Many of you know I have a writing shed. It’s an 8×10 studio in my backyard of my home outside Chicago. Nothing fancy, but it’s my singular space. I built the interior myself. It’s heated. And inside, I have surrounded myself with wonderful things. Not a lot, but special items that either inspire me, motivate, or simply make me feel creative.
In your artistic space—whether it be where you write, sketch, paint, sculpt, sing, post in your daily journal entries, or mediatate—are you surrounded by beauty, love, comfort, your muse? Without sounding too pretentious, is that space “holy?” Not necessarily a place associated with a divine power, although it can be, but rather a sacred space of pilgrimage? When you enter this place, you should melt into it. There should be transformation. And sometimes the “things” we allow inside that space are what can help do that for us.
Here is what is in my space.
My shed has many books, but not all of them, only the ones that truly inspire and stimulate my own work.
Art from loved ones gives me comfort. The photography is my son Casey’s work. The bowl is my son Graham’s. The tree painting is Jen’s, my stepdaughter. And there’s the pen Graham made. I use it to enter notes in a journal.
There are remembrances. The hat is from the trip to Cuba with my boys; a baseball I caught in the stands at old Comiskey Park along the first base side; a photo of myself with a number of writers honored at the Chicago Library Foundation’s Carl Sandburg Literary Awards. And an old typewriter just like the one in Hemingway’s home in Key West. I found it in an antique shop decades ago.
On my desk, a watercolor of Dylan Thomas’ writing shed above a boathouse in Wales, a gift from Leslie, my wife, that I will forever cherish.
Silly things, too, like a Jack Kerouac bobblehead. I spent three months in 2009 as the writer-in-residence, living at Kerouac’s Florida home. And against the wall, one of my two acoustic guitars. It’s the old Yamaha I bought when I was 16 with the money I’d saved from delivering the Pittsburgh Press newspaper to my neighbors. The guitar still sounds great.
Now and then I add items, but not many. Recently, I purchased an illustration, a print by my friend and colleague Nick Young. It’s a portrait of Albert Camus. Camus’ book The Stranger is on my top twenty list of all time. The framed print is on its way by UPS and there’s a spot on the shed’s wall waiting for it to arrive.
Fill your space with what invigorates, soothes, or stimulates you, and rid it of anything that takes you out of that experience. Build a place for solitude and daydreaming, where you can get out of your own head. Eliminate the distractions and embrace the creative.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” Take his advice and paint your space with all that triggers the beautiful, the daring, the expressive.