Thursday, 9 July 2009

Looking back and looking forwards - John Dougherty

Looking back: longtime readers of An Awfully Big Blog Adventure may recall that in the last post of 2008 I got all excited about my new shed; but I did admit to worrying that perhaps all it would do would be to rob me of excuses for being so thoroughly unproductive and inefficient. "I'll let you know how it works out," I said.

Well, we're more than 6 months in now, and so far my investment is, thankfully, looking pretty sound. Yes, it has pointed up a bit of a tendency to procrastinate - it's often as much as a couple of hours between getting the kids off to school and actually sitting down in the shed to write - but once I get down there it's like entering a different reality.

Really, that's only slightly hyperbolic. Let me give you this illustration: on Monday, I spent most of the working day trying to sort out a problem with my internet banking (which, by the way, is still not resolved, and if anyone from the Newcastle Building Society is reading this, I'd be grateful if you could get someone from the Knows What They're Talking About Department to make the phone call I was told would be coming on Tuesday. Thanks). At about 3:00pm I decided I ought to at least pretend to do some work, though I was pretty certain I was too wound up to get anything useful done. So I stomped bad-temperedly down to the shed, opened the door (huffing and tutting), stepped inside...

...and something changed. My shoulders unknotted - not completely, but noticeably - and some of the tension, at least, just lifted. My mind let go of the problem with the building society, and took hold of the story I'd come down to pretend to focus on.

I was At Work.

I could say an awful lot about the benefits of the shed - the Wordshed, as a friend of mine has named it - but I think this encapsulates what makes it special, what makes it My Writing Place, and why I was right to spend all that money on it. When I enter it, my mind knows why I've come, and just slips into that mystical Zone that writers sometimes talk about. All the stuff that gets in the way when I try to write in the house, all those other jobs I should be doing, just don't exist while I'm in the shed. When I'm there, I am A Writer, and Writing Is What I Do. And consequently, I do more writing.

Looking forwards:
Hard to believe, I know, but An Awfully Big Blog Adventure will be one year old tomorrow! Hoorah! And we're having a party - a virtual party to which you're all invited. There'll be virtual cake and balloons, posts by some very special guests, and updates throughout the day - including some posts for which the comments will be the important part. So please drop by from time to time during the day, and remember: if you need a displacement activity on July 10th, An Awfully Big Blog Adventure is the place to come.

And finally, a plug: we're often quite reticent about plugging our new books here on ABBA, and perhaps we shouldn't be. So just in case anyone is interested, my latest, Jack Slater and the Whisper of Doom, was published last Thursday. Do keep a look out for it - and if you'd like the chance of a signed copy, it'll be one of (at last count) 35 titles being offered as prizes in the great Awfully Big Blog Adventure Birthday Giveaway.

See you tomorrow!


Elen Caldecott said...

I want a shed!
The living room table - for some reason - just doesn't whisk me away to The Writing Place...especially when my other half is playing Wii Golf!

Anonymous said...

Lovely to read this post, John, and congratulations on the Wordshed. But as well as being jealous, I'm nosy. What's inside your shed?

And - important, this - how do you keep warm when it's cold. Not sure a shed in the far North would be quite the same, though I believe that author Damian Harvey over in Blackpool has a Writer's Shed too, and he's surviving.

Keren David said...

Ah, 3pm...the perfect time to get to work...until the children come home from school at approximately 4pm.

John Dougherty said...

Get a shed, then, Elen! Don't procrastinate a moment longer! It really is worth it.

Penny, the shed is insulated - it's got a foil lining between two wooden panels - and it also has a wood burner. so even in the depths of winter it's toasty warm. When it snowed back in Feb, I was able to imagine myself as some kind of wilderness pioneer every time I popped out to the woodpile with my little axe. Very romantic!

John Dougherty said...

Oh - and inside, besides the wood burner, I just have a table and a chair. I may put in a picture or two at some point. And there's a little shelving unit with a couple of handy things for the hot tub on it (yes, we have a hot tub. And, no, I wasn't able to offset it against taxes). But I keep it deliberately sparse to minimise distraction!

Anonymous said...

You couldn't even swing it with the tax man that, as a writer, you really needed to FEEL THAT EXPERIENCE when your heroes get into hot water then, John? I am now doubly jealous!

Gillian Philip said...

I think I need a shed too. With a hot tub, I like that bit. I am entranced by this description and I bet the lack of internet helps too (at least I assume it lacks internet?) Um. Just building a house so it may be a stretch to persuade the husband we need a shed too... I'm going to start right now.

Linda Strachan said...

Yes, the shed, What would I do without it?
I find the exact same thing happens to me, John, my only real task is to make it out the door and across to the shed. That has become the difficult bit but once there it is exactly as you described, like turning on a switch. And even if I only have half an hour I have learnt that it is worth going out there, whatever the weather.
And Penny, in southern Scotland I am considerably further north than you and my shed has been warm and cosy with an electric radiator heater which I only need to use in the depths of winter. If there is even a little sunshine in the winter the shed creeps up happily to 60+ degrees with no heating and in the summer I need to keep the doors and windows open to keep cool.
Inside I have a desk + chair, a comfy chair, a shelving unit and all sorts of personal odds and ends that I treasure, but my husband would never have in the house! It is my space - I love it.

John Dougherty said...

Lack of internet - absolutely! It makes a huge difference.

Can't you sneak the shed in, Gillian, while your husband is preoccupied building the lounge or something?

Jon M said...

Love the shed, I want one! I notice from the photograph that you cycle to work too, very health conscious!