Saturday 6 November 2010

STOP: creativity and the power of nothing

All great designers and musicians know the power of nothing. If you're new to the design world it's very tempting to put as much as you can onto the page, to fill every last inch with images, shapes, words or information. Experienced designers know that white (or any other colour) space is incredibly powerful, it allows the page to breath. It gives the design power and presence.

The legendary Peter Saville used this technique to give an almost spiritual dimension to much of his work. It's very brave and hard to leave so much of the canvas empty, our natural inclination is to fill things up. Surely the more you add, the better it will be? But this just isn't true. 

Why do we so often think the more energy and effort we expend on something the better it will be? Our minds buzz constantly thinking of the future, planning, processing, worrying. Our bodies zoom from place to place, commuting, meetings, traveling, daytripping. We rattle through emails, tweets, phone calls getting more and more distracted and thinking we are getting things done.

How often do we just stop and do nothing? 

I'm not talking about collapsing at the end of the day in front of the TV to fill our minds with pointless drivel. I mean actually stopping and creating total nothingness. Totally switching off to all our wants and needs, our worries and distractions. Stopping, totally unplugging, creating a very powerful nothing.

Because when you do, something really interesting starts to happen. You start to live in the present. You start to connect with the real you inside. By stopping you begin to create the white space in your life that you can truly exist within.

And from this white space comes a creative energy. By stopping, switching off your mind and body and being in a state of nothingness you create a vacuum. And that vacuum will begin to naturally suck in new and exciting ideas from your subconscious mind, things that you never even realised were there. You may see a problem in a totally different way and a solution may pop up. You may discover what would make you truly happy in life. You may realise that all the amazing things you already have in your life are more than enough and you're overwhelmed by how fortunate you are. You might come up with that idea you knew was always inside you waiting to get out.

There are many ways to force yourself to stop, and it's important to find ones that works for you. This week I took a run along the river in London. At the half way point when my mind and body were pretty numb I spent 15 minutes staring at the river watching the water as it flowed about. It was the most productive 15 minutes of the entire week, as my subconscious told me the exactly what I needed to write for an upcoming presentation. You could also try going for a walk in nature, yoga, doodling, sitting in a quiet room like a library or art gallery, whatever it is just be still, be quiet, let go of your thoughts, clear you mind, just stop.

I like to listen to this song, which also uses plenty of white space and has perfect lyrics, to get me in a good frame of mind...

Sinead Macmanus of excellent blog From Apps to Zen shared this Ted video of Scott Stratten, who tells exactly what can happen if we don't remember to Stop. It's extremely moving.

Are you able to stop? Has it had a positive effect? How do you force yourself to stop? I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Thanks for taking time to read this, I hope it's been useful. If you like the post then please join the Facebook group by clicking the Like button on the right, follow on Twitter, or sign-up for the email.

Have a lovely and exciting day,

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