My guest last week, for my winter Accelerator Program, Double Vision, Elizabeth Shreeve, design principal and published children’s book author, talked about the ‘white space’ she has carefully instilled and protected in her life–and how it’s become essential to her creative success. White space for Elizabeth is the time between things, the open brain space that allows for mental rest–and for creative ideas to bubble up.
“You need to leave room in your mind for creative ideas to come up,” she says.
Sometimes women have a hard time defending that white space. We are raised to people-please–so we spend a lot of our energy attending to others needs before we attend to our own. ‘Time for me’ seems like a luxury–like a selfish thing to do when others have important needs. I remember hearing about a public health self-care program for mothers. Very few women came until it was reframed as a ‘Be a Better Mother by Taking Care of Yourself’ program.
Elizabeth takes the ferry to work, which gives her some time to reflect and get a little space from the demands of being a firm leader and mother. She also takes walks–and mentioned that she always brings along a little notebook to jot down any creative ideas or aha moments she has.
We think of white space as being extra.
We think of it as the ‘padding’ around things. And we’re in an age that is obsessed with cutting out the padding–tax cuts, apps that will save you five minutes, being able to access information instantly.
But the padding is part of the process.
White space is not the leftover in between the important stuff we do–it’s an essential ingredient to creative jumps–in addition to lives that feel good to live.
‘White space’ doesn’t have to be overly fabulous or fancy–we’re not talking hot stone massages on a mountaintop in Greece–it can be as simple as giving yourself some time to think while washing dishes, or taking a walk…. It means not cramming up every moment with a quick glance at your inbox, or mentally making your shopping list.
This is such an important lesson–and one I have to relearn again, and again and again.
I go to the gym regularly–and I started going to deal with the stress of being in design school. It’s where I get some space from the pressure and unlikely ideas come together. But sometimes….. my smartphone gets the better of me and I spend my workout thinking through my to-do list, buying something on Amazon, or getting a thing or two done.
Elizabeth reminded me why I first started working out in the first place. And in the winter, a time of reflection, and a time when I am much more susceptible to the winter blahs, my ‘white space’ is all the more important to defend, and cherish.
And it’s not a matter of needing more time.
It’s a matter of showing up for the time I already have with more intention.
Do you have enough white space? Hit reply and let me know.