This was the year of the house for me. It has often been the year of the house, but never before as extensive a remodel as this one. At the same time, this was the year of the writing hut. The sweet little shed that came with the house.
The shed was what cinched the deal for me, along with the lot: half an acre of old-growth forest, turned the long way along the bay. With that sweet little shed down at water’s edge looking much like a boathouse.
E.B. White came to mind in his boathouse on a saltwater farm in Maine.
So we purchased this home for all the right reasons: the land, the sea, the shed, and my muse, E.B., the man who, decades ago, cautioned, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
But for me, so many writing spaces had not worked out. I may be especially sensitive to my environment, but it sometimes seemed that maybe nothing would do but the proverbial hut in the woods.
My hut may be more finished than E.B.’s boathouse. And that does not feel right.
There was the home on Mercer Island where I couldn’t seem to write anywhere in the house. I moved my writing space from a small loft that overlooked the living and dining areas to a large room in the refinished basement—back and forth, back and forth—my husband packing up his home office each time to accommodate. Now, I am a woman of many books, notebooks, reams of paper, plus the laptop and printer. I inhabit both worlds. Whereas my husband travels light, both feet in this digital century.
Either space worked for him. Neither space for me.
In the open loft I was distracted by every sound. The kitchen was a noise machine. The suction of the refrigerator door opening and closing. Streaming faucets. Glasses, metallic pots and pans. And god forbid, the blender. Anyone coming in the front door, or going out the back. Anyone walking through. Our dogs running through.
In the downstairs room, for all its silence and spaciousness, I felt trapped with no exit. And I complained about the air there, or lack of it. Once a basement, always a basement, no matter how remodeled.
The only real tracks I made in writing while living there were in the summer, on a table on the deck. A long yellow extension cord was all that connected me to that house. Turning my back on it and looking out to Lake Washington, I wrote my heart out and completed my first manuscript.
I just couldn’t hold onto summer year round, and could not recapture anywhere in the house the flow I felt writing outdoors on that deck.
In moving to San Juan Island, it was important not to lose momentum. Enter the idea of a writing hut. The old shed got a new roof, hardwood floors, French doors, new windows, electricity, insulation, cedar shingle siding, a tongue and groove pine ceiling, and beaded board walls. So much more than I had ever dreamt.
And here’s the kicker: I’m a little afraid of it.
Why? Because the investments in my writing life are starting to stack up. I feel a pressure to succeed.
And because it is so much more than I, or anyone, needs. Why, my hut may be more finished than E.B.’s boathouse. And that does not feel right.
And finally, in part, because writing is hard work, wherever we write. There’s no getting away from that.