Archive for September, 2013

O writing shed!

I’m spending some time this fall with friends on the north shore, enjoying a change of scenery and managing to get some writing done in between editing projects. Although writing generally happens in fits and starts for me, I tended to chalk it up more to a lack of moral fortitude than to environs. If you are already undisturbed by kids, roommates, or a full-time job, what could possibly be stopping you? For that reason I’ve never put a lot of stock in writing retreats. Usually the ones I’m drawn to are in places like Arizona and New Mexico and I tend to get really fired up about applying for them sometime in February, which I think says more about my need for sunshine and desert than for a place to write. Likewise, I can’t say that I ever fully understood the need for a writing shed. It doesn’t mean I didn’t want one, but it was usually about the appeal of the structure itself rather than any thought of the work that might get done once I was inside it. Three weeks into borrowing one, and I am quite sold. There is something substantial that happens in the paces between house and shed that sets me up for a solid few hours of thinking and writing. Mine is fairly deluxe and not really in the shed category at all, but is free of electricity and internet connection, which has, surprise, surprise, turned out to be a crucial element.

On a (multiply) related note, I’ve just found out about the Guardian website’s series on writers’ rooms. Though now apparently defunct, there’s some good reading in the archives. This one, from August 2007, was supplied by Seamus Heaney, who died last month. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve really dug into Heaney’s work, but lately I’ve been keeping the final stanzas of his poem “North” on my desk as a sort of prompt, so I thought I’d post them here:

It said, ‘Lie down
in the word-hoard, burrow
the coil and gleam
of your furrowed brain.

Compose in darkness.
Expect aurora borealis
in the long foray
but no cascade of light.

Keep your eye clear
as the bleb of the icicle,
trust the feel of what nubbed treasure
your hands have known.’

(Photo by Eva Bartlett: