Witness The Power Of This Fully Armed And Operational Writing Shed

I call it the “Mystery Box.”

Because it is a box. From which radiates — well, who the fuck knows? It’s me. Sitting in it. Every day. A mask over my head with a question mark embroidered upon it. Hammering out words, stories, characters, ideas, all the expected nonsense. Writers exude mysteries. Questions. Puzzles wrapped in enigmas wrapped in crippling-self-doubt and also, sometimes, ham.

Mmm. Ham.

Point is, now I have a place from which these mysteries emerge.

Hence: MYSTERY BOX.

(Though bonus points go to Michelle Sydney Levy, who actually thought to call it “The Myth Lab,” which I love so much it hurts. But I also know that if I get into the habit of calling it this, eventually the tiny human that is B-Dub will go to school one day and say, “My Daddy goes to work in a Myth Lab” and of course the teacher will hear meth lab — which is part of the joke ha ha ha — and then next thing you know it’s cops and FBI and they don’t find meth but they find all these bodies! Wait I didn’t say “bodies.”)

Previous to now, I had an office inside the house — which, admittedly, I adored! It was a corner office. Three windows overlooking our lovely woods. I’d see deer gamboling about. Foxes prancing. Sometimes the people I keep trapped in my cellar would break free and hobble through the trees with their broken manacles dragging behind them and I’d be like, oh ho ho look who thinks they’re going to make it to the road, oh you goofs, and I’d get out the tranquilizer rifle and gently adjust the scope and let all the breath escape my chest as I lightly squeezed the trigger and —

Well, I’m reminiscing.

Point is, I dug that office. I did. Big shelves. A nice closet. I painted the walls this perfectly wonderful nuclear apple green because it gave the room a kind of vibrant, cuckoo energy. And I am admittedly a little sad to say goodbye to that office.

But as those with children know, children are little productivity vampires. They don’t mean to be! They’re delightful in that they pinball around and are not easily contained. (We could stick our kid in a straitjacket inside of a padlocked steamer trunk buried in the cement foundation of the house and Baby Houdini would be naked on the roof in two minutes, shoving LEGO bricks down our chimney. B-Dub was in an actual bed by, what, nine months? Because no crib would contain him.) So, I was managing to get the writing done, but it was more of a, “Chipping minerals out of the walls with my teeth.” Slower-going than I wanted.

And so my wife said, let’s get you out of here.

And I thought, well, here it is, finally. She’s realized that I’m an awful person and has — wisely! — decided to divorce me. Or maybe just straight up kill my ass. That also would’ve been an acceptable answer — really, nobody would blame her.

That apparently isn’t what she meant.

So began the time when we tried to figure out just where I would go, exactly. We bandied about a few options. One was just renting an office — some dinky space somewhere. It would’ve worked, though it would’ve meant obviously driving somewhere every day and dealing with weather and traffic and ew, yucky. (<– privilege).

Option two, and we went down this path for a while, was to take the space above the garage — which right now is a kind of creepy unfinished space that I use as a “mouse killing chamber” (seriously, I just pop open the hatch and then chuck these little green bricks of rat poison up there and the result is this rodent graveyard). If it weren’t for the hantavirus that probably lives and breeds up there, it would’ve worked.

We had a contractor come out and price it for us and… it wasn’t cheap. Plus: there arrived logistical issues. Where would the entrance be? Staircase? What would we do with all the mouse bones?

My wife mentioned off-handedly to the contractor about putting an office somewhere on the property, instead, and he was like, “Yeah, we can do that!” And he got all excited about it and we started scouting spots. Back yard, front yard, in the woods, deep beneath the earth in the Dwarven Ruins of Krongg’nang where the Artificer of Doom sleeps in his Mechanical Cryptwalker? The contractor was geeked. We were geeked. The three of us started talking about it and planning it then he came back to us a week or two later with plans and a rough estimate aaaaaaand…

Holy shit, what? Sixty fucking grand?

