I often think about the difference between something that’s good and something that’s excellent.
Whitespace is one of those things that can take something from being just ok to being amazing.
What do I mean by Whitespace?
I mean silence, emptiness, void, quiet… you get the picture.
For example, sometimes you listen to a song, and it blows you away. Not by the amazing notes or riffs or carefully crafted harmonies, but by the pauses and the carefully missed notes. Those missed notes are just as important as the ones played, sometimes even more.
Think about a song you love, and now listen to it again – this time listen for things like dynamics (songs getting louder, quieter), silence, and restraint. You’ll probably notice that the silence or quietness makes the song that much better. If your music doesn’t have silence, try listening to some Blues.
Here’s one of my all time favourites (listen at 2:56 for some great silence):
Whitespace is everywhere.
Designers often talk about a design having great whitespace. Purposefully designed emptiness to make something look excellent. Cluttered design looks… bad.
Life need whitespace.
Research has shown over and over again we have our best ideas in the shower, when we’re walking, driving, when we are in silence. I think the reason for this is that void creates space for new things. If our minds are constantly filled, there’s no room for anything else.
If you pack your backpack so tight with things, there’s no room for what you might find on the way.
Some of the best memories I have with friends and loved ones happen when nothing was planned, and we were doing nothing – silence makes space for great shared memories.
I got my first cellphone when I was 24 and I remember leaving it at home and treating it like a home phone. Why? Because I didn’t want to be bothered while I was out with friends or doing other things. Now I carry my smartphone everywhere I go, and I sometimes wonder if for all the great things it can do, it actually might do more harm in the long run.
I live in a world that’s begging for my attention – watch this, read that, do this, eat here, play, stream, run, track your steps, get more points, but rarely does it ask me to just sit, enjoy, relax, or unwind.
I think there’s great strength and beauty in learning to cultivate whitespace in our lives.