Writing houses

Undine had a nice post last week about “Writing House Fantasies,” in which she explores her fantasy about a little detached cottage in which to write.  Most writers’ houses, she writes, “They have a window or two, and a view that’s just beautiful enough to reward a glance without encouraging prolonged staring out the window. They have lots of natural wood surfaces, including tables or desks, and room for some books.”  She continues,

The writing house of my fantasy has electricity but not Internet access or phones. Sometimes, in the nineteenth-century version of my fantasy, I bend the rules a little and picture working in a screened-in porch attached to a beautiful old shingle-style house high above the water (a recent house I saw inspired this one). So–wood, light, air, and nature are the only real requirements.

Undine also includes links to a bunch of different writers’ cottages/studies:  Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, and Road Dahl, for example.  (Mark Twain’s unexpurgated autobiography?  Sign me up, please!  Can’t wait!)

I’ve always thought this was a great idea, ever since I saw Thomas Jefferson’s writing shed at Monticello (above right.)  At least, that’s my recollection of it.  Maybe I’m laying that trip on TJ, since that’s my fantasy.  It was really difficult to find a photo online of TJ’s writing house–as I recall, it wasn’t a part of our tour (we weren’t permitted inside) but it was pointed out to us.  But, it’s been 16 years since I was at Monticello.  Anyone who’s been there recently is invited to please enlighten me.

But until I get that replica of TJ’s shed built on the ranch, this one will have to do.

0 thoughts on “Writing houses

  1. I appreciate your interest in my photo of the Monticello grounds, but I only allow reposting of my images with prior permission, as stated on my site. I would be grateful if you would take down the photo. Thank you for your prompt attention. –Pam/Digging


  2. After going to the mountain town (a town specifically designed as a getaway for beleaguered urban residents), I made a decision to rent one of the woodsy cabins for a long weekend every semester, as a writing retreat. The cabin has all the things Undine talks about: good light, a writing table in front of a window that looks out on trees and a creek, and no internet access. $120 a night. Late October is the idea.


  3. I haven’t had my coffee yet, so…writing houses or fantasies of them won’t help as much as sitting in front of a computer and not getting up until something gets done. Some of these houses, both writers’ houses and writing houses, become monuments to canonical writers, more often than not men (e.g. Hemingway houses).

    More importantly, what else did TJ do on that shed? Do they show the slaves’ quarters on the tour?


  4. Sorry, Pam–I didn’t see the notice on your blog. I have replaced your photo with a photo of Jefferson’s writing shed that’s from a blog without a request not to reproduce the photos.

    Glad the rest of you like the treehouse.


  5. The treehouse is fabulous!

    Notorious: I have often been tempted to rent a cabin to write, let us know how it works out for you.

    Having never had a writing cabin, I can only fantasise about one. But I do find that when I travel, I seem to get lots of work done in hotel rooms, so somehow being away from home without distractions helps me focus. Don’t know if I could replicate that with a shed in my garden!


  6. This is actually feasible where I live: a lot of people have air conditioned one-room sheds in their backyard. My fantasy is making a little studio (with a kitchen and bath) and using it as a writing shed but also being able to rent it out.

    Please let me know if you know of a grant for writing sheds!


  7. For the inspired and handy this might get you started. The report was on NPR a few weeks back, talking about 70 sqr foot houses, built new in the low 4 figures and for far less if found and salvaged materials are used. Tip, my new very favorite place to shop and browse is the Habitat for Humanity salvage store. All sorts of used and discarded prefab materials are sold for pennies on the dollar. Best part, the proceits go to a worthy charity, not the a$$hat that runs Home Despot.

    Anyway, check out these houses.




  8. My backyard shed is no writing house, sad to say. Not even a window! But I have a pretty private deck and if I really want to feel away from it all, I can just go over the crest of the hill in back and plop myself down on my very own piece of the Canadian Shield.


  9. Place is important. I don’t know if I want a writing house.

    I really like writing in the reading rooms of National Library of the (former) Peoples Republic of Megalomania. There is something about the austere 80s wood paneling and ‘commie modern’ light fixtures that puts me in an elegiac mood. Also, I like having access to the handy reference works. The buffet has a reliable salami sandwich. Yum. Thats on the other side of the Atlantic.

    Right now I have to settle for the sun room off of our kitchen. Its got a windows on three sides (no curtains, the spouse tore them down in a fit of aesthetic rage) and you can see the great big maple tree in our backyard. Great morning sun. Now if I could just sit still for two hours every morning (before the other denizens of Chez L wake up) a guy could get some writing done around here.


  10. So that’s what the famous Historiann HQ looks like! I’m staying in a cottage that would do for a writing cottage on the specs above, but not writing. If I had to write everyday on the equivalent of this keyboard Francaise, no amount of amenity value would get that next chapter–make that paragraph–out! But, otherwise no complaints


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