“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add,” says Antoine de Saint Exupery, “but when there is nothing left to take away.”
The white space is key to a good design. Somethings what isn’t there is just as important as what is there. White space acts as breathing room, a place to rest your eyes. A visual pause. Adding white space frees up the design, making it less confusing and cramped.
By subtracting out the nonessential elements, you allow that which is essential to remain in focus. When you have less, what you do have becomes more meaningful.
The white space is key to a good design. It’s also the key to a good life.
I can get anxious when I feel like I’m not being productive. We feel like we always need to be working and making and producing that we our lives get cramped and confusing. We forget to rest. We forget to pause.
“White space is to be regarded as an active element, not a passive background,” wrote Jan Tschichold. Jewish communities have white space built into their week through Sabbath—a day of rest and reflection. A day dedicated to the pause that transforms the rest of the week.
I’m learning to embrace the white space in my life as an active element. I’m learning to enjoy just sitting outside with a cup of coffee being present in the silence. Like a good design needs white space—a place to breath and rest and pause to be truly meaningful—our lives need white space too.
Because sometimes what isn’t there is just as important as what is there.
I’ve recently come out of arguably the busiest season of my life. Between a crazy semester at school, various freelance projects, personal art projects and relaunching my website, since January, I’ve seemingly been working nonstop.
During this time, I’ve discovered that keeping busying, constantly working on projects, keeps my brain fresh. I can come up with ideas quicker. I don’t need to spend as much time looking for inspiration, ultimately allowing me to spend more time on the projects themselves. However, on the flip side, I’ve also discovered the need for rest. For breaks. For Sabbath.
As much as I like what I do and would love to work on as many projects as possible, it is simply not feasible. I started to notice myself getting burnt out. The passion was fading. The excitement of getting up every morning wasn’t the same. I’ve started making a conscious effort to observe Sabbath each week. The way my schedule is, I’m able to take a break from work each Friday. I’ve started to look forward to this day, a break from the routine, responsibility and found it continually helps me get through the rest of the week.
Sabbatical is defined as an extended period of leave (usually a year long, but not necessarily) taken by an employee in order to carry out projects not otherwise associated with their job. This is derived from the ancient Jewish tradition of observing the Sabbath, a day of rest and rejuvenation from the other six days.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish Rabbi, wrote in his 1951 book, The Sabbath: “The Sabbath does not simply come into being on Saturdays; the depth of its experience is created by how we behave the other six days.” He was arguing that by observing Sabbath just one day a week, it will transform the other six.
Each work day is about quantity. It’s about producing as much as you can, and getting as much done as you can, but on Sabbath, it’s about quality. It’s about taking a break from creating and enjoying creation. Heschel goes on to say:
“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”
You need to find a balance. Busyness by itself is not the problem. But sometimes you need to take a break. To rest. To put crack pipe down so you don’t get burnt out. Because then you have a bigger problem. Find that balance so you don’t lose your passion. Rest on the seventh day so on other six, you wake up excited and energized and ready to tackle your work.