how much white space in your book?

Richard Swenson talks about margins. Not the stock kind. The paper kind.

He says, look at the white space on a page in a book. It helps you read the book.

Take it a step further. Look at how much white space shows up on the page in an ebook.

In our books we want the space, the room to think and reflect and write our own meaning.

So why is it that we put so little margin in our lives?

We write right up to the edges of the pages, trying to get as much data on every page, into every part of every page, as we possibly can. Our work and our families and our futures and our dreams and our obligations each get 100% of our attention all the time.

Which means that nothing gets our full attention.

Recently I was running sound for an event. It was easy. The only real need for attention were the four times when someone new walked up onto the platform to be interviewed by the speaker. I needed to turn on the extra microphone.

The first time, we missed a few words. The second time, the