Do You Crave White Space?
When I was a Scholastic writer and editor on the classroom magazine Scholastic News, I thought a lot about white space.
My readers were 6 - 8 year old beginning readers. The challenge was to keep the words and images clear and sparse so young eyes could easily navigate the page and not look everywhere all at once, getting lost in a sea of information.
White space on a page focuses the eye and creates a sense of calm. It says, "Look here first. Feel free to linger. When you're ready, move on."
I think white space creates the same sense of focus and calm in our lives.
For the past few years, I've been intentional about creating, preserving, and protecting the white space that I had unintentionally squeezed out of my life.
I was busy with life, filling every minute getting stuff done, or learning more stuff - and all this stuff was like too many words and pictures on the page.
My attention was everywhere at once, rarely landing in one place.
And my attention was outside of myself, rarely landing In and Down.
The white space is the attention we pay to our body, heart, mind, soul, and immediate surroundings, which allows us to approach our life's content with a calm focus.
The other day I went to a cafe to do some writing.
I looked down and noticed that a bee had fallen into my frothy chai tea.
I gingerly scooped it out with a spoon, and then watched it clean itself and regain its balance for a solid 10 minutes.
That's a LONG time to truly pay attention to something!
I didn't check my phone, or flip through my papers.
I just sat and watched until the bee flew away.
It was a white space experience that I couldn't have had a few years ago. I had neither the desire nor patience nor stamina to slow down to that extent.
If someone at the café were watching me watch the bee, they may have thought me odd. But they, too, would have had a deep and restorative white space experience. Both of us stopping our activity to simply observe another creature.
Watching that bee I thought of Mary Oliver's poem, 'The Summer Day' where she describes watching a grasshopper all afternoon and asks:
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
I've written and spoken about this poem a lot - and I imagine I will continue to reference these words because they continue to teach and guide me.
These words that I first read in January 2012 are the words that got me thinking about idleness, attention, and white space.
They are the words that led to the decision to leave my 15-year children's publishing career that very day.
They are the words that led me to create Write to Glow a year later.
They are the words that allowed me to watch that bee for 10 minutes straight.
The fact that I'm remembering those 10 minutes days later with such fondness tells me a lot. They may have been among the most fulfilling and satisfying moments of my day, and I had a pretty full and smooth day!
I invite you to take a few minutes to tune into something beautiful or compelling that grabs your attention.
Drink in the details.
Create some potent white space.
Want to write?
Take a pen & prompt journey:
Set a timer for 10 minutes. Or 5. Or 2!
Write whatever arises in your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
Don’t stop to think or edit - keep your pen moving.
Accept ALL that you write - the pretty & ugly; absurd & boring.
Discover what wants to be felt, known, expressed, released...