And we all had a larf and I said, no, no, really, how much.

The contractor raised an eyebrow and was like, f… forty grand?

And another round of mighty guffaws was had.

He was clearly becoming aware that uhh, yeah, no, we’re not paying that, nor could we pay that. So he went on his way and said he would return with a new design and a lower cost.

In the interim, though, I thought, okay, let’s investigate. Let’s dig deeper. This is kind of a trendy thing now, these silly office sheds. I took to looking at Studio Shed because, oooh, pretty. I gandered at the writing spaces of other penmonkeys: Neil Gaiman’s magic gazebo, Laurie Halse Anderson’s writing cottage, Robert Jackson Bennett’s precious workspace, or this very special writing space (which comes with free shower and lotion as a bonus). And then it was Kelley Armstrong who told me her writing office secret:

Have Amish shedmakers make you a shed.

Then have the same shedmakers convert the shed into an office.

And I was like, “Hey! We have lots of Amish around us. Mennonites, too. Such wonderful beards!” Scads of Pennsylvania Dutch surround us — and here, in fact, I believe I have stumbled upon some kind of shedworkers mafia, because we already have one shed on our property made by a family named Stolzfus. And nearly every shed maker we contacted across the state was operated by or had an employee by the name of Stolzfus, or Stolzfoos. OMG CONSPIRACY, RIGHT. I tried to find out more, but suddenly I saw bright lights in the sky and then woke up in a cornfield somewhere with missing time. I had a big long beard, and it smelled of hay. My name is now Uncle Esau.

Anyway.

We started to solicit some quotes.

And holy crapcakes was it cheaper.

Ah, but here’s the trick: they’re shedmakers, not contractors, not interior designers, so, that means you have to take the reins and basically become a contractor. Some things need to be farmed out — and, further, they’re not really going to design the thing for you, you have to give them help. Lots and lots of help.

Now, an important caveat? I’m a dumbass. Like, I’m smart enough when it comes to MAKING WORDS, but in all other things, y’know, I have the common sense of a coat-rack. And not a very useful coat-rack, either. In fact, as I go deeper down the rabbit hole of my writing career, my common sense seems to be dulling even further. When confronted by a simple problem, I’m often likely to come up with a solution like, “Can’t dragons fix it?” And it’s like, no, no they cannot, because dragons are not real, dipshit. “Vampires?” Exasperation is imminent.

Thankfully, my wife is very smart. Without her, you’d probably find me wandering in the woods, pantsless, starving, covered in burrs and eating my own socks.

So, she took control of the project.

And she painstakingly interfaced with the shed people (god, that sounds ominous — THE SHED PEOPLE). She dealt with the electrician. Permit dude. The HVAC guy. The movers. The Murder Pit digger guy. The ancient shed-gods. All those folks.

Over the last many moons, my wife busted her ass to make the shed happen. She weathered the (several) problems that popped up. She helped me settle on a design that did not look like a four-year-old painted it with poopy hands. Delays and problems besieged — and oh yeah, right around the holidays, too, whee — but then, it happened.

They delivered the shed. And put it together.

 

THE SHED GOD MAKETH

You can see the sad, headless snowman watching in horror. Trying to inch closer to find solace from the sun. But no, snowman. You’re fucked. The shed is mine. No melting in the writing shed. No sex in the Champagne room.

Then it took like, a month or more to kick-punch the weather into cooperating so that they could run power, put in the HVAC, establish the laser perimeter, install the sharks, and so forth.

Rough specs:

160 square feet.

Sits on a gravel pad framed out with wood. (Eventually, landscaping will be essential here.)

Beadboard, whatever that is. Board made of bees or beads or something.

Laminate floor.

Split HVAC, LG.

Which means, yes, it has electricity.

The wi-fi surprisingly not only reaches from the house, but is peppy as a coke-addled squirrel.

No plumbing. I, like the bear, will shit in the woods. Or in the house, if I’m feeling particularly motivated that day. I guess I could dig a latrine or something? Whatevs.

