The Nomadic Academic – What constitutes your perfect working space?

Organising a productive working space is often complicated by the nomadic lifestyle of the student. Traveling between shared halls and silent libraries before heading back home for several weeks of summer holiday, how can you be sure that you have the space you need to study well at all times? There are two criteria that are essential. Firstly, a comfortable place that you are happy to stay in for an extended period of time. Secondly, the tools and materials required for the job.

 1. The University Accommodation

If you are the kind of person who likes to settle in for intense 12 hour periods of writing (sometimes followed by intense 12 hour periods of daytime sleeping…) then you may be perfectly suited to working from your college flat, as books can be kept open and ready next to coffee pots and bowls of soggy, but nutritious, cereal. However we all need a break from time to time, so it may be a good idea to set aside a different place in your flat, at a distance from your computer, that you can move to for a nice cup of tea, a gaze out of the window and perhaps some gentle whittling if you are that way inclined.

 2. The Library

As human beings, we unfortunately have no tangible way of marking our territory (which wouldn’t then result in ostracism from both our academic institution and peer group). We are also terribly superstitious creatures who can feel quite put out when, on entering the library or IT suite, we find some little upstart using ‘our’ computer. In this situation it is worth remembering that a) all your work is saved to your USB stick and not the computer in the corner that has the best natural light; b) who needs vitamin D anyway; and c) glaring at the person until they go away only costs both you and them valuable study time. The wonderful thing about library working is that you are largely protected from the distraction of people you know and objects you love. Plug in some earphones (at a modest volume), take advantage of books you wouldn’t have access to at home and please save every last thing to that trusty little USB stick for she is truly your best friend.

 3. The Home Town

So many books, so little space in the holdall amongst the collected debris of an academic year. So if you intend to write during your summer break then a useful strategy can be to take home hard copies of primary texts (checking library fees and availability) while photocopying required secondary texts (within copyright laws) organised inside a hard folder. If you are a good home-worker, then you could create a dedicated space from the get go. Or, if library working better suits you, then an enjoyable alternative can be a coffee shop, providing you with a bustling but anonymous venue and pints of milky stimulants.

What arrangement works best for you? And what stationary/materials/inanimate objects must you absolutely have around you in order to turn thoughts into writing?

Take care, Poppy

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