She had found it. Her white space.
For the past three Saturday mornings I have been fortunate enough to join the #leadupchat chat, created by Nathan Lang and Jeff Veal. A chat that pushes my thinking and oftentimes requires responses of more than what is possible in 140 characters or less. And yet we try. The most recent topic, white space, is one that interests and eludes me on a daily basis.
Finding the time and place are merely precursors to locating this ever elusive, yet super productive, place that we love to visit and hate to leave. We’ve all been there, so I am not speaking of the unknown. Yet, we tend to forget the way. Or, even if we haven’t, we often become distracted before we arrive and somehow miss the exit.
Worry not my fellow travelers, for I think I have found a guide that can help lead us on our journey. Jason Silva, the media artist, futurist, philosopher and host of the YouTube series “Shots of Awe” talks about what he likes to call our creative flow state. His short video below is nothing short of brilliant, and in it he makes clear what heretofore I have been unable to articulate. (Please, please, please take the time to watch this. I promise, you will be glad you did.)
So what now?
Do we sit back and wait for it take place? Or do we search for it as if it were the Holy Grail?
I think neither.
When did you last feel as if you had created white space? Or spent time in your creative flow state?
We must begin pay closer attention to these moments if we wish to repeat them. I do believe that sometimes they just happen and sometimes, if we get just a bit lucky, we can induce them.
What do they look like?
This is the wrong question.
Because we find our white spaces in different places, at different times and in different ways.
For some of us, washing dishes may be the way that we create white space. Scrub. Rinse. Dry. Repeat. Scrub. Rinse. Dry. Repeat. It is during this mundane repetition that a creative flow state can creep in. Because we are so occupied with repetition of the mundane, the part of our brain that is screaming to be set free, sees an opening. And oftentimes it takes it.
How many of us have come up with our best and most creative ideas when we least expected it? They didn’t come to us when we were in front of our computer screen and we didn’t have an epiphany whilst sitting motionless on the beach.
More often than not, we find our white space, and in turn enter our creative flow states, when we least expect it.
What I tend to find is that I am able find white space and enter my creative flow state when there is no Next. When I am simply able to just be completely in the moment. This is extremely difficult. Because we live in a world in which Next is always in the forefront of our minds. This is why we have developed things such as notification alerts, timers and checklists.
It’s when we are able to eliminate the Nexts from our lives that we find our white space. And it is then that we are able to spend some much-needed in our creative flow states.
In my profession very little white space is provided. And for that reason I rarely witness children and/or adults in their creative flow state. I do believe that this is a problem, yet it is one we can solve. We are the ones that make the schedules. We are the ones that have the biggest role in shaping the school environments.
And yet, are we providing white space for students and staff? If not, do we really expect creative flow states to occur? Sometimes they do. But very rarely. They are not going to take place during partner reading and they are not going to happen during PLC’s. This is not to say that both aren’t important components of the collaborative learning experience. They are. But they are simply not conducive to inducing individual creative flow states.
We can start by providing more white space for everyone. Eliminate the Nexts. Time during which nothing is expected and yet anything is possible. It may not look like much to the uninformed observer. Pencils may be still and voices may be muted. But much is going on.
Furthermore, there must be no demands placed upon white space time. Because we work in an environment in which there are in fact time constraints, we do have to put a limit on the time allotted. But if we are serious about creating white space for others. So that they might possibly enter their flow state. Then we must make this time and this place sacred. No interruptions. No requirements.
Can we do this?
Clearly, when you look at the photo above, you can see that my daughter had nowhere to be but in that book. There was no seating arrangement and she wasn’t required to take notes on what she was reading. For a while, no one even knew where she was. Including her, I bet.
The other day, I think, but I’m not so sure, I was fortunate enough to witness a six-year old in her creative flow state within white space that she probably didn’t even know she had created. Even better was the fact that she was able to verbalize how and why it occurred.
Any chance I have to jump into the mind of a child, I seize it!
So…I was in the cafeteria, greeting the children as they were entering the building. Out of the blue, a six-year old girl, who I adore, approached me with the following question;
“Mr. Harper, do you wanna know why I am skipping?
Because I am happy.”
She wasn’t thinking. She wasn’t evaluating. She just was.
My final question is this.
Was she happy because she was skipping or was she skipping because she was happy?
I think that they happened simultaneously. And that was why she was experiencing such a beautiful creative flow state. She was in her white space. And I was lucky enough to be there when it happened.
Maybe you want to ask, well, what exactly did she create while she was in her flow state?
My answer would be, Happiness, Silly.
What greater creation could there be?
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