There’s an attic. For whatever I wanna put there. Bodies. Guns. Bootleg DVDs. Oompa-Loompas. Liquor. Stacks of otherworldly pornography. Ghosts. Bootleg Oompa-Loompas.

If you’d like a tour of the shed properly…

Here is the exterior.

Then, the one side:

And then, the other side:

The shed has changed my routine in a shake-up where the pieces have yet to settle. I used to roll my ass out of bed like a log off a truck and then would zombie my way downstairs at around 6AM to make coffee in the Chemex and then I’d mummy my way back up to the office where I’d let the spirits of caffeine inhabit my body and will the tired flesh toward the act of making shit up. Plus, I could pop over to the computer at any point in the day. Noon, evening, 3AM, whatever. Now, the system sits away — and lots of little other habits (lunch, for instance) are upended.

The new routine — still evolving! — means brewing coffee in the morning and putting it in this insulated carafe and then stagger-bumbling my way across the winter-smushed yard to the office. It also means that when in the house, I can get email and social media on the phone, but only there (or iPad). Means I’m somewhat less connected, which is a feature, not a bug.

Still have things to do, of course. Landscaping outside to cover the pad. Hang various posters and whiteboards and meathooks. Draw a summoning circle in invisible ink. Put in a couch, maybe. Invite a coven of sorcerers over to bless the place. Install a whiskey dispenser.

You know.

THE YOOZH.

If you wanna know the total cost, well, I’m not going to tell you that. C’mon. (Assume it cost as much as a good used car, or as much as a less good new car. Which, cost-wise, works consider I rarely use a car and the money I might spend on a vehicle went instead toward this — a project that also adds to the value of the property, as opposed to car whose value depreciates by half the first time you pass gas in it.)

So, that’s it. That’s the shed. The mystery box. The myth lab. Already wrote my first 4000 words there on Friday, so it was a hella productive day. And the mailman drove up and stared at me for like, a good 30 seconds. As if maybe I was trapped inside, and needed help? He looked confused.

Sorry, mail guy.

*shrug*

*ties balloons to shed*

*lifts off to kingdoms beyond*

113 comments

  • This is ridiculously sick and awesome. I am jelly, also because the *vomit* community I live in would never allow such a thing. I will have to retreat to the basement.

  • Congratulations on the new writing shed! It looks lovely. I’m so happy for you. You really deserve it for all the work you put in. Just curious. What’ll you do with the room that used to be your office? A new torture chamber? An armory perhaps?

  • That is so awesome. One day when I have more land, I should get me a writing shed. Or an office. Because while I don’t have two legged time sinks, I have four and they are just as time consuming. Especially when they feel that you should be petting them and “YOU DON’T NEED TO EDIT, HUMAN! LOVE ME!”

  • Love it. Especially love that the only two things not given a more colorful description in the photos are “gin” and “knob.” After the Murder Tarp Dispenser and the Elf Prison, it’s refreshing to know that sometimes a knob is just a knob. Enjoy your refuge.

  • This seems very, very cool. I’m glad it’s working out for you so far. I love that view of the trees out the big window next to the desk, too. (Also, I’m totally jealous.)

  • I suggest using the blood of a virgin unicorn to draw your summoning circle. Also, you need more tarp. Always more tarp. Damn the tarp. And contact your local hippie for incense. It’s frigging magical for the neuroses and double duties as a cover for that pesky dead hobo smell. (and bees don’t like it.)

  • Thanks for sharing more about the Mystery Box…including a rough estimate/guess of what it cost. There’s a house down the street with a similar shed and — for a couple years — I thought, “I can see that being all one would need for writing.” The person down the street uses their shed for storage, leaving me to only speculate what a little area like that could become. Now I know.

    Mennonites. I helped a friend do restoration work on an old Victorian house in the middle-o’-nowhere Texas. There was no way we dared put a solid roof on that place. He hired a crew of Mennonites and it may sound corny, but watching them put a roof on an old house in the middle-o’-nowhere Texas seemed like an honor to watch.

