White space is a concept many people are familiar with. In art, it’s often called “negative space.” White space is not just “blank space,” however — it is used deliberately. It is a fundamental element of design that allows the objects to exist. It’s the space that as one artist described it, provides “visual breathing room for the eye.”
I have a daughter who is an amazing artist and sometimes she creates her work by taking a blank piece of white paper and then fills in everything but the white space. It’s a fascinating process to watch.
White space applies to the written word as well — it’s hard to read a solid wall of text. Orasentencewithnospacingbetweenletters. (Although in today’s world of hashtags, we’ve gotten better at reading lots of words smooshed together…) If you’ve ever seen a political flyer by a newbie candidate trying to fit all of their arguments onto one page, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Less is more.
I’ve adapted an artist’s definition of white space to describe why we desperately need it in our personal and professional lives. “Whitespace creates harmony and balance in our lives. Whitespace should not be considered merely ‘blank’ space – it’s the element that enables the rest of our busy lives to exist. It is the space that balances things out and reminds us that life is beautiful. We don’t need to create a life overcrowded with to-do lists and unrelenting time demands to live a full and meaningful life. It’s the space that provides breathing room for the soul.”
On both the personal level and professional level, white space allows us room for the unexpected, for creativity to flourish, for answers to questions we’ve been gnawing on to come into our minds and for what Stephen Covey called “sharpening the saw.”
Making time for white space in your life is what keeps water in the well. Being stretched too thin, over scheduled and over burdened, with no room to breathe eventually catches up with you. Relationships suffer, mental health suffers, your body’s immunity to disease suffers, your resilience suffers and your productivity suffers. It’s a tired Bilbo Baggins saying “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
Whether or not your home environment naturally provides quiet space, (OK, you’re a mom – you can stop laughing now), creating your own white space is essential. White space is also time to be technology free — it is not time to check out Facebook or Pinterest, catch up on your email or see how your team is doing. Take a look at your calendar. Is it so full your appointments are bleeding into each other? Have you scheduled time to plan? To review? Just to think?
As we head into autumn and kids have gone back to school, there might just be a little more white space in your life. (If you only have littles at home, though, I feel you! White space is even more important!) Like in art, white space in your life does not “just happen.” You have to fight for it. One thing I’ve noticed about having a new puppy is that I have now built in white space in my day. When I take him outside to do his business, I sit in a chair and just watch him. Sometimes I journal. If my 8-yr old daughter is home from school, we sit together and visit while we watch Augie the Doggie play.
I’m lucky enough to live close to mountains and I’m looking forward to some time up there as well, before the weather turns. No cell phone. Just time to think, write and plan. Sometimes the bathtub is white space time. I remain super busy, but deliberately adding white space to my life has been a blessing. I know it will be in yours too.