Do a little three-part exercise with me for a few minutes. You are likely reading these words either on a computer screen or on your handheld device.
Here’s the first part of the exercise: stop reading any of the content on the page and look at the layout itself. I’ll wait …
You’re back now. Great!
Since I can’t really be interactive with you here, I won’t ask the open-ended question I would like to ask: “What did you see?” I’ll have to ask this one: Did you notice white space? By that, I mean margins – empty space not filled with words or graphics.
Here’s the second part of the exercise: use your imagination to visualize the page without white space. Every square inch or pixel filled with words, symbols, or pictures. No space between. Words bumping up against pictures.
How long would you keep reading? How hard would it be to focus? How easy on the eyes would it be?
Here’s something that layout experts understand: white space is not simply empty space that couldn’t be filled for lack of content. White space actually makes the existing content more readable. White space is necessary.
I have a tendency to read books with pen in hand. I underline or highlight meaningful phrases. In the margins, I sometimes write ideas that are sparked by the content of the book. It is sometimes helpful to me to write in the white space.
But here’s something I never do with a book: I never feel compelled to fill up the white space simply because it is available. I never write something in the margin that has nothing to do with the content on the page. I never write full paragraphs in the margin.
And I never, ever, hand my book to someone else and let them write in the margins!
How I wish that I would take the same approach to life that I take to books!
Here’s the third part of the exercise. Imagine your life as a story that is being written. Your activities – work, home, recreation, church, community involvement, hobbies – are the content of the pages.
The white space represents the time between activities – rest, transitions, days off, early mornings and late evenings, paragraph breaks in the story.
How important is the white space? When you look at your life, how much white space do you see? When you look at your calendar or day planner, how many white spaces exist?
And here’s a key question: Are you allowing other people to write in your margins?
Are you allowing other people to write in your margins? Click To Tweet
We need space for other people because people matter, but if we do not intentionally build in space for other people in our stories, they will always be in the margins. And when the margins get full, we can’t focus and we begin to resent the margin overload.
Our lives matter to God. Don’t overcomplicate and over-schedule your story. And be careful what you write in the white space.