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




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.