Have you ever noticed that all of your best ideas come to you in the most unusual places. Like when you are in the shower or just about to fall asleep or driving your car?
So basically just about any place you are unlikely to have a pen and paper lying around, right?
One theory for why that may be is that all of the above are examples of mental white spaces.
I’ve been really fascinated to discover this idea of mental white spaces and how they can help you to enhance your creativity.
Because ask any writer, the thing about creativity is that it needs space to breathe. It is near impossible to work our creative muscles when we feel overwhelmed or under pressure.
For us to be at our creative best, we need freedom, a fresh mind and a willingness to let go.
You may have heard of white space before.
In page layout, illustration and design, white space is known as negative space. It is the portion of the page or canvas that is left unmarked. It is the space between any writing, pictures or diagrams.
It is called negative space rather than blank space, because white space actually has a very important purpose.
White space provides visual relief and allows our focus to be drawn to the other important elements in the design.
As I am beginning to learn with my wardrobe, a lot of colours and patterns mashed together can be overwhelming to look at and that is why white space is used, to create balance.
The idea of mental white space is much the same.
There are certain activities and daily rhythms that provide balance and mental relief for us. It is these moments of repetition and calm where your mind is free to wander that your creativity can be unleashed.
So how do you go about adding more white space into your life?
Enhance your creativity by using mental white space:
Just consume less
As tempting as it is to avoid being alone with our thoughts, it isn’t very helpful for our creativity if we spend all our time consuming masses of information.
I know this is hard because I am a huge information junkie. I LOVE reading blog posts and news articles, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube videos. I’d much rather scroll through the apps on my phone than sit quietly while waiting for the kettle to boil.
But one of the easiest ways you can bring more mental white space into your life is to simply consume less information. That means not filling up every quiet moment you have in the day by scrolling on your phone.
Instead, make use of those mundane tasks like washing the dishes or putting the grocery shopping away to practice being present in the moment and allow your mind to wander.
Go for a walk
Yes, I know this tip is on every single self help list ever, but I won’t apologise for putting it here.
Going for a walk gets you out of your current space and into a new environment. Outside there are so many things to observe and take inspiration from.
Moving your body also has this magic effect of relieving stress and bringing mental clarity. So a simple walk can be all it takes to bring forth a brilliant idea that’s been hidden away underneath all your stress.
Try free writing
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about free writing in the form of ‘morning pages.’ The practice of just writing down whatever thoughts come to mind first thing in the morning.
Free writing is great because it takes a lot of the pressure out of writing. I think part of the reason we get creative blocks is that often when we write, we have an agenda.
We want to get a blog post published, a caption crafted or an email sent. And even in my journal I can become unconsciously controlling about the words I write, steering clear of those tricky, uncomfortable emotions.
So just taking the time to spill whatever thoughts are in our heads onto paper can enhance our creativity.
Free writing can bring forth things that are keeping us stuck, as well as ideas that may later be useful for some project or other.
Something I find so refreshing when I experience writer’s block or a dip in my creativity, is to work on something completely different.
I like to branch out into some other creative discipline, to give myself a break while still using my imagination.
For me, that looks like taking to my sewing machine.
It is totally different to writing but it also requires thinking outside the box and coming up with new ideas. Also, the whirring of the machine as it casts stitches is somewhat hypnotic and thoroughly relaxing.
But you don’t need to be a whizz with a needle and thread. You could try painting, creating stop motion videos, pottery, needlepoint, the options are exciting and endless!
I’m absolutely terrible at slowing down. I love having a plan and getting things done.
This has a negative effect, being that I tend to rush through my days hopping from task to task. Sometimes while I am working on one task I’ve got another five things I need to get done swirling around in my head, fighting for my attention.
Creating white space could be as simple as slowing down and giving your full attention and time to the task at hand. I think this is especially important for tasks that seem trivial, such as folding the laundry or vacuuming the floors. As I mentioned earlier, those mundane moments are often when our best ideas come to us.
Taking your time in those boring daily tasks could actually be exactly what you need to enhance your creativity.
I’m definitely going to be making more of an effort to decrease my consumption of information, so that my creativity has space to breathe.
And I think slowing down wouldn’t be the worst idea either!
Have you heard of mental white space before?