    Glad you have such a snazzy new place for doing what you do!

  • January 4, 2015 at 4:35 PM // Reply

    Yeah. We were looking to use one of the pre-fab ones from Home Depot, but we haven’t gotten our act together yet. Maybe next century. And HUGE congrats – a lovely space!

  • Love your shed. Love that it was built by bearded guys who trot around in horse-drawn carriages. They still do that, don’t they? I hope so. I got worried when I saw the truck with the arm thing, and not a horse in sight. But maybe the horse is driving.

    I realize you’re just moving in and you still have lots of inhabiting tasks to do, but as a shed-warming gift, I’d like to help you sort things out with a helpful List of Urgent Requirements.

    Requirement #1: You need to remedy the fact that your shed is way too clean and tidy. How can you work in such an atmosphere? It would drive me crazy. You must immediately fill it with Things You May Need Someday (such as anytime within the next 50 years). Fortunately, you’ve thought ahead and built it with a nice high ceiling, which will facilitate very tall piles of stuff. Helpful hint: always buy printed books, and never throw one away. This has really worked miracles in creating a cozy feel for my writing office. You can also pick up great decorating ideas from TV shows like “Hoarders”.

    Requirement #2: You must have a fireplace, not only for spell casting and implement forging purposes, but also to destroy evidence. This is such a no-brainer that I assume you just haven’t installed one yet. In a pinch, a small wood stove will do as a substitute. Extra bonus! It will also be useful for keeping warm during those Pennsylvania winters when we hurl our deadly cold, frostbitten Canadian air at you across the endless Northern Shield.

    Requirement #3: Well, it’s not an absolute requirement, but that blue wall is BEGGING for a collection of dead animal heads.

    Enjoy!

  • Dude. It’s so pretty I got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Or that could have been the beard-bee vemon whafting from the nest I planted under the eaves. Either way, IT IS BEAUTIFUL. Do good work there.

  • I can definitely see you sitting in your butt cradle above the murder pit with some helpless lass screaming below you. Then you scream “you put the words on the page,” *lowers laptop down to lass with promise of giving her food once she puts the words on the page.

  • That is a very pretty shed. Awesome. I assume no toddlers or family members of the canine persuasion are allowed in said shed? (Which of course guarantees that the first thing the toddler will want to do is use the shed as a playhouse.) (Actually that would be cute if you set up a playhouse next to the writerly shed.)

    Is it very cold in there? I don’t know where you are geographically but it would seem like it might get chilly.

    • I wondered about heat too. I’m pretty close to the same latitude as Chuck. Chilly happens in October and is the predecessor to Deep Freeze. I know from current experience how impossible it is to heat a 62 degree basement nook only a few degrees with portable heat. Can’t imagine how to heat a self-standing shed with all four exposed walls. Is there a little furnace in that attic? I see no wall registers…

  • January 4, 2015 at 5:04 PM // Reply

    The best part is when people ask you what you’re doing, you can say you’re shedding, and then sit there in awkward silence.

  • I used to have a shed but it didn’t have the same fabulous Amityville vibe as yours. Then we moved to a massive house wit loads of rooms but it turned out my shed was a tardis so now there are two rooms full of my shit and no shed. I’m peripetitic or however you spell that. I’m also jealous, which I can spell much more easily.

    Love it. Nice job, well done. I hope to have an office by the end of this term… right next to my son’s bedroom… maybe I haven’t thought this through.

    Oh and a couple of shots of the murder pit would be really great… if you have time.

    Cheers

    MTM

  • All my oohing aahing caused my husband to wonder if I was looking at something naughty. LOVE this! You filled me with all sorts of delightful ideas. Sadly I have no room for a writing shed. I live in front of a wash. Maybe I can have a little writing dinghy built.

