Sometimes I prop open the door to the shed, just a little, to allow cool air to circulate or to give Sam, my dog, easy access. For now, Sam is playing in the yard and I am at the desk. Most of the time when I’m working here, the door is closed. Today, however, I allow a little of the outside to come in for anyone and anything to enter. It’s a way of sharing the shed, you might say. I like the thought of this, the energy inside becoming communal when I release what I’ve written here. It simply floats out from the crack in the open door.
I used to write a lot in coffee shops. Still do, now and then. But since building the shed and taking occupancy, I have come to covet what it gives me more than any other place. I wrote nearly every word of my memoir in essays, The Consequence of Stars, in this space. Although the writing was done here, the book’s cover was created somewhere in New York by the artists at Adelaide Books. Yet, the cover would never have been without what was created here in the shed.
My novel, A Well-Respected Man was conceived in the shed. The genesis of the idea and the shaping of it happened at this desk. And now, on the cloth chair in the shed’s corner, along with the urging of some readers of the novel, I have toyed with the idea of a sequel. It would pick up years later and would include another journey, not unlike the long train ride in the first novel. Then again, it may not. It might be first person. It might not. I’ve written a first paragraph many times, over and over, hoping to discover the tone, the feel, to find the heart of what it is I want to say. It remains illusive. Still, someday inside this small space, it will come to me.
The shed is also for reading. I’ve begun Transit by Rachel Cusk, Knausgaard’s last book in the My Struggle series, and I’m re-reading one of my MFA mentor’s books, Kerrigan in Copenhagen. I don’t read when I’m writing, but it’s hard not to. I so love good words. Will these books and many others on the shelves here influence what I write? How can they not? Great prose seeps into the bloodstream. There is no way to avoid their effect and maybe no clear path to understanding it. How were the Beatles not influenced by Chuck Berry or Elvis? Not to equate myself with Paul and John, but influences are unavoidable. And here in the shed those influences are like ghosts, hovering all around me.
A silly plastic statue of Jack Kerouac sits on a shelf behind me. It was a gift last Christmas. The Dharma Bums and On The Road will forever be part of me. Kerouac’s words were some of the first to move me when I began to experience what powerful prose could do to a reader. So, Jack will always be a fundamental chapter in my creative life. Those who know me know this well. Still, I wonder what Jack would have thought of the statue. Would he have laughed? Would he have scorned it? Of course I will never know. But the statue remains here in the shed because I like to think that Jack, when he was at his best, would have enjoyed the irony of reducing a Beat Generation icon, someone who so rejected materialism, to an eight-inch tall plastic figurine. Somehow, I believe, Jack would have found the humor in this.
These are little peeks inside the shed, glimpses on a morning when the air is crisp and my thoughts are clear. I sigh and lean back in the desk chair, and pushing through the open door is Sam. She likes it here, too, and finds a spot next to me to curl up on the cool tile floor. The shed is my sanctuary, a place where dogs can rest, where words are harbored, and where nothing is abandoned or left to be forgotten. It is not a place to hide, to shelter away, or to become reclusive, but rather where the door is always—in reality or metaphorically,—left a little ajar.