It was sometime in 2016 when I became aware of Chuck Wendig’s writing shed. Quickly, I learned writing sheds are a total thing. I coveted them, Wendig’s specifically (you never forget your first?), but believed it was totally out of the question for me for the foreseeable future.
But the idea was in there, percolating and tantalizing as I continued to work in the disorganized, crowded, poorly suited space of our home’s third bedroom.
So, on a whim, I mentioned the idea of a shed (and how we would get our guest room back if we moved the office out of the main house) and to my surprise, no one scoffed at my dream. I had everyone in the household on board. I just had to… get the thing.
Without any knowledge of how I was going to pay for it, just that it was going to be interesting, I put down a deposit using part of my royalty advance for FLOTSAM in November of 2017. Scheduled delivery for early Spring 2018 (with no clear indication of what end of spring that meant). No going back now (well, I could have gotten a refund if we canceled, but…), the shed was going to happen!
I already mentioned I had no idea how this thing was going to be paid for. In late November, two friends came to me and asked if I would agree to layout their new health and wellness book in time for a New Year’s launch. My payment would be a share of the royalties. I agreed, mostly because they were friends and I wanted to help them make the best product they could. Then, due to their schedule constraints, the MS I received for layout was incomplete. I’m also well-versed in the subject of the book, so I volunteered to promote myself from layout artist to contributing author.
Let’s just say the timing on the book’s release was fantastic. It released few days late but by the time it went live, we had readers clamoring for it. The first royalty payment, from just the direct digital sales, covered the remaining cost of the shed (I’d also been putting aside savings from the day I placed the order).
One random project proposed by friends, and the shed was paid for. It’s so serendipitous, I almost can’t even.
So! The Containment Unit!
Those who were subscribed to my newsletter earlier in the year saw the detailed stages of the process. It progressed well whenever the next step was within my power to enact. It slowed whenever we had to wait on someone else outside our sphere of enthusiasm. I had hoped to be working in the space by June, latest, but there were a few curveballs that prevented that.
Phase One: Site Prep
We could have paid $895 for site prep, or I could prep it myself to their specifications. The building is 12 x 16 so the site needed to be a level gravel pit of 14 x 18. We decided it would go where the ill-conceived vegetable garden had been, so the first step was to break that down.
Well, really, the first step was to wait for the winter thaw.
When that finally happened in late February 2018, I donned galoshes and coat to disassemble chain link fence panels, pull up veggie roots, and cart garden soil to another spot in the yard. We held onto the small amount of garden gravel to add to the shed pit, but did end up spending a small fortune on New England Gray gravel. For what we can see of it now that it’s done–almost nothing–we could definitely have skimped on the gravel to save money. On the other hand, I do not regret doing the work myself instead of paying almost $900 for the shed crew to dump some gravel on the ground and plop the shed on top.
Digging the pit down to create a basin for leveling the gravel seemed like it took forever, and we had a couple pauses for some late winter snow. I was out there until the sun went down each night, sometimes a little after, getting as far as I could. Got some naaaassssty bruises from uncooperative wheelbarrows, and blisters you could see from space.
But we got it done! Filling in the gravel and leveling it was possibly my least favorite part of the whole process. It took forever to move that stuff around, and it was the hardest on my back. I thought we’d never get it level, or that we’d have to build up the west side of the pit even higher and spend double on gravel!
The delivery of the pre-built shed was entertaining as hell, and over so fast I was actually able to run home on my lunch hour one day and watch it happen! In less than 15 minutes, it was off the truck and in its final spot.
You may notice the ‘stray’ tree branch on the roof in many of my photos. That’s Frederick Shederick, and since he rode all the way to our house on the truck, then made it across the yard while the shed was tilted at 45º on the mule, we decided he could live there. He did blow away during the tornados (I’m getting to that), but we found him and put him back. I’m considering drying him out and wrapping him in a crochet sweater, then moving him inside the shed.
