Some Positives of Negative Space

I was talking the other day with a friend and colleague who has been actively working to support her creativity.

She’s been learning to maintain the creative buzz – the level of stimulation – at a manageable setting. With her metabolism in a neutral groove, she feels more resilient and easygoing, less stressed or anxious. She’s a visual artist, and she compares this mode of being to the quality, in visual design, of negative space.

Visual artists define negative space as the ground shared with the (positive) figure. The presence of negative space leads the viewer’s eye to appreciate the subject of the visual composition.

photo of a weatherbeaten exterior gray block wall. Toward the top left is a vivid turquoise color planter containing a leafy green plant.

Image by Mohamed Nuzrath from Pixabay
Try not noticing that pot and plant.

Would the potted plant in this image stand out if it were surrounded by splashy flowers and lush trailing foliage? Not likely. Its spare surroundings make the plant and its bright turquoise half-round pot the focus of this photograph. Similarly, will a tentative internal question stand out if it’s surrounded by the noise of a news podcast, and the confusion of competing deadlines? Again, not likely.

By paring down the distractions and competing bids for our attention, we clear the space for our subtler voices to be seen and heard and considered.

Negative space for the self

When my friend uncrowds her activities and plans, she finds there is room to appreciate things as they happen or occur to her.

There’s also space for the wise forces of nature to make themselves known.

When a choice generates more choices, if she’s alllowed enough space around her day, that first choice can be a catalyst for further actions. She’s got the room available for those actions to take place.

It’s true that sometimes the overwhelming onslaught of a rush of ideas and impulses is magical, miraculous, and most welcome. As a steady diet, though, it’s probably impossible, first off, besides being exhausting and debilitating.

Carving out negative space has been a positive move for my friend. Might it be for you too?

NaNoWriMo prep season

Before closing, I want to encourage those of you with a writing project that’s been on the back burner to consider joining the experience, coming up this November, of NaNoWriMo. Last year, I wrote in some detail about the advantages of preparing during September and October, so that when November comes, you’re positioned to get more out of the month.

My planning will be sure to include assuring the necessary negative space for new creative ideas to flourish. I’ll be doing Nano again, and am looking forward to the sense of shared worldwide creative energy that begins in six weeks. Want to join in this year? There’s no need to fill out forms or sign anything – although you can sign up at the Nano website here. That’s optional. All you really need to do is make the decision, commit to it, and calendar your time.

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For more creativity tools, pick up your copy of FLOAT • Becoming Unstuck for Writers or visit the Library on the Anne Carley Creative website.

Thanks for reading!