My Life in a Shed: Making the Space to Write

By Kelli Russell Agodon

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Categories: Women's Voices, Writing Tips,

I am writing to you in the middle of a rainstorm. The rainstorm is both outside, but also inside my head. I found myself being distracted by the box of maple creams on the table, my cat, and the laundry piled up and still needing folding. So I took a writing retreat about fourteen steps from my front door.

Perhaps, I should explain. Five years ago, I realized I wasn’t writing as much. As mother, wife, and work-from-home writer, I would sit down but never really went into The Zone, you know that place—some call it “flow,” but it’s the place where a writer can lose track of time and body, and instead becomes the words on the page, the poem, whatever project that occupies their thoughts.

insideI am the type of writer who needs to be alone and who needs quiet to write. Some writers just put in the earplugs and they are off into their work; I would fall into what one might call a more sensitive writer. Any conversation around me could pull me from my work—from the sounds of my cats acting out a scene from West Side Story in the hallway to the vibration of footsteps of someone walking past the door behind me. So in 2008, when I received a large $7500 award from the Dorothy Rosenberg Prize, I decided to use some of that money to build a writing studio.

In my mind, writing studios had been only for “real writers” who wrote novels that involved wizards or rich writers who had a lot of extra cash to have the architect visit and draw up some plans. They were not for poets, or more likely, I thought they were not for me.

One day while visiting Lowe’s to get some gardening supplies, my husband noticed the variety of sheds in the parking lot and said, “Those would make a great writing studio for you.”

“Are you teasing? A shed as a writing studio?” I half-thought he was annoyed with me and wanted to lock me in a shed to get a little peace.

But as we walked over to the sheds, I realized how well built and how much bigger they were than I imagined. He was really being sincere.

As I looked at the various sheds, which started at $699, I realized I could fit a desk and a chair in even the smallest one. In the larger ones I could fit a bookcase and my golden retriever. I became intrigued with the idea of “the writing shed.” My husband who wanted to make sure I saw his vision for me, bought me this book for Mother’s Day, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways: Big Ideas for Small Backyard Destinations, I was hooked.

While I know I’d still be a writer without this writing shed, what it offers me emotionally and even rather spiritually, is a place to be alone with my words and with my thoughts. The writing shed does not make the writing come, but instead brings me into a place where I can begin without the distraction of the world, where I can focus more easily. And it seems to create more time—I can get two hours worth of work done in my writing shed that would take me four hours in the house.

1000623_10152014036921967_184211630_nHaving my writing studio, which I’ve now named “House of Sea” to mirror my friend Susan Rich’s writing studio (a wonderfully converted garage) in West Seattle named “House of Sky,” I’ve realized the value of having a space of your own. Some nights when I’m running ideas through my head about my next manuscript, I go into my writing shed with a pad of paper and sketch my thoughts. Some mornings after feeling as if my house is a disaster and I need some space to think and write, I walk into this space and feel relief circulate through my body. It is my tiny commute that takes me from one frame of mind to another, from wife/mother/friend/daughter to writer, from the domestic to the artistic world. As I look down in this space, I see the words I painted on my wooden floor—Write Here—a reminder to myself to be in the moment enjoy this small personal retreat, and to do what I love to do—write.

 

 

 

 

KelliBWKelli Russell Agodon is author of Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room (White Pine Press), Winner of the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Prize in Poetry and a Finalist for the Washington State Book Award, Small Knots (2004), and the chapbook, Geography (2003). Kelli is also the co-editor of Fire On Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry.Born and educated in the Washington State, she’s a graduate of the University of Washington and Pacific Lutheran University where she received her MFA. Kelli is the editor of Seattle’s literary journal, Crab Creek Review, co-founder of Two Sylvias Press, and co-director of Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Writing Retreat for Women.

You can connect with Kelli—on Facebook: www.facebook.com/agodon
 at her blog, Book of Kells: www.ofkells.blogspot.comor on her website www.agodon.com

Take Kelli’s workshop, Fire On Her Tongue: Writing the Poems You Need to Write, at Hedgebrook’s Winter Salon. >>Register Now.

 

Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

 

 

 

9 Comments

  • Elaine
    2:18 PM - 2 October, 2014

    Wow! This came just at the right moment for me. The writer in me has been feeling very unwelcome in the home where I am a mother, wife, editor, gardener, dishwasher, etc. And I was wondering where to go. We have a backyard and a Lowe’s not too far away, so I am going to try to follow in your footsteps (and doorsteps — out and in). Thank you!

  • Alina
    7:25 PM - 3 October, 2014

    This made me cry.

    Thank you.

  • Kelley Henry
    7:11 PM - 6 October, 2014

    Brilliant idea! And I love that you painted a reminder on the floor.

  • Kelli Agodon
    5:42 PM - 8 October, 2014

    Thank you Elaine, Alina, and Kelley! I highly recommend a shed, studio, or space of your own. It has made a huge difference in my life and work. Appreciate your comments (and if any of you do create a shed of your own, let me know!)

  • Bonnie Morris
    1:49 PM - 9 November, 2014

    I am dying for a TREEHOUSE. I have to wait until I have a yard with a tree in it, but in imagining this project I’ve got the budget AND problem of “permits” licked: at MINIMUM, I can buy a kids’ bunk-bed and lean it up against a tree and create a nook without hammering a single nail. Someday!!

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  • Jil Ross
    3:02 PM - 11 October, 2015

    Just stumbled across your post and ironically my writing shed is in the works right now. Cannot wait until it’s complete. Kudos to you!

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  • JUSTINE FENU
    7:40 AM - 12 March, 2016

    I had to take two nights out of the house at an airbnb nearby to make progress on my autobiography that I need for a photography exhibition coming up.. Still working on it..Congratulations on your writing shed..Happy writing!

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