Junior High Journalism class first impressed the term “White Space” on my mind.
In the context of a yearbook page, it’s just what it sounds like: the portions of page with nothing printed. But White Space took on a life of its own as we created layouts arranged around the White Space Statutes as stated by our instructor. Mr. Bromley (bless him!—the man who put Jane Austen in my hands! ) laid down Layout Law… almost all of which revolved around what one could (or couldn’t!) do with White Space.
For example. Never “trap” White Space in the interior—it always needs an “escape.” Which pretty much means you don’t want a boxed-in block of EMPTY in the middle of your page. Like what I’m doing here: THIS is what you never do. The emptiness in the middle of the page draws the eye away from the content it’s meant to be looking at.
At the time my 14-year-old mind never pondered the prospect of being trapped BY White Space. But I am recognizing it now: White Space has never had a consideration for MY rights on a par with the efforts I have made on behalf of ITS freedom all these decades…
Nothing paralyzes my brain more quickly than a blank page.
A blank screen.
A blank whiteboard.
Case in point: I opened the screen for this post over the weekend, and let it loom in all its BLANKNESS for two days while I tinkered with themes and photos and settings on the blog, all the while studiously ignoring this one browser tab. [Can I call it “studious” when I’m NOT attending to it?]
I’m certainly not the only writer with this particular hang-up, though I maybe carry it to extremes. As I do with most things. I think it’s why I gravitate so strongly to color. I’m no artist, but on my desk I keep mugs full of rainbowed pens, pencils, highlighters, oil pastels, brush markers, Post-its.
I paper my planners with stickers and doodles, color-code my lists, collage my office door with cards and decals, decorate my desk with washi tape, paint with stencils on my wooden furniture.
You won’t even find a white wall in my house. I have vanished every one of them, so WHITE SPACE never overshadows me.
If you think that takes a literary conceit a little far, well, I just won’t invite you to sleep in my turquoise guest room.
Truthfully, I wasn’t thinking of pages when I painted. But also truthfully: White Space traps me if I let it.
And MOST truthfully: I recognize the only true escape from the empty page… WRITING on it.