White space is our friend

DHAng Good Reads: White Space


Recently, I rode Amtrak’s California Zephyr from Oakland to Salt Lake. The 18-hour-plus journey coupled with the expansive scenery and minimal connectivity gave my mind time to wander as it pleased, which meant my productiveness took a different form than most days. It also got me thinking about the challenges of creativity in our hyper-connected world.

First, for those who have never ridden an Amtrak train, you likely think a “coach” ticket equates the cramped seats on an airplane. Coach on an Amtrak has extremely roomy seats that recline and even have foot rests. Additionally, the train has a lounge car with panoramic windows and tables that serve as excellent work spaces. It doesn’t have WiFi, however, and even if you bring your own device service is spotty for most of the journey. And that, I discovered, is a good thing.

Naturally, I am a creative person. But professionally, I struggle creatively for a few reasons. The biggest one: flow. Work today means an endless stream of emails, all of which generate meetings that generate tasks that generate more emails. Ignore them and they compound, quickly filling your office – physical, virtual, and mental – with ping-pong balls. So understandably, most of us, myself included, choose to deal with the ping-pong balls.

However, on the train, I couldn’t deal with ping-pong balls most of the time. Instead, I scripted two podcast episodes, outlined three others, and even did some free writing of my own. By giving myself dedicated time for creativity, I became creative.

And that is really the secret. Scheduled time, or as Ryan Estis calls it in a recent blog post, “white space.” In this post and an accompanying video (https://youtu.be/SWSSdQmMFpE), Estis talks about the importance of scheduled “white space:”