Monday, July 9, 2012

Searching for white space

In the last six weeks I've had only one day without any kind of obligations. This isn't sustainable and so, unsurprisingly, I now have a summer cold. It's foolish of me to push this hard and think I can get away with it. More than that, it's foolish of me to think I can be creative without any time in which to create. How can I create without white space?

I have become a believer in whitespace, in both its necessity and fragility. I began thinking about this in earnest following PopTech 2011, when I listened to a speaker discuss the importance of white space for a creative life. As I listened I found myself weeping, feeling a deep yearning for more white space. Since then I've tried and failed and tried again to create a life rich in white space which may lead to a life rich in creativity.

But what is white space? At its most basic, white space is the portion of the page left unmarked, the space between words, images and other representations. It isn't nothing because it is both the space in which the objects exist and a balancing force. I've written before about the need for white space in storytelling, how the storyteller must leave room for the audience, white space in which the audience can create their own version of the story. Without white space the storytelling experience is, at best, stilted.

So why do I need white space in my life? It might be easier to think of it graphically. Compare the graphic up above with this one.

In one, there is room. There is room for imagination to grow, play, rest, explore. I can add color or just enjoy the serenity of the moment. In this other, I am lost. There is no room. No room for color, for exploration for anything other than that which is most immediate and pressing. (I know, someone could easily make some snarky comments about imagining things in the static. If it makes you happy, go ahead, but I expect most of you know what I mean.)

So what do I do? Right now, I'm finding bits of white space where I can. I'm driving without the radio on. I try and get outside every day. On Friday, I leave for a week in the Adirondacks, where I will have ample white and green space, though I know a week isn't enough to nourish me for a year. It at least gives me a chance to reset and ponder new strategies.

And I ask you, what do you do for white space? How do you find it? How do you nurture it in your life? Let's see if we can find a way to create a white space rest stop in our busy lives and, for just a moment, see what might emerge.

(c)2012 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Recently, I began blocking out no appointment weeks. Just being more productive gives me white space. Great analogy. Protect your creative balance.

    1. Penny, this is a great idea, thank you.

  2. I'm a big fan of white space in all things.

    1. me too, though I'm not good at managing it!

  3. I struggle with the search for white space, too, and have been sick rather a lot lately, as I did not have a full day of space for an unacceptably long time. I agree with you, it is so necessary, but our culture in the western world is so focussed on success, that if you're not doing something and looking 'busy', you are greeted with suspicion and derision. I've just come to the realisation that I need to not commit to 'work' time (as a minister of religion / storyteller, I'm not sure I have a job as much as a way of life) beyond 0.8, or 4 days in a working week - because in order to be productive, I need space, to think, to create, to breathe ... wishing you well in your search. I reflected recently on my blog about the constant striving for balance - expressing similar frustration (


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