I recently watched some videos on basic graphic design techniques, hosted by the talented team at Before & After. Although I don’t consider myself at all skilled in this area, I loved seeing examples of designs which work well, and those which the presenter then improved. And I confess I can waste hours playing around with rough ideas for my book covers. One theme which came up repeatedly was the importance of white space. That is, of not filling every available inch of paper, but giving the design elements sufficient breathing room. This also offers the eye a place to rest.
It’s a concept which translates well to fiction. It’s important for a novel to have both fast-paced scenes, and slower sequences where the characters process the challenges they’re facing. And, we writers are often told to simply look at the pages we produce. If there is too much black type, chances are we are using too much description and not enough dialogue.
This made me think about white space in life as a whole.
One of my worst habits is constantly trying to cram in “just one more task”. For example, eight minutes before it’s time to cook dinner, I’ll start a fresh task. Six minutes before my biweekly Skype call with family, I’ll dart off to sort some laundry. If my life were a piece of graphic art, it might just be a design failure.
The good thing is, I have lots of variety: fiction writing, research and articles for purposeful productivity, loads of exercise and fresh air. But in common with many of us these days, what I don’t have is much time where I’m not trying to check “just one more thing” off my list.
Here are some pauses I plan to introduce:
- Daily 10-minute meditations, as described here.
- If a task finishes less than 10 minutes before an appointment, remind myself not to start something new.
- Sitting outside for 10 minutes each day, just looking at the trees, birds and water.
What do you think? Where in your life are you most in need of “white space”?
(PS: talking of white spaces, if my writing ever hits the big time, I think I might buy a little mews house in one of these predominantly white London streets, beautifully captured by A Lady in London. This is a travel blog I love to visit, and if you’re an Anglophile, chances are you’ll like it too!)