Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Create White Space
You walk into a bookstore, looking for just the right read. A cover blurb here, a dust-jacket there, an inviting display table—they catch your attention, and you thumb through some pages. Best-selling hardcovers, a rack of new paperbacks, an author you like, your book-club selection. How do you choose? Do you read a random chapter? Start at the beginning? Check the number of pages?
I pick a book based on it's white space. I'm not enticed by pages jam-packed with unrelieved words. Long, mind-numbing paragraphs invite skimming, and tiny margins scream "boring." White space suggests dialogue, characters, time to breathe and enjoy the story, or helpful sub-chapters and room to examine the facts. I like a built-in place to take a cocoa break and turn a book upside down for the night.
Some wisdom I picked up from the Blogging Zen panel was that real life needs some white space, too. Marta said she's had to choose between being a good blog reader and a good blog writer. Destri said she limits her facebook time to once a week. Susan's business has taken off, and that's where she focuses her efforts. These productive women have learned to prioritize.
When I was a young mom, the modern motto was "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan . . ." implying that a woman could have it all, be it all and do it all. There was a built-in shame factor to that thinking. I assumed there was something wrong with me because I couldn't handle it all; I was embarrassed by my deficiency. So I put a lot of energy into appearing to be as capable as I thought everyone else was. Eventually I was just skimming all those long, unfocused paragraphs, missing the meaning of my story. I needn't some white space.
Wise editing makes a book readable. If a writer stuffed the pages with every locale, adventure, romance, or thrill she thought up, it would be an overwhelming fantasy. Even the characters would be confused by the dialogue and the plot could unravel. Enlightened authors, of books or life stories, learn to create some white space.