somewhere new and close your eyes: what do you hear, smell…taste?

Use Your Outdoor Voice

Mass. Dept. of Conservation & Recreation

If you live in or near the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, you can explore Slow Travel and Creative Writing through Outdoor Voice, a series of four, day-long Writing Retreats at different sites throughout the region.

We’ll experiment with writing and sense of place – among flowering trees of early spring, and on a hillside high above the Connecticut River.

You can learn more about exploring and skill building in the company of fellow writers through Outdoor Voice here.

As Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini put it, you simply have to  “give time to each and every thing.”  The donkey, the writing, and the day.



…A donkey-pace.  At times, a spirited trot or a steady packing up steep, narrow paths.  At other times barely moving,  stopping altogether to nuzzle  sweet grass at the road’s edge.

Writing is like that.  We have to receive it, encourage it, be open to its surprises – and, most of the time, not-rush it.



  1. I don’t really sense what I am sensing until I slow down. Yes, something corny as “stop to smell the roses” but unless I stop, look, listen ever so quietly to the interior rivers of emotions and sensations inside me — wordless often, but there — I can’t begin to write. If I don’t slow down, all I do is think. I can’t write if I think. To me, slowing down, breathing, stopping the chatter of around me and inside me, is the very first step into the rabbit hole. dorothy

    • I’m with you, Dorothy – it takes a mountain of intention to slow down long enough to hear the words, the voices, the stories.

      …Fast almost always trumps Slow.

  2. […] Rising, circling, soaring – sounds like writing to me. You can read more about writing as a form of Slow Travel here. […]

  3. […] More than Just Staring                                    Writing on the Slow Train  -> Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  4. […] <- Writing on the Slow Train                                  Heaven by the Square   -> […]

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