With coffee shops closed for dine-in service, there aren’t many places left to get freelance writing work done. Even co-working spaces — a popular coffee shop alternative for digital creatives — are mostly closed during the pandemic.

Suddenly, our homes are now also our only offices. And whether you’re a freelancer or even a full-time employee now working remotely, you’ve likely had to adjust to this new way of living. The separation between home and work has become incredibly blurred.

One way to stay motivated, focused, and on top of your freelance work is to set up a dedicated writing nook. 

The basics

To get started, pick one area of your home that you could feasibly use as a workspace. This could be as simple as a desk in your bedroom, a specific spot at your kitchen table, or even an entire room/home office if that’s realistic for you. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy!

You’ll also want some essentials, such as:

  • A desk/table
  • A functioning computer — with an accessible power outlet/charger/etc.
  • Stationery (notebooks, pens, pencils, highlighters, sticky notes)
  • Office supplies (stapler, scissors, tape, pen holder, organizers)
  • Adequate lighting (natural or artificial)
  • Headphones, a speaker, or a white noise machine

Try to make do with what you have —like a table/desk you already own, your existing laptop, or whatever headphones you have on hand. (You can also check out a past article on the blog called Freelance Writing on a Budget, which gets into the specifics of financially starting out as a writer.) Get the basics down — the items you really need to get work done — and upgrade your office equipment as you go along, if necessary. 

One important consideration, from a practical perspective, is how you’ll keep audible distractions to a minimum in your new workspace. A white noise machine left playing in the background can help drown out distracting sounds, or you could try playing classical music (either via a speaker or your personal headphones). 

And no matter how small the space, there are many simple steps you can take to make it feel a bit cozier. 

I always find myself referring back to a book I’ve discussed on the blog before called The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking. The book breaks down the concept of hygge, which “has been translated as everything from ‘the art of creating intimacy’ to ‘cosiness of the soul’ to ‘taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things.’”

For me, hygge just means creating an environment that feels welcoming, warm, and comfortable. So, here are some tips for creating that sense of coziness in your writing nook:

Create cozy lighting

A big theme in The Little Book of Hygge is the importance of mood lighting. For example, something as simple as lighting a candle at the dinner table can seriously elevate the experience and make everyone feel a bit more at home.

Wiking writes, in his chapter on Light

“You guessed it. Bring out the candles. … However, you may also want to consider your electric-light strategy. Usually, several smaller lamps around the room a more hyggeligt light than one big lamp set in the ceiling. You want to create small caves of light around the room.”

Similarly, when you’re creating your dedicated workspace, try to strike a balance between keeping the room well-lit but also with a homey feel. You obviously want to have enough light to be able to see your desk — especially your notebook and laptop — in order to get work done.

But you also don’t want to have the space kept super bright with harsh, fluorescent lighting. It shouldn’t feel clinical or cold — it should have a certain level of coziness. (You’re still at home, after all!) So break out your favourite candle or bring in a lamp from another room that you really love.

(Alternatively, if you’re someone who really thrives with plenty of light, you might want to set your writing nook up next to a big window with lots of natural lighting. Personally, I do better with low lighting, but everyone is different!)

Get a really nice cup of coffee

Another big focus of The Little Book of Hygge is coffee. And I don’t know about you, but my writing habits and my caffeine consumption are definitely intertwined. Whether I’m working away at home or at a local cafe, I’ve pretty much always got a coffee going beside me. 

But during quarantine, those habits have certainly changed. Here are a few of my favourite ways to get that caffeine fix while working from my writing nook:

  • Find a way to make your own coffee that feels luxurious and elevated. For me, this means taking some time the night before to set up some cold brew in my French Press. That way, in the morning, I’ve got a really tasty, strong cup of coffee waiting for me.
  • Support your local coffee shops. Another great way to stay caffeinated is by purchasing takeout or delivery from a local shop. Obviously, this may not be financially feasible as a daily habit, but it’s always a nice treat. And while Starbucks is great, try to find small businesses in your area that may really be struggling during this pandemic. Getting money into the hands of local business owners is a great way to help your city’s economy. (And you get to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee, too! Win-win.)

If you’re not a coffee-lover, substitute in whatever beverage you prefer, such as a nice cup of tea. The importance is less on the coffee itself and more so on the act of maintaining comforting rituals in combination with your writing practice.

Keep your desk clear & organized

Lastly, when it comes to creating that perfect writing nook, it’s crucial to keep things tidy. You don’t need to go overboard with complex organizational systems, but just make a deliberate effort to make sure things stay clean.

Keep things like binders and folders handy to store important documents/sheets/etc. Nothing is more distracting than a desk covered in random papers, pens, and other materials. 

If your writing nook is cluttered and disorganized, you won’t be able to get much done. In fact, just looking at your desk could send you into a spiral of anxiety and even make you dread the entire writing process.

To make this a regular habit, at the end of each writing session, make a point of putting everything away — file away loose documents, put your pen back into its holder, and close/put away your laptop. Maintain this habit every time you write, and pretty soon, staying organized will feel like second nature.

Wrapping up

There you have it — the basics of setting up your very own writing nook that feels cozy and pleasant to work in. As always, be sure to follow the Writing Advice blog to stay notified of each new article.

And let me know in the comments: What’s your favourite way to spruce up a workspace?

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