On Sheds

I write in a shed.

You have no idea how much joy it gives me simply to write that sentence.

For years I dreamed of having a space of my own in which to write. I wrote three drafts of an unpublished novel hunched over the rickety breakfast bar in my Hackney basement. There was a Guardian series on Writer’s Rooms running at the time, and I’d lust after all of them, but it was the sheds that really got me. All that wood. All that inside-outside gorgeousness. One day, I thought, one fine day…

A few years ago, we managed to buy a house, and knowing I was totally skint, my dad, bless him, gave me a bit of money to buy a shed. Just a shed, 7 by 5 feet. My husband, to whom I will be forever grateful, spent a long weekend putting it up, and then an even longer one insulating it so it might be possible to work there in all weathers. There’s a bit of a ropey electric situation, where I’m running a cable from an outside plug, but hey, it’s good to be a pirate sometimes.

Nothing beats that small walk (literally ten steps,) from the house to the bottom of the garden in the morning. Short as it is, just feeling the texture of the day on my skin is wonderful. The first few moments in there can be pretty brisk, but twenty minutes with the oil fired radiator and it’s toasty.

More than anything, I love that fact that it’s mine. (There’s a Woolf quote that goes here but I’ll let you fill it in…) I can put up elaborate post it collages, full of odd exhortations that only make sense to me and leave them there. For weeks. For years. For however long it takes to finish my book. No clearing away at meal times – and no one is going to comment on their, and by extension, my, oddness. The shed is, in fact, a space in which oddness can flourish. You’ve got to get a little odd to write, right?

Recently, I can’t remember why, I ended up working a lot in the house. After a week or so of this I began to feel a bit low. I couldn’t work out why. Then I went back out to the shed. I hadn’t noticed properly, but the house, with its double glazed windows, had felt vacuum packed. In the shed all sorts of noises intrude: squirrels and cats on the roof, the wind in the birch tree nearby, the ongoing territorial battles of the local birds. The distant hum of traffic. Kids playing football in the small street to the side of the house. I’m at once in the world and out of it. Inside outside.