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A Writing Shed of One’s Own

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2019

In the first couple of minutes of this video, Roald Dahl introduces us to the writing hut behind his house that he used to write all of his famed children’s books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Danny the Champion of the World. Dahl describes his working routine and details how he’s designed his writing environment, his “nest”, to be as free from distraction as possible.

The Guardian used to run a series about writers’ rooms and in 2008, illustrator Quentin Blake, who worked with Dahl on many of his books, wrote a piece about Dahl’s shed.

The whole of the inside was organised as a place for writing: so the old wing-back chair had part of the back burrowed out to make it more comfortable; he had a sleeping bag that he put his legs in when it was cold and a footstool to rest them on; he had a very characteristic Roald arrangement for a writing table with a bar across the arms of the chair and a cardboard tube that altered the angle of the board on which he wrote. As he didn’t want to move from his chair everything was within reach. He wrote on yellow legal paper with his favourite kind of pencils; he started off with a handful of them ready sharpened.

I like that he tied the footrest to the chair to keep it from sliding away when he rested his feet on it.

As someone who sits down daily to write, nothing seems so luxurious to me as a separate writing hut that is off limits to everyone and everything else. George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain both had separate houses in which to write; Shaw’s shed could even rotate to catch the light throughout the day. Someday I’ll have one of my own…

P.S. Ernest Hemingway used a standing desk, as did Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, and Virginia Woolf, among others. I got this one a few weeks ago and am still getting used to it. (via @ftrain)