Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Benefits of White Space, Balance, and Beatnick Poetry

One of my many majors in college was newspaper journalism. And, in journalism, one of the first elements of writing and design they teach is layout, and one of the top rules of layout- white space.

Technically speaking, white space is the area of a page left unmarked by design elements, such as, photos, graphics and text. White space is used to guide the reader through the writing in a balanced and peaceful way.

In layout design, a lack of white space leaves the reader feeling cramped, overwhelmed by the message the story is trying to tell.

However, too much white space leaves the reader left wondering where the rest of the story is- asking themselves is that all?! The exception here is Beatnick poetry.

But the correct balance of white space can be calming and soothing. The right balance of white space can give the reader a place to momentarily stop and gather thoughts without feeling like there should be more.

But this balance of white space transcends the bounds of newspaper journalism and magazine layout and meets me in my off-the-paper life as well. White space in life is the time I give myself to stop and have, if even for but a moment, time to gather my thoughts. It is the necessary space I need to make my life more "readable," more soothing, more peaceful. And I don't think I give myself enough white space most of the time.

One morning I decided I would wake up early and begin my day with meditation. I had just finished reading Eat Pray Love and felt connected to the ashram experience Gilbert had. (Subsequent mornings I convinced myself that sleeping later was "meditation" of a different color). But that morning as I sat still, mentally repeating with each breath "Be still and know that I am God," I felt such peace. And when my mind told me it was time to move and do something (oh how hard it is for me to sit still), I could literally feel my body whisper--- not yet... just. one. more. breath.

I had never felt anything like that before in my life. Clearly at that moment, I had stopped long enough to see that my life was reading like a crammed technical manual and not the enjoyable story it should be.

And honestly, I don't struggle with the "too much white space" problem. I'm not a person who can just be very well. But I feel like, if perchance you're reading this and you do struggle with that, let me encourage you to fill some (not all) of that space with valuable life experiences-- unless you're a Beatnick poet and then I'm sure you have a deeper meaning in the lack of writing.

searching for the balance,


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