Faced with a cramped work space, and wondering how to organise clutter, or is that just me? This week I’ve been trying to work out how I’ve accumulated so many oddments, or more specifically, if there are any I could ditch. It’s not just the books, you see.
I don’t like to think of myself as a hoarder, but I’ll admit to a magpie instinct. A lot of my early collections were gathered on walks…horseshoes, ancient bottles, pottery shards, attractive pebbles…things that don’t belong in the house, and so have found spaces in the shed that now doubles as my writing space.
Shelves have been added, and added, and over-filled…you get the story, don’t you? This week, I began to consider whether I needed an annex for my shed.
It was when I found myself measuring up a corner next to the greenhouse that I woke up to where I was heading. If I continued to think like that, I would have a one woman business park instead of a garden. So, jumping in the opposite direction, I tried to imagine myself a minimalist.
Where to start? Well throw away something easy, like the heap of writing magazines. I could rip out any interesting and/or useful articles, and keep them in a folder. Like this picture of George Bernard Shaw’s writing shed.
Aha, I thought, tearing the page out, serendipity, I’ll pin this on my door, and it’ll help keep me focused. After all, what more should one need than a chair, a level surface and writing materials?
GBS, as he was known, named his shed London, so that unwanted visitors could be simply misled into believing he was away from home, leaving GBS in peace to scribble. His simple and austere box looks about the same size as my office, it’s just barer. What was good enough for him…
I dropped the rest of the magazine into the waste paper bin, took up the next one, and found Roald Dahl’s writing hut. My heart didn’t flip, but I had a moment of honest recognition.
It would take an awful lot of effort for me to achieve and maintain the kind of simplicity that suited GBS: energy and time that I would prefer to use for writing. Dahl’s hut has been preserved for visitors to look at, I wonder if it was usually as tidy as this?
It’s a crammed space, with just room to get from the door to that chair with its lap-tray for writing on. I could get lost in the details here, I could lead you on to look at the sheds, huts and summerhouses other writers have created or commandeered to work in. They’re lovely to look at, to set us dreaming a little, but actually, they’re a luxury and a danger.
If we concentrate too much on what a writing space should look like, we might forget to settle down and write. Famously, Hemmingway would plonk his typewriter on any available surface and type.
The reality for most of us is that we make do with a corner of the kitchen, spare bedroom, sitting-room, at quite times, or relocate to cafés or libraries. Anywhere that allows us to close off the door to domestic chores, such as tidying, is a good space to concentrate on writing.