Every day is different. Some days I make work and I’m like, %22Oh man today really clicked. Everything is perfect and amazing and I’m so happy.%22 And some days I feel lonely.

—Olivia Emmer

Olivia Emmer

Olivia Emmer is a photographer whose work has been featured in USA Today, Edible Aspen, Plough to Pantry and more. She is a lover of mountains, adventure, vanlife and the handmade. She lives in Asheville with her husband, Jackson, and their dog, Willoughby.

What time do you get up?

8 a.m.


What time do you go to sleep?

11 p.m.


Is your creative work your full-time job?



Do you wait for inspiration before you begin or do you begin regardless of inspiration?

If I have flexibility in my schedule I’ll focus on the administrative pieces of my business when I’m not feeling inspired.


How many hours a day, on average, do you do your creative work?

Some days it’s 12 hours, some days it’s four. I worked a 9-5 job for almost ten years so, for better and worse, I really revel in making my own hours.

At what point are you done for the day

If I’m not on a deadline I like to be wrapped up before 8 p.m. I’m not super efficient after that hour.


Do you work primarily in the morning, afternoon, or evening?

Outdoor shoots are all in the morning or the evening. Indoor shoots tend to be in the morning or the afternoon. Admin happens anytime. Mid-morning is my favorite time. My mind feels so clean and full of potential from 9:30-11:30 a.m.


Do you have a daily routine for your creative work?

I don’t, but I do need more structure in my work. I love the flexibility of working for myself but I think I am most productive when I have routine. Some days I’m just making images. Some days I’m just at my computer culling, editing, reading, writing, updating my website, marketing my business, etc.


How does it start?

If I had one this is what I would want it to look like: cup of tea and read a section of the Sunday NYT (I get the paper on Sundays and it takes all week to read it). Light breakfast. Check my email and respond to people right away. Walk the dog. Then sit down in earnest and do work on the computer.


How does it end?

Make my to-do list for the next day. Clean my desk so I start the next day with a blank slate.

How has your creative process changed over the years?

The biggest thing has been getting comfortable even calling it a creative process. I love to learn and document and explore. Photography has always been part of how I do that. I never really thought about it as art. I’m trying to own that more these days.


Do you have a dedicated work space?

No, but I want one! My desk is in the dining room on what used to be the dining room table. It’s a beautiful and bright space but full of all the distractions of home (the dog, cooking, cleaning, etc).


If yes, do you have anything in your work space to encourage creativity?

Lots and lots of houseplants. Having a little green living thing on my desk makes me relaxed. My husband and I are big fans of painters tape. We always have rolls of it everywhere. If I find something in a magazine, or a great notecard, business card, anything flat, I tape it on the wall for a while and just soak it in.


How do you stay focused in a world of the internet, social media, interruptions, and other distractions?

Um, I definitely don’t. Lists and deadlines really help kick me into gear but honestly distractions often yield new ideas, inspiration, leads on business, marketing, and more. Looking through a design blog on Apartment Therapy used to feel like an internet distraction, but then I shot a styled interior, and it turned out that was research. Or I get sucked into Facebook and find out about an art exhibit in town where I get inspired by the art, integrate into the local community, and maybe even meet a future client. Yes, the internet is a distraction, but it is also an incredible pollinator.

How do you maintain your creative energy?

Walking the dog. Doing photography work for experimentation and not just payment. Reading magazines. Reading the newspaper. Meeting with other creative entrepreneurs for a sense of solidarity and companionship.


Are there any books you turn to for inspiration and guidance?

I love magical realism. That combination of real life and magic – things that are just a little bit impossible. Those worlds are so visceral and wonderful. Italo Calvino and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are favorite authors. Maybe that seems like a weird answer to a question about guidance. Oh well!


What other activities do you engage in to encourage your creativity outside of your creative work time?

Being in nature. Knitting. Cooking. Listening to music. Attending a lecture. Going to an art show. Being around loving and kind people. So many things are creative. Anytime that I invest in non-photo activities makes me feel whole and curious and inspired in unpredictable ways.

The deeper stuff...

To listen to the conversation with Olivia on The Creativity Habit podcast: