Roald Dahl is believed to have written every day for 30 years. He didn’t have a fancy office, giant mahogany desk and latest word processing instruments to aid him. Instead, he sat on an old chair in a small shed in his garden at his home in Great Missenden and jotted ideas down on to a notepad. Sometimes these ideas were storylines or characters, at other times he would spend hours dreaming up new words.
A small wooden hut seems like a strange place for a creative genius to work. I don’t know about you, but my shed is filled with spiders, dust and piles of junk that I am too lazy to sort and throw away. The way I see it, unless the roof starts to lift off from being overfull, I am not going to sort it out any time soon. At the moment the spiders are about the size of a small dog. I’ll wait until they pass on before I open the shed door.
I remember being fascinated by Dahl’s books as a child and equally intrigued by his strange persona as I got older. Until recently, I though he was the only person (barring serial killers and crystal meth producers) to use their shed as an office. As it turns out, the garden shed that you and I use to stockpile broken lawnmower parts and items for eventual recycling is the preferred place for creative types seeking refuge from distraction.
George Bernard Shaw must have been the inspiration for a show on MTV because he was the first person to have thought, “Hmmm. Maybe I should pimp my shed.” The genius of Shaw’s shed lies in the fact that he had a phone which connected him to the main house, a buzzer system and electricity. It was also built on a turntable, so he was able to rotate it in order to face the sun throughout the day.
Most writers start the writing process with a cup of coffee. Maybe narcotics, if you’re Hunter S Thompson. Before Arthur Miller could write “Death of a Salesman” he needed to do one thing to his writing shed – build it from scratch. Miller was not a handyman and had never built anything in his entire life until he started working on the wooden hut in which he would pen his most well-known play.
In the early 70s a musician built a shed in his garden and started tinkering around with ideas for new songs that he planned to present to his band. That musician was Roger Waters, and the demo tracks he produced in his garden shed would go on to feature on “The Dark Side of the Moon”, a Pink Floyd album that sold in excess of 50 million copies.
If, like me, you have on old Wendy house, shed or Zozo hut that’s being used to stockpile rubbish, maybe you should consider doing a spring clean. Who knows? You might just find your muse rather than spiders big enough to take down a mammoth.