I am smitten with Britain’s favorite gardener, Monty Don. A couple of years ago, I had no idea who he was, but then Netflix started airing Big Dreams, Small Spaces and I was hooked. But I’m not here to talk to you about Monty Don’s gardening prowess, his suspenders, or his loping walk. I’m here to discuss his writing garden–a lovely little woodland with a shed at the back where Monty types out his books.
The first time I ever thought, “Gee, I sure would like a writing shed” was when I read John Irving’s Last Night at Twisted River. The main character talks about the little shack he writes in on a remote island. Then, several years later, Pinterest and tiny houses became a part of my life. Before I knew it, I was very seriously coveting a writing shed of my own.
Some of you may have already read about my adventures in home office decorating, and you might be wondering why I need a writing shed. Well, if you saw Monty Don’s beautiful little writing garden you probably wouldn’t have to ask me that question, but I’ll play the game and answer the question anyway.
First, I’ll say, I know darn well that no one needs a writing shed. But as Virginia Woolf once wrote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” If you really want to write, a spare bedroom, or closet, or whatever extra little space you can carve out of your house or apartment will work just fine. But I really want a writing shed.
Picture this for a moment: You wake up, put the kettle on and wait for your water to boil. You pull on a pair of boots–or maybe it’s just a pair of flip-flops, depending on the weather–and once your cup of tea is made, you head outside, down the garden path, and to the little shed you have tucked away in the shade of a tree. Maybe your dog follows you. Perhaps there is a chill in the air and you have enough room in your little shed to have a wood stove, so you get a small fire going to warm the place up. And then you sit down to your desk, inspired by the chirping of the birds, and the beautiful little world just beyond your windows. (The writing shed must have copious windows.)
Sounds a lot better than sitting down to a desk in the basement in your bathrobe, right?
Lately, I find myself browsing sheds on the internet and thinking, “That would be a lovely place to write!” It’s silly, really. I live in the woods, on a pond. My desk is at the window in my living room. I often find myself distracted when a huge bird of prey swoops down in the yard, or a red squirrel tries to steal the suet from the bird feeder. When the Great Blue Heron is around, my head turns every time he flies over the pond. But I would still really love that writing shed. Why? Well, it’s partly about having a separate space to go to–removed from the chaos of the house (and the 18-year-old cat insists on being in my lap at all times) but still not an office with fluorescent lights and bad carpeting. It’s also about being that much closer to nature, because in my vision it’s not just a shed, it’s a whole Monty Don writing garden. But it’s also about what it means to have a space like that. It means you have the resources to devote to a space like that, and enough work to justify it. It means you’ve made it!