  • January 4, 2015 at 6:08 PM // Reply

    Male Writer + Man Cave = Writer’s Cave? Your wife might just have a side business there, although most of the writers I know who can afford one have something similar already. Looks great!

  • This is awesome! Congrats on your new digs. I have an office in the house as you did, but I don’t have munchkins anymore. Mine are all grown up with munchkins of their own. So it’s the hubs that comes to the door. “Honey – Honey? Are you still breathing? Have you killed anyone today? Honey?” Anyway, it works mostly. Now I just need a sign: “If there isn’t blood before you knock, there will be after,” or something along those lines.

  • Congrats on the shed! It looks productivity-inducing. You really can’t overstate how precious a writing space is that affords privacy, quiet and comfort. I’ve long dreamed of such a space.

    I live in a second-story townhouse sandwiched between two other units. One of my neighbors is OCD and rearranges her furniture literally for hours, usually beginning at 10:00 p.m. and ending around 3:00 a.m. The other unit features a family of five in the unfortunate and continuous throes of domestic upheaval. My downstairs neighbor has two dogs who bark at everything that comes within thirty feet of the property. I also live on a busy street. Oftentimes trying to tease out my thoughts from the tangle of constant noise can be a challenge, but it’s also been a lesson in patience and focus, two virtues that I’ve come to learn are vital for writing.

    Chuck, have you laid down any rules for the writing shed? “Enter only upon pain of death” or “Between the hours of 8:00 and 5:00 do not disturb.” Meals slid through the slot in the door? Hold all calls? Pants optional?

  • Excellent. Welcome to the Writer’s Shed/Hut Lunatic Community(TM) for those of us who have been cast out into our very own spaces to do that Creativity Thing we do. Or surf Facebook. But no matter what we do, it looks f*cking cool because we’re in a SHED/HUT/IGLOO/HOGAN whatever thing.

    If you’re into tea, get yourself one of those nifty English electric tea pots and caffeine will be at your fingertips 24/7. I’ll forward the 12-Step Tea Recovery info down the line. It never works.

    And I am DAMNED envious of the beadboard, dude. Just sayin’…

  • That’s freaking awesome. Luckily, this PA winter has been “warm-ish”. So no freezing your butt off when you go all “bear-in-the-woods”… yet. But seriously, the Amish built some pretty “smexy” outhouses – you know for when the bitter winter finally arrives in these parts of the woods. You can even get one with matching beadboard and a chandelier!

  • I love the part about finding the Amish carpenters. My parents built their house using Amish carpenters. The house is still in incredible shape fifteen years later not showing a quarter of the wear a more traditionally built house would after the same span of time.

  • Sold my traditional 3/2 and bought a 2/2 with a 30×10′ sun porch that seals off from the rest of the house with sliding glass walls of doom. Nothing passes the zone of death which has upped my word count from 2400 a day to over 5000 and yay we are climbing toward 8k on days I catch the jet wash from a passing U-2. Writing Castle is now mine all mine (well, it will be in another 15 years of easy payments to the credit union). But then I live where sheds attract tornadoes and I don’t want one of those. Not until I have a few more books under my belt, but that’s another blog.

  • Sweet. Every Wendig needs a room of their own. With your permission, I am gonna fanfiction this and make Wendig’s writing shed the setting of my next piece… lost in the woods, running from a Razor welding hobogoblins. Ah, but there’s a light in the distance. It’s him! He’s there! Wendigs in the shed. If only I can make it before…

  • Lovely. And at 10’x16′, the room’s dimensions are almost exactly at the Golden Ratio. That should help immensely with locating the summoning circle in the most advantageous position. Just make sure it’s at the end furthest from the door. It would be so awkward if the demon were to break free and you had to get past it to escape.

  • I smiled all the way through reading this post. I have a shed, but it still looks like a shed: no matter how many couches and stuff I shove in there for comfort, the lawn mover and other gardening tools sadly reveal it’s current true purpose. Hooray for you on this joyous occasion.

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