Why books provide the perfect backdrop to a creative workspace

AND COFFEE OF COURSE!

A workspace in progress

At the moment I spend most of my time working at our kitchen table. I have two young children and by the time I scoop them out to nursery and race back to the house I simply lift my laptop, sit down, and try to make the most of the little bit of child-free time I have. For the last year our kitchen garden has been a work in progress but we recently painted the walls (finally some colour) and I love looking up at my bookcases and my garden; so much nicer than looking down at the sight of toys on the floor!

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My typical workday

At the moment I work two days a week as I slowly make the transition from full-time employment and maternity leave to the world of freelancing. This means that I have to make every minute count. I usually write a to do list and empty my inbox the evening before, so that I can get on with the tasks in hand. When I’m editing I like to work fast and then get up and have a walk around (usually a walk to the bottom of our garden to empty the compost) and then a calm and steady final edit to make sure I haven’t missed anything. When I’m working on ideas I often take my notebook outside or into my sunny living room to give my brain a fresh perspective and get away from the computer.

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Books, Books, Books

My house is bursting at the seams with books. As an editor I would frequently sift through them when trying to come up with ideas in the same way that some people search on the internet. With a mix of old and new editions and lots of different genres: literary fiction, philosophy, politics, art, photography, French science fiction (my husband’s) and kids’ story books, I’m reminded that there is always another way to think about things, allowing me to constantly seek new inspiration.

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Getting out of the house

I used to spend a lot of my time in author meetings and my favourite places to have these were the British Library, the British Museum, or the LSE Bookshop. Authors always loved these environments and after meetings I would typically sit down with my laptop and finish my day. I love the buzz of other people working around me, but also the quiet and the sense of history that these places bring, as well as the secret hope that someone near me might be working on the next great literary masterpiece.

Finding what suits you

I have lots of friends who can spend all day every day working in a café, which I used to try to do just to get me out of the house. I often found it very distracting though, especially when I was working on complicated proposals, writing, or had to make phone calls to authors. When I discovered our amazing local library where I used to live in Dalston it transformed my working day. I would spend half the day at home and half in the library (which is free of course – a massive bonus). I loved getting out of the house and being around other people, but also the quiet sense of industry there. Cafés are great for lots of people but when I was working full time remotely the local library was a lifesaver!

What I can’t live without

Very simply: good coffee, good wifi (and books!). A close friend bought us a Nespresso machine as a wedding present and it is what keeps me sane at home.

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Tools of the trade

I always work with a notebook by my side to jot down lists and ideas. Every few days I edit all my lists and ideas on a new page and start again. I love having beautiful notebooks and it is always the go-to present from my friends (my current favourite was a gift from The Hoxby Collective). I can never throw any of them away though as I’m too scared they contain ideas that I will never remember again, so I could probably fill an entire bookcase full of my scrappy notebooks.

Emma Hutchinson is an Associate at The Hoxby Collective and a freelance writer, editor, translator and soon-to-be life coach. She previously worked remotely for ten years as the Senior Commissioning Editor in philosophy at Polity Press, and is mum to two hectic but very lovely boys, ages one and four.

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