I read a book about a place of solitude a few months ago, ROOM by Emma Donoghue. It’s about a woman and her young son who are held captive in an old wooden shed in their assaulter’s backyard. The thought of having a place like this, so off the grid that you could literally hold two people hostage there for years without being discovered, is nothing more than a daydream for most freelancers.
Wait, it gets hairier.
For a freelancer, a better solution is a Spartan style space, minus said prisoner and child. I’m thinking more like Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who had a terribly awesome and isolated work space set up in the deep, dark, totally-cut-off-woods of Montana. Hey, it was conducive for Ted who wrote and published “Industrial Society and Its Future” aka the Unabomber Manifesto while hiding out there. A shed, a shack, or an aged hut tucked into a dense forest, on a breezy hilltop, or next to a reflective lake would make the perfect place to set up a freelancer’s workspace for, say, working in ghostwriting services.
Conundrums for Creativity
Finding a place conducive to spinning a thread of thought often borderlines a miracle. Work from a place where you can score free Wi-Fi, aka coffee shops, means people will mistake you for some college kid, or way cooler, a health inspector reporting on said coffee shop for transgressions including moldy beans, curdled milk and stale biscotti. Does biscotti ever get stale? Yet I digress from one conundrum to another.
Working from home is even worse. Everyone you know thinks you are available by default for last minute babysitting, dog walking and mimosa brunches. Not that these are bad in general, but they are poisonous to self-employed, entrepreneurial spirits in freelancer fashion. You are a grownup and you need, no, require your own space for working. If you feel the need to justify this, take a look at prolific and popular authors of yesteryear who used huts and tool sheds for work spaces.
Doing in Dahl Style
Roald Dahl had The Gipsy House where he wrote “Matilda” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Illustrator Quentin Blake said of Dahl’s shed: “He wrote in the shed as long as I knew him – we worked together for 15 years from 1975 to 1990 and I illustrated a dozen of his books. I would take my drawings down to Gipsy House for him to look at while sitting on the sofa in the dining room. I don’t think he let anybody in the shed.”
In the shed where Dahl performed miracles with the alphabet, he had quite the setup. “An old wooden shed in the back garden, with a wing-backed armchair, a sleeping bag to keep out the cold, an old suitcase to prop his feet on and always, always six yellow pencils at his hand, was where Roald [Dahl] created the worlds of ‘The BFG,’ ‘The Witches,’ ‘James and the Giant Peach,’ ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and many, many more.” (Puffin Books UK)
Other substantial authors who worked as freelancers from sheds, baby-sized barns and makeshift huts out back include:
- Mark Twain whose windowed writer’s gazebo includes a fireplace
- Dylan Thomas in which you can find a replica in Carmarthenshire, Wales
- Virginia Woolf, her writing shed was in a garden overlooking the river where she later committed suicide
- George Bernard Shaw named his hut London and would tell his staff he was going to London on a regular basis
- Henry David Thoreau has a writing cabin located at Walden Pond
- Michael Pollan‘s writing hut sat behind his Connecticut home
Making It Work for You
The first place to go if you are serious about a freelancer space outdoors is to your local home and garden supply store. Costco and those big box department stores work well, too. Look for the garden supply sheds, lawnmower mansions or storage buildings they have for sale. Now, if you don’t have enough money for a brand spanking new shed, go to Craigslist, Facebook or the ad section of your newspaper. Chances are, as long as you have a way to move the thing, you will find the dream building for your outdoor work space.
Fit it with a desk or table for working, and add a couple of comfortable chairs, maybe a chaise lounge for a midday nap. Contact an electrician to run power to your pad, that is unless you are going old school with an Underwood Standard Portable 1929 or perhaps pen and paper. In the case of the latter, you’ll need a steady supply of sunlight or oil lamps. Add to this stash a good dose of daily motivation to actually move you from the comfort of your favorite coffee shop couch, or the couch in front of the TV, and you have the makings of an awe inspiring outdoor space for a freelancer.
Miranda B is determined to one day score a storage building for her chill outdoor office. In the meantime, she bounces back and forth from coffee shop to her living room as she writes blog posts, travel articles and fantasy fiction.