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Outdoor Writing Retreats

Writing Huts & Hideaways

Ever wondered where your favourite book was written? An astonishing number of writers have penned masterpieces in outdoor writing retreats.


Why are creative people drawn to writing and creating in sheds?

It’s a place to dream. A creative refuge. A space you can surround yourself with objects to get you in the mood for writing. Above all, it’s a sanctuary away from the distractions and interruptions of everyday life.

Your desk can be as messy, or organised, as you like with all your writing equipment close at hand. There’s no one to judge! The walls can be lined with books for reference. Photos and drawings help to transport you to your imaginary world. Perhaps there’s room for a day bed for dreaming up plot lines, or comfy chair with arms ready to balance a writing board just like Roald Dahl’s.


 

Inside Virginia Woolf's writing shed at Monk's House

National Trust Images: Monk's House

Famous Shed Writers

Dahl affectionately described his writing hut as his “little nest, my womb”. The interior of his writing hut has been carefully reconstructed and now takes pride of place in the museum in Great Missenden celebrating Dahl and the magic of his story-telling.

Dahl copied one of his favourite authors, Dylan Thomas, by getting a writing shed. Dylan Thomas chose a weather beaten shed perched on the cliff overlooking the Taf estuary in Laugharne, Wales. He called it his “word-splashed hut”.

Both men were apparently seeking solace away from their noisy, young children. The key difference between both men was Dahl preferred to write with the curtains shut whilst Dylan like to write with the light from the window – perhaps taking a moment to gaze out at the view.

A Shed to Turn Heads

George Bernard Shaw’s rotating writing hut is an idea any budding writer would love to copy. He would operate the turntable every hour so the hut would face the sun throughout the day efficiently heating and lighting the space. George called his writing hut “London” so that his staff wouldn’t be lying when they said he’d “gone to London”.

Mark Twain had an octagonal writing hut which was located on an isolated farm in Elmira. It now sits in the grounds of Elmira College to inspire future generations of wordsmiths. It was a gift from his sister-in-law, and he described it as “the loveliest study you ever saw”.

Virginia Woolf created a writing room in her garden from a re-purposed tool shed under the branches of a chestnut tree at Monk’s House in Sussex. She famously wrote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. Virginia’s writing lodge served her very well and her “commute” along the garden path to it was said to have been done with the “regularity of a stockbroker”.Virginia would spend hours writing and even sleep there on fine summer evenings.

The List Goes On….

The list of writers who’ve been similarly charmed by the novelty of putting pen to paper in a retreat at the bottom of the garden goes on and on…. Philip Pullman sought the silent solitude of a shed when his son took up violin. Although Neil Gaiman’s glazed gazebo might have benefitted from some insulation, he writes:

“I love walking to the bottom of the garden and settling down to write. Nothing ever happens down there. I can look out of the window and some wildlife will occasionally look back, but mostly it’s just trees, and they are only so interesting for so long, so I get back to writing, very happily… It’s just out of reach of the house Wifi, too, which is a good thing.”

Even JK Rowling has been seduced by the idea of a Hagrid style hut and has built very similar looking structures on her estate. Whether she will be inspired to write in them remains to be seen.


 

Falling for the idea of an outdoor writing retreat?

If you haven’t read it yet, we highly recommend Michael Pollan’s book “A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams”. It details how he built a tiny writing hut in the woods behind his Connecticut home. On the first page he declares, “Is there anybody who hasn’t at one time, or another wished for such a place.”

While not everyone possesses Pollan’s wood-working skills, we can certainly see the attraction of creating a space that’s an extension of our personalities and a place for the person we long to be.

Do you have a writing lodge that’s the envy of many an aspiring writer? We would love to see it!

Or maybe owning a garden room where you can nurture your creative spark is your long-held dream. In which case what would your writing hideaway look like?

It’s often said that everyone has a good book in them, so if you’re struggling to get it down on paper perhaps it’s because you haven’t found the right writing cabin. Maybe it’s time take a look at our collection of garden retreats and start planning that bestseller.