Monday, February 13, 2017

Writer Shed Porn; Not Really

"Building this shed was the most relaxing, de-stressing thing I’ve done in ages." —Alastair Humphreys, Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes


I stumbled across a book recently about finding that quiet place to work. Despite it's provocative name, Cabin Porn is about settling into the deep need or longing for a place of your own. Not a home, necessarily. But a space, a retreat for inspiration, art. The book is about a collaboration of handbuilt cabins. Rough and tumble, yet beautiful in their simplicity. The blog of writer and adventurer, Alastair Humphreys turned me on to Cabin Porn through his blog posts and all of it reminded me of my own project, at least in spirit.

"Fill a space in a beautiful way." —Georgia O'Keeffe

Some of you know I've been working on my own "cabin." It's not a cabin but a writer's shed, to be more specific. It's not rough and tumble; it's a bit less woodsy. But it's purpose is the same in many ways. And the process is moving forward.


This past weekend I began the inside barn wood interior. It's slow work, yes, but rewarding. Although I want to finish, I'm trying not to hurry, trying to stay in the moment, savoring the work—the measuring, the sawing, the pounding of finishing nails. My father worked with his hands, a carpenter by trade. With every plank of wood that is attached to the studs, I think about him. I can see him with a pencil behind ear, wearing his stained painter's pants, and his old golf cap. He too, I'm certain, would be attempting to take it slow, to feel each and every step.

"Space is the breath of air." —Frank Lloyd Wright

I've had to remind myself of how to use a miter box, how to trim around the window, to measure so that flaws—and there will be some—are hidden. How will the barn wood walls fix against the floor? I had to auger a small hole in the back of the shed and another in the nearby garage so that an electrical line can be snaked inside. Light will be needed. A portable heater must be powered. A fan will be essential.

The desk will be placed at the window. I already know this. But that's all I have determined so far. Certainly a small book shelf or two. A chair, other than for the desk, designed for reading. I can see it now. I can feel it. I drafted the final edits of Any Road Will Take You There at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando a few years ago and part of Night Radio was drafted in the attic office at the Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois. I have been so fortunate to have these places and so honored. But the shed, my shed, gives me new, more extraordinary visions.

Strangely, the shed makes me think about remote places, faraway and lost to time. I did a little research and found Tristan de Cunha may be the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world. It sits more than 1700 miles from the nearest island in South Africa. My shed is some 100 feet from the back door of the house, even closer to the garage, but yet somehow it is already feeling remote, secluded. Like a world of one's own.


The weather has been unseasonably mild in the Midwest this winter and I am grateful for the early start on the shed. In March it could all come together.

Writer shed porn? Maybe. A remote place of my own? Certainly.

"True solace is finding none, which is to say, it is everywhere." —Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces

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