Intentionally Blank, iPad art & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2013
“This space intentionally left blank.” Did you ever get this delightfully ridiculous notice on a piece of paper, say with a credit card bill? Laughed heartily the first time I saw it. Empty space disturbs some people. Blank? Somebody clearly made a mistake.
I’ve recognized fear of white space since an agent took my first book, Fat Girl, which I wrote as a 60-page narrative poem. After twenty-two rejections, my friend Jean–whose commercial sense is as fine as her literary taste– asked if I would consider taking the white space out of the piece.
Disguise poetry as prose? Same words, same order–why not? It promptly sold. (Of course, when it came to designing the book…“It’s so poetic,” said my editor. “Would you mind if we made it look that way?” They broke up lines and added back white space. Poetic justice, indeed.)
Nowadays, we have webaddressestwitterhandleshashtags. We’ve gotten so accustomed to seeing words run together, to running our own lives together with thing after thing, event after event, that the idea of blank space—why, who even has a blank pie-wedge on the clock to think about it?
Seemslikewe’rebeingsoefficient, but it actually slows down the one thing we don’t want to slow: comprehension. At times like this, it’s good to remind ourselves that things have meaning by virtue of the space around them. Words need space to readily distinguish them. Music needs silence. Speech needs breath. Even f i n g e r s need space, or hands would be clumsyasmittens. Which would really molasses-up tweeting and googling and posting on Wednesdays.
What are you making space for?