My Cabin in the Woods

Henry David Thoreau escaped to a cabin in aMassachusettswoods nearWalden Pond. Even in his era — long before today’s instruments of continuous distraction — he said most people lead lives of quiet desperation.

Thoreau (1817-1862) wrote about his culture’s soul-crushing routines. An abolitionist and a naturalist, in his book Walden he advocated simple living.

He lived and wrote in that Massachusettswoods for only two years. Thoreau also wrote during his time in prison for refusing to pay taxes to support the Mexican War. Behind bars, he wrote Civil Disobedience, which would influence the thinking of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. 

A Good Place for Escape

Thoreau found his cabin in the woods because he needed to get away to write. I also need to get away, if I am to write effectively.

I find my cabin wherever I can. Over the years, it has been a room in the basement, a quieter part of an airport terminal, a motel room, a restaurant, the bathroom in the middle of the night, and even a rock in theSinaiDesert.

Whatever gives us escape is a good place to write, whether in the backyard on a summer day, in the car waiting for the kids, or tucked in a spare bedroom closet. 

Writers need to get away, to think, to create. We can’t do it with distractions bashing our senses or with demands coming from everywhere. A writer needs his quiet space, and part of our task is to find that space. 

When we find it — whether it lasts for 15 minutes or a whole day — it is good space. It is our cabin in the woods. Every writer needs one.

Roger Palms, a longtime Guild mentor, is the former editor of Decision magazine and the author of 15 books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles.


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