How Tiny Spaces Help Famous Writers Find Their Muse

Most of us think of a tiny house as a place to free ourselves from debt, from want, and from material burdens. Perhaps just as important is their ability to free the mind. You’re probably familiar with Thoreau, who sought refuge in a tiny wooded sanctuary to reflect on the nature of simple living. He wasn’t alone in his approach, and in fact plenty of famous writers built tiny secluded structures to escape distraction and let their creative juices flow. Mike Lescarbeau described the creative writing process as “a lonely vigil interrupted infrequently by great thoughts, whose origins are almost always a mystery” and author Joseph Heller described it as a “controlled daydream, a directed reverie”. In their quest to avoid the dreaded writer’s block, many authors develop strange habits to fuel their writing and regardless of the exact recipe that defines their process, the need for a distraction-free workplace seems to be a common ingredient.

Ann Handley’s Tiny House

Ann Handley wrote one of my go-to books on the craft, “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content“, a book I keep on hand next to Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” and Stephen King’s “On Writing” for reference. By day she writes about the latest marketing trends for MarketingProfs and she does most of this from her “work shed” as she describes it. The one room building has an open ceiling and french doors that lead to a small porch, where she envisions unwinding with a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other after a long day of work.


Like many folks who work from home, Ann found it challenging to concentrate at times, with the laundry machine running, people wandering in and out, and a multitude of other distractions working against her. Something as simple as a stray sock on the floor might lead her to the laundry hamper, which in turn routes her to sorting the next load of colors. She hired a builder to construct the 11 x 12 foot space, which includes only the bare necessities, a desk, stool, and lamp and it serves its purpose of providing a distraction-free space to work. Learn more about her space here.

Alistair Humphreys “Shed of My Own”

As a writer who bounced around from spare bedrooms to sofas, and even the toilet while writing and editing, Alistair knew he needed a specific workplace of his own to really concentrate on his work. Like other writers and artists looking to carve their own style of cubicle, he needed very little – just a computer and a quiet place to work. He decided to buy a kit, recruited a friend who had a bit of building knowledge, and set to work.



There’s not much to the interior, just a desk, a computer, and a few books and posters, maybe a bottle of single-malt scotch for those days when the muse runs dry and needs lubricating. You can learn more about Alastair’s vision and building process that went into his shed here.

Roald Dahl’s “Gipsy House”

Roald Dahl spent many hours crafting his stories in this quaint little house. It includes a simple arrangement, with a comfortable chair that has an attached writing table and everything within arms reach so he could focus on the task at hand – crafting great stories that would remain popular for centuries to come.



Michael Pollan’s Writing Hut

The well known author of several books on food and eating gets most of his work done in a tiny writing hut in his backyard. He decided to build the workspace after leaving New York City to work on his own and realizing he needed a different type of home office to pursue his career. As he studied carpentry and roof lines he came to think about how humans interacted with buildings differently, and it’s there he wrote “A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams“.


In an in-depth interview with NPR he explains how this philosophy came about and he explains the personification of buildings in one discussion:

“Well, buildings are expressions of humans, of us. And we think of them in very figurative terms. I mean, they have eyes, windows are eyes on a building. And the door is the mouth or the opening through which things pass.”


Neil Gaimen’s Writing Shed

The famous horror/fantasy author crafts his terrifying stories from this humble space you see. He values living simply, and serves as a judge in the Shed of the Year competition, a microarchitecture contest held annually in the UK.



Virginia Woolf’s Writing Cabin

Located at the Monk’s House in Sussex England, the famous Victorian author had this tiny structure moved from its original location where she was too distracted by her husband picking apples, children scurrying around, or even the church bells ringing. She chose a location at the far end of the garden, under a chestnut tree and next to a churchyard wall, which provided a quieter refuge for her writing.


For the rest of us – The Writer’s Haven

Perhaps you’re an artist or writer looking for your own quiet sanctuary to pursue your own inspired vision. Well it just so happens there’s a company that manufactures a suitable tiny space for your needs. Based in Vermont, Jamaica Cottage Shop produces the “Writers Haven” which sells for a very reasonable $9,000. Buyers can choose between two sizes, 12′ x 14′ or 12′ x 18′ and can configure numerous window and roofing options. Although the interior remains sparsely appointed, the floorplan does include a small daybed, perfect for a break when the writer’s block strikes.




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