I Need Some Whitespace in My Life

Busy, Busy, Busy! (via Flikr, cc license)

Busy, Busy, Busy!
(via Flikr, cc license)

Too much to do, too little time, too many deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise. 

When things are so jammed up, it doesn’t take much to send you over the edge.  My mother thinks I don’t know this, but I do – it’s just that it’s hard to keep it from happening. 

I’ll blog more about this later for Take Joy, but for now, here’s a piece I loved from Randy Ingermanson’s newsletter –  “stolen” with permission.

Whitespace in Your Life

Picture this scenario: You go to the refrigerator to get a jug of milk. Should be simple, right? What could go wrong?

The refrigerator is packed. The milk is right there in front on the top shelf, wedged in between a pint of cottage cheese and some bottles of apple juice.

You’re holding a glass in one hand and you reach up with the other to grab the milk.

It’s wedged in tight. You jiggle it a little bit and realize that you really need to put down the glass and use both hands to unpack things.

You reach to put the glass down and … one of the juice bottles pops off the shelf. You make a mad grab for it. It slips away from you. You try again. It bounces off the vegetable bin. You try again. It smashes onto the tile floor.

Glass and juice puddle all over the floor and now you’ve got a mess that must be cleaned up right away.

What went wrong here?

You got careless. It’s probably appropriate to yell at yourself for being careless.

But your carelessness mattered because you were trying to do a task with no margin for error.

Had there been a little margin in the packing on the shelf, your small error wouldn’t have caused a major mess.

Margins matter. Books have a margin that makes them more readable and nice to look at. And the outer margin of a printed book helps protect again errors in cutting the paper.

Another word for margins is whitespace. Your books need whitespace.

So does your life.

A little whitespace on the refrigerator shelf makes it much easier to take things out. It also makes it easier to find things in the back of the shelf.

When you think about whitespace in your life, you can see all kinds of places where it’s crucial. Not just your physical space, but also your time, your money, and your energy.

When your schedule is so packed that you have absolutely no extra time in your life, an unplanned trip to the mechanic can have ripple effects that wreck your day, then your week, and then your month. Your schedule needs whitespace.

When your financial situation is so precarious that you’ve maxed out your credit cards, that unplanned trip to the mechanic can leave you without a car and without a way to pay for repairs. Your finances need whitespace.

When you’re so exhausted that you can barely drag out of bed in the morning or do your duties, an unplanned bout with a cold virus can knock you out. Your energy level needs whitespace.

Your life needs whitespace. So does mine. So does everybody’s.

Knowing that you need whitespace won’t magically make it appear. There isn’t any whitespace wand you can wave.

The concept of whitespace is just a mirror you can use to help you see when you have a potential problem that could come crashing down on you.

The first step in solving a problem is knowing it’s there.

Right now, my office needs some whitespace. The stack of stuff on the floor in the corner keeps growing. It doesn’t keep me from closing the door. Not yet, anyway. But it’s a warning signal. By admitting to myself that my office floor needs whitespace, I have a real chance at solving the problem.

And what about you? What area in your life has the least whitespace right now? How bad is it? What small error could make things go massively wrong?

What about you?  Do you have tips or tales to share in the comments? 

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 11,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
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