A few years ago, The Daily Telegraph published a story about men and their sheds. Not necessarily writers and their sheds. Just men of any stripe with a desire for a sort of outdoorsy man-cave, a place to escape, to hide from family, kids, life, or to watch football on a Sunday afternoon.
I read that story with irritation. Not annoyance with the men who wanted such a retreat, but for those who would think my plan for a shed had a similar motivation.
My shed is not what these men desire. It is a writer’s shed, a place the author Michael Pollan has called, “the space of a daydream.” Pollan wrote a wonderful book — A Place of My Own — about his own journey designing and building his writer’s shed in Connecticut. Like his shed, I would like to think that my writer’s shack would also be, as his was, “built with words.” I will not build it. I’m leaving that up to the experts. But its essence, the metaphoric foundation will be constructed with single words, one-by-one.
I am keenly aware of this now, and only now that I finally have the building permit in my hand. With this, I can’t help but consider move-in day—the carrying of books, the arrangement of a desk, the position of my chair. Before this, however, I will paint the ceiling frame white, like the ceiling in Dylan Thomas’ shed, and cover the walls in barn wood or similar like the beautifully clean writing space of E.B. White.
The permit will soon be tacked to a tree in the yard and the men in boots will maneuver gravel and lumber, they will measure twice and cut once, and they will shingle the roof and pound nails with heavy hammers. And in the end I will have a place to fill with words. It will not be Thomas’ boathouse, or Thoreau’s cabin, or George Bernard Shaw’s tiny shack. It will not be designed to what they had. It will surely hold the spirit of those wonderful spaces, but this shed will be mine. Only one hundred feet from the back door of the house, I will have my own uncomplicated “hut in the woods.”
More to come on the development and construction as the days move on.
E.B. White's writing shed
Dylan Thomas' boathouse in Wales