I feel as though I’m getting all the wonderful encouragement from Liz Gilbert and Brené Brown at the moment, because they are each promoting a new book so they’re popping up on podcasts and websites all over the place. I’m a total fangirl of Brené Brown’s, and although I haven’t read Liz Gilbert’s most famous book (Eat, Pray, Love), I’ve read some of her fiction and loved her TED talks and am looking forward to reading Big Magic.
Last week I devoured Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast, which was just like having one-on-one creativity coaching sessions. She had asked people on her Facebook page to tell her about being creatively stuck, and chose five women to talk to in more depth on the podcast. Then, every alternate episode, she would chat about the ‘case’ with one of her creative friends. Some of the stuff she said I didn’t quite agree with, but the overall tone and encouragement was wonderful. I loved that she checked back in with the five women at the end of the season to see how they had gone with getting unstuck. I think my favourite episodes were the John Hodgman episode (talking about being a multipassionate (though they didn’t use that term)) and, of course, the Brené Brown episode.
Today I listened to this marvellous episode of another podcast, Being Boss, also featuring Brené Brown. If you haven’t heard of her before, she is a research professor and has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. She also talks a lot about the relationship between vulnerability, shame and creativity. For a quick primer, watch her TED talks, but I highly recommend all her books.
One thing Brown said in the Being Boss podcast that I really liked was that rather than scheduling in time to do creative things, she finds it better to schedule in white space and to see what happens creatively as a result.
As a design principle, white space is really important. The amount you do or don’t have on a page can really affect your message. I know I find it frustrating when a design gets too cluttered; I think a lot of people think, “I’m paying for this page to be printed, I’m going to stuff it full of content”. Yet your communication may suffer if the page is so full nobody reads it.
That translates well into the creativity white space that Brown is talking about. You can’t predict when or how creativity will strike, but you do need to create space to allow it to show up, to allow your brain to make connections, to just have space to breathe. It’s so hard to just flip from work mode to creative mode, and especially hard if your work is creative!
It resonated a lot with me following on from my post the other day about being overconnected and of thinking about creating things without an end in mind (ie, sales or accolades). Brown makes sure that everyone knows the white space blocked out in her diary is sacrosanct. I’m wondering whether that would work better for me too; rather than saying “that time is for writing” or “that time is for drawing”, saying “that time is white space” and seeing what I do with it. Hmm.