Quirky Quills: Six Strange Places Famous Writers Have Penned Their Epic Novels

Six people who needed odd but specific environments to create.

Krista Bennett


“The Isolator,” Invented by Hugo Gernsback @ Wikimedia Commons, Free Media Repository

Many famous authors have reported finding inspiration in unexpected places. What is considered inspirational surroundings varies greatly from one writer to another. Creativity is a highly individualized process.

What may be inspiring for one writer might not work for another. Ultimately, the most inspirational surroundings for writing are those that help the writer tap into their creativity, focus, and unique voice.

Many eccentric personalities found quirky locations and situations to pen their works.

Following are six examples of the strangest I’ve found:

1. In a Cave.

Mark Twain wrote many works in a cave in Hannibal, Missouri, near his childhood home. The cave, originally known in the region as “McDowell’s Cave, was the inspiration for Twain’s “McDougal’s Cave,” which plays an important role in the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

The cave extends approximately three miles, has four entrances, and 260 passages. Young Sam Clemens spent many days exploring the caverns and passages as a child. These childhood adventures would show up later in five of his books. Like when Tom and Becky got in a tangle with some bats in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and got lost in the vast underground labyrinth trying to escape them.

The cave where Mark Twain wrote his classic novels was renamed in his honor in 1880.

2. In a Garden Shed.

Roald Dahl, known for the children’s classics “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda,” wrote many books in a small, cramped shed at the bottom of his garden. He said the shed, filled with odd artifacts and curiosities, inspired him.

His writing routine was to head to his shed in the garden, where he would slip into a large sleeping bag pulled up over his belly to his chest. He said it was to keep his feet and legs warm. Then, he would sharpen six pencils, light a cigarette, and start writing.