The writer’s room by Yvonne Maximchuk

After fifty plus years of at least semi-con­scious in­tro­spec­tion I con­clude I am some­what dis­or­gan­ized. I no longer fight this, but ac­cept it as an es­sen­tial ele­ment of my cre­at­ive be­ing. A cer­tain amount of or­der is ne­ces­sary to ac­tu­ally pull a concept into tan­gible mani­fest­a­tion; how­ever this does not be­gin in a writer’s room.

The first writer’s room is in my mind, in­de­pend­ence from dis­tract­ing stim­uli the only re­quire­ment. Because I live in wil­der­ness and con­sequently am ex­tremely sound sens­it­ive, earplugs are some­times needed for this writer’s room.

IMGP0085 copyLuckily the cre­at­ive force is power­ful and ab­sorb­ing. Mrs. Ferguson, my grade five teach­er, called it ‘day­dream­ing’ and en­cour­aged me to write down the beau­ti­ful thoughts and word strings so I could weave them to­geth­er into a lar­ger nar­rat­ive. Hence a pen and note­book are also needed in my writer’s room.

Often a writer, in­clud­ing me, takes years to birth a book from a stew of in­com­plete ideas so, at a cer­tain time, a phys­ic­al space be­comes im­port­ant. I must be com­fort­able to write; good back sup­port, pad­ded arm rests, feet at the right height from the floor. In my writer’s room a black ‘wheel­ie chair’ has pride of place. My neigh­bor built a ce­dar pic­nic table for me, which I painted white and is now stained with lay­ers of paint splashes. The half of it ded­ic­ated to writ­ing is stacked with piles of notes rel­ev­ant to sev­er­al projects.

When I raise my eyes from the com­puter, one win­dow re­veals the camel­lia, clematis and Japanese maple tree – col­or for all sea­sons and a rest from the screen. The oth­er win­dow shows ever-chan­ging sky, dis­tant is­lands and closer con­ifers. Both views al­low me con­tem­pla­tion space and eye re­lax­a­tion. Windows are es­sen­tial for my writer’s room.

On a shelf be­low the win­dow sits a CD player/​radio. Often my daugh­ter Theda’s in­spir­a­tion­al mu­sic plays. Nearby, a book­shelf rich with the beauty and mean­ing of the ages; dic­tion­ary and thesaur­us, books about root words, the writer’s art and artist’s rights, books of oth­er au­thors’ jour­neys of dis­cov­ery and on every as­pect of my fa­vor­ite top­ic, the coastal world I inhabit.

My writer’s room is my artist’s stu­dio, which em­braced its dual role around 2000. It was a com­fort­able trans­ition as my writ­ing habits are the same as my paint­ing habits… no­tice, con­tem­plate, ima­gine, not­ate, gath­er, as­semble, sit in one place of­ten enough to shape some­thing new and in­ter­est­ing. I love my writer’s rooms.

Paula’s note: Yvonne Maximchuk is an artist and au­thor of three books in­clud­ing a Tide Ripsmem­oir of her wil­der­ness life in the Broughton Archipelago, Drawn to Sea – From Paintbrush to Chainsaw, Carving out a Life on BC’s Rugged Raincoast. Yvonne and the le­gendary Billy Proctor are tour­ing Vancouver Island with their new pub­lic­a­tion Tide Rips and Back Eddies, Bill Proctor’s Tales of Blackfish Sound. Dates and ven­ues can be found at www​.yvon​nemax​imchuk​.com.




A writer’s space

This isn’t work­ing!” I said over and over as I shif­ted my com­puter desk from the bed­room to one liv­ing room wall and then another.

In my writ­ing work­shops I al­ways stress the im­port­ance of a place to write. But all of a sud­den Rick and I were crammed into a liv­ing space less than half the size we were ac­cus­tomed to. And carving out a cre­at­ive spot for both of us was threat­en­ing to turn into a make or break issue.

In our three-storey her­it­age house, I had a spa­cious room with lovely big win­dows. Rick had even more space in his of­fice on the lower level. Selling our home of 25 years and tem­por­ar­ily mov­ing into an apart­ment meant go­ing from sev­en book­cases to one, six fil­ing cab­in­ets to two and three big desks to two.

Of course — even though I me­tic­u­lously meas­ured rooms and fur­niture – my care­fully planned place­ment of of­fice fur­niture didn’t work out. As non-fic­tion writers we seem to need an ex­traordin­ary amount of space to store and in­ev­it­ably spread out books, news­pa­per clip­pings and pho­to­cop­ies of old doc­u­ments, as well as our own scribbled notes.

020So now, after nu­mer­ous trips to our stor­age unit, we live with boxes of file folders and stacks of books. I’ve ad­ded an­oth­er large desk to our writ­ing space and also a small table in the kit­chen. Whoever gets there first of­ten claims the kit­chen table as a work sta­tion out­side meal times. And from time to time, I even use the top of the mi­crowave as a stand-up desktop.

The largest wing of the L‑shaped liv­ing room has be­come our shared of­fice. That’s where we spend the bulk of our writ­ing time. And that’s the biggest chal­lenge of all. Before, we worked in sep­ar­ate rooms on dif­fer­ent floors of the house. Now, seated at our com­puters, we can just about shake hands.

Rick’s work­ing on a book about West Coast rum run­ning. He tries to re­strain him­self but sev­er­al times a day blurts out, “Listen to this!” and pro­ceeds to read me a quote by some pro­hib­i­tion era li­quor dis­tri­bu­tion entrepreneur.

I must ad­mit I’m not much bet­ter. I’m re­search­ing wolves and it’s nearly im­possible not to ex­claim, “Look at this photo!” Or to keep the volume down dur­ing a chor­us of wolf howls in a doc­u­ment­ary I’m watch­ing online.Wolves Gary Allan 039

But our trans­ition work space hasn’t been all struggle. Rick’s “of­fice” is closer to the main liv­ing area than in our pre­vi­ous home and he finds him­self at his com­puter earli­er in the day, thus pro­du­cing more. And the move has made us both ap­pre­ci­ate just how im­port­ant a suit­able work space is to our cre­at­ive well­being. All things we’ll con­sider while look­ing for our next house.