So the next step was to finish framing the inside! We boxed out the ‘attic’ and made sure the studs were all in place so we could add the insulation later. We finished that up in about a weekend. Now we’re at the end of April.
We then hired an electrician, who came out to get to work not long after. Unfortunately, it was after his first brief visit that tornados hit our area. Suddenly an electrician was a very busy person!
Add to that, our particular electrician’s truck was under a fallen tree, and it was a while before we saw him again. Late June, to be exact. While we waited, very little could happen, but the site and first of two electrical inspections by the town were completed.
He got enough done on his second visit that we could move to the next step: digging the ditch for the electric line to the main house. And, after the inspector came out a second time to see the way the wires were run through the studs from the box to the outlets, he gave us the go-ahead to put in the insulation.
Which was good, because the electrician didn’t show up again for another month or so! I was hoping to have the guest room ready to receive my sister-in-law for a visit in late July, but she had to camp on the pull-out sofa one more time.
Meanwhile we got the insulation and wall panels up, then built the lofts under which the LED down lights would be mounted. This coincided nicely with the next visit from the electrician (who brought help to make up time). They were just about done, and promised to be back the next day, but the helper was the only one who came back because our original electrician lost a family member who had been sick and hospitalized. 🙁 Thank goodness he had already enlisted and familiarized his cohort with the job, and he was able to finish up!
At the next opportunity, we closed up the remaining spots on the wall where we had left them open to access wiring for the lights and outlets, installed the through-wall air conditioner (which we really wished we’d had all summer!). I gave the place a good vacuuming, installed and finished the half-wall I’d built, and got to painting!
Painting took two days. Installing the flooring took two evenings after work, and then I squeezed in one loft top, finishing the other the next day. We cut and painted the trim over two humid days, then installed it when it was dry.
Then… that was it!
Except that wasn’t it. There were three IKEA trips over the next two weeks, and many more bruises, to get the furniture and assemble it.
I still have $10 in IKEA gift card (reimbursements from picking up internet orders) that I have no idea how I’m going to use because the thought of going back to IKEA any time soon gives me anxiety!
Because of inventory issues at IKEA, my husband’s side was ready about a week and a half before mine, but I got the desk set up as soon as I could, and got the walking treadmill I’ve wanted forever (and counter to every opinionated person’s prediction, I am not sick of it yet).
So, with furniture finally, finally built, computers moved (on a very busy weekend for my freelance work, as it turned out!), and with a brand new ‘no shoes!’ rule, life in the Containment Unit truly began!
The finishing touch is the privacy curtain mounted on the half wall. Less for true privacy than for sound quality on the tons of recordings I do out there. It’s built from black iron pipes and strung with IKEA curtain rings. I sewed the curtains from my previous recording backdrop on my side, and we got tapestries for my husband’s side that are based on the wallpaper in Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride.
Once I saw the loft spaces filled with equipment and supplies, I decided we also need to cover that potential eyesore, so I made custom fabric “tarps” that hook in place for easy access. I took a strip of that fabric to trim the dividing curtain, and we’re done!
Now we’ve been in the space for 6 months and it feels like home! I’ve gotten a lot of work done out here, including 24 podcast episodes, two revisions on SALVAGE (Peridot Shift Book Two), a handful of short stories, and lots of freelance graphic design projects (including cover layouts for a few of my Parvus Press siblings).
We both love working in there, especially together. It feels so nice and clean, and organized, and ours.
The only thing I’d intended but haven’t quite managed is to use the comfy corner chair to read other authors’ work. I use it to journal, proof read, take calls, and organize my tasks for the day, but I can’t seem to wrap my head around the idea of sitting still and reading when there’s work to be done. But that’s definitely not a failing of the shed!
I’ll finish up with a video tour I recorded after waiting forever to get the curtains in place (and then clean up the 6-month-lived-in space so it was presentable).