How to Set Up a Cozy Writing Nook During Quarantine

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?

4 Game-Changing Books to Read While Cooped up Inside

These are scary and uncertain times.

For many of us, practising social distancing is the new reality — at least for the foreseeable future.

And while you’re cooped up inside, one way to take solace is in a good book.

This post will explore four different books I’ve read in recent years that were legitimate game-changers for me.

Whether in terms of improving my finances, decluttering my home, or developing my personal growth, these titles have shifted the way I live my life.

So if you want to try and be productive during these periods of anxiety, consider checking out one of these books (even if you have to purchase an ebook due to store/library closures).

I’m linking to them via the Apple Books platform for ease of reference, but you can surely find them in other places (and I’m not being paid any affiliate marketing fees — these are my genuine recommendations).

1. The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money

Written by Chelsea Fagan and designed by Lauren Ver Hage, this is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their financial health.

Especially if you happen to be a millennial woman, this book is written is very approachable terms.

As someone who is truly horrific with math, this book broke complicated financial topics like budgeting or investing down to a level I could genuinely understand.

It’s still nuanced and interesting, but if you’re a true beginner at personal finance, this book is a great option.

After reading it a couple of years ago, I gradually implemented changes like developing a weekly/monthly budget, creating a debt repayment plan, and setting/meeting savings goals.

Since making those changes, I’ve managed to pay off over $3,000 in consumer debt, save up $5,000 in personal high-yield savings accounts, and even start investing in a TFSA (no matter how small the deposits!).

I now understand where my money is going, and I feel empowered knowing how to manage my finances.

The Financial Diet is a larger brand, too, including their blog and YouTube channel. I’m actually now a regular columnist at the blog, and have had several articles of mine turned into YouTube videos for their Making it Work series (see here and here).

So if you’re interested in the book, be sure to check out their digital resources, too!

2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Written by Marie Kondo, this best-seller has brought minimalism to the masses.

And, speaking of my column at The Financial Diet blog, I’ve actually already written an entire article about this book: see 6 Ways My Life Has Improved Several Years After Completing The KonMari Method.

Check out the article linked above if you want my full thoughts, but in short, if you’re someone looking to organize your home, this is arguably one of the best books out there.

It’s written in a clear and concise way, and the principles developed by Kondo are genuinely life-changing. Check it out if decluttering is one of your goals while practising social distancing!

3. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well

Written by Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, this is another global best-seller.

In essence, it breaks down the Danish concept of hygge, which the author defines as “…when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.”

A rather nebulous concept, Wiking posits that hygge is the reason why Denmark often ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world.

It takes a while to understand the idea, but by the end of the book, you’ll take away your own personal definition.

I stumbled upon this title a couple of years ago at a bookstore, and it was a super pleasant read.

The physical book itself is beautiful, with gold detailing on its cover and stunning photographs throughout.

The pages aren’t text-heavy, so it almost reads like a grown-up picture book: focused more on simplicity and aesthetics than communicating dense writing.

Definitely give it a read if you need something comforting and uplifting (especially during this global pandemic). You’ll be sure to find actionable steps to living a happier life.

4. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Lastly, this self-help title by Eckhart Tolle is probably the closest thing that I have to a bible.

While I consider myself to be agnostic, this book has a great mix of spiritual and intellectual concepts.

Tolle bounces from referencing Jesus Christ to the Buddha to Descartes…and the result is incredible.

He doesn’t align himself with a single religion or belief system, but rather expands his idea of consciousness to encompass all different sects from across the world.

It’s been one of the most profound reads of my entire life, and I regularly return to it.

Particularly potent in this chaotic climate of 2020, Tolle speaks straight wisdom about the preciousness of the present moment.

Give it a read if you’re feeling particularly anxious, lost, or despondent right now. You won’t regret it.

Conclusion

This list was a bit of a departure from my usual Writing Advice series, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it nonetheless.

Give the blog a follow if you’re interested in more content about writing/reading in general.

I hope that you’re all staying safe and healthy during this chaotic time, and thanks for giving this post a read.