A Shed of One's Own
Updated: Jan 10
Or Pride in the Makeshift While Observing the Wise.
As a sometimes-creative individual, having a proper environment to make stuff or think about making stuff is absolutely critical to be productive. The problem tends to be that I am utterly abysmal at providing myself that sort of environment, for the most part. My brain seems to only produce the best work when in absolute fucking chaos, which, obviously leads to a few issues in producing work without getting twitchy. Call it being nervous, self-sabotaging, frazzled, all-of-the-above, whatever. I've always tended to move at a moment's notice while working so that I can handle a number of different fires in various states of flame and decay. But I also like to sprawl and have a number of things at my fingertips. Oy.
Whether fingernail-chewing a student's grade or a difficult video edit, among even more serious issues, I often find myself moving through various rooms of my house and giving different challenges designated spaces for me to think about them, while keeping them all in mind at the same time. My wife and pets hate this, but also tolerate many other idiosyncratic functions of my frenetic and perpetual thinking.
Anyway, rarely have I had the ability or nay, the necessity, of setting aside a space for all of my ideas and trying to put them into some concrete form. Moving to mostly working from home as a college professor put this need in stark perspective. One of my brain's worst triggers not to be able to think is to hear noise that scrambles other, in my estimation, more pertinent information. I'm always juggling divided attention. So, trying to record an instructional video while my lovely dogs whine at a closed door, or worse yet, a cat continually rubbing his butthole near my nose while graduate students pitch projects, requires a baffling amount of patience that I often do not have.
So, with serious effort, over the past year, I have tried diligently to do what I can to give myself a space that I HAVE to work in, full stop, no excuses. There are two sheds on our property. We use one for lawn and garden implements (and a budding nest of red squirrels renting the loft). We decided to use the second shed as my office. Honestly, getting a dedicated space of my own was a bit destabilizing for me initially, because in many respects, it's a step toward producing work or it wasn't worth doing.
I am not handy in the slightest. I have a few very handy and helpful friends that are gracious enough to trade their acute skills and abilities for my unending questions about fringe sports trivia. Usually, a six-pack helps. At any rate, I often found myself in awe of the processes I watched and held hammers for. I thought I'd document that here, to some degree. After a year, it's still not finished but it's coming closer every day. And I'm learning to value that even more, because it'll probably never be finished, anyway.
Over a year ago now, right before I got married, and a little bit before 2020 became ten years long, we started making serious strides toward getting me a design studio, hangout zone, and place to leave as many problems as I can. A big first step came on New Year's Eve, 2019, when my good friend Shane rigged electrical for the existing shed. I got intimately acquainted with a shovel and helped Shane dig a trench for running conduit and romex from our power panel. Shane also shouldered the true skill and burden of rigging wire and making it work. I helped by looking stupid with a light bulb (all pictured above).
The next big step was one I that took on, for the most part: insulation. Most of what I learned is that it's itchier than wool chaps in summer if you get it all over your arms. And that holding things over your head while trying to use a staple gun is an exercise in disappointment. Here it is pictured above in my first iteration of the shed as an office, which I'm sure read more to my virtual students as a good place to hide a body than a professional design setup.
My good friend and local neighborhood party man, Sean, did the wonderful drywall work (along with Shane, Derreck, and Nick getting it started). We had one sheet break over our heads because it had too much tension but after a few days, Sean had everything looking seamless. I always learn a little bit more each time Sean comes and blares Nirvana at me while performing any number of contracting services. We also had a blast using a sawzall to cut out the original storage loft to make the drywall process easier. Figuring out storage solutions for the space is a top priority for me moving forward.
Probably the most crucial (and expensive) part of this shed remodel to date was the heating and cooling unit that Sean also installed. It's currently warmer in my office than the house.
Shane spent some time cutting in the walls for me with basic grey paint and while Robyn and I finished off the fill for the walls and ceiling. Painting is really meditative though I often feel my hands giving out as I over-grip everything I hold (both figuratively and literally). One of my stretch goals for the shed office is to eventually curate a painted mural on the back wall that incorporate the very prominent heating and cooling unit. It was at this point that Robyn and I agreed that I needed to start moving some things in for the upcoming semester (roughly a week away) before investing more time and money in the space. At least it looks like a slightly more professional place to hide a body now. On camera, anyway...
I got to face my electrical fears when I had to shut off the breaker and corral some outlets into their faceplates (which only took two trips to the department store to get the right stuff)! Luckily, no electrocution this time around and none of my electronics have blown up just yet.
So, here's where we stand today. It's not complete, but it's getting there. And I feel like it's time I took a bit more pride in the journey of "getting there" as opposed to actually arriving. As a neurotic individual, finishing this office is nigh impossible, since my tastes and interests seem to ebb and flow on a daily if not by-the-minute basis. But I am happy to have a space that I am working to call my own. A space to lose a little time in.
More to come on the shed office (currently dubbed the HomeSHED) as I'm able to update it. I am looking forward to getting some carpet and trim installed eventually, as well as wrapping the plywood shelf in something a bit more palatable. For the time-being, I'll be recording and editing videos in here, using a Peavey practice amp as a speaker. I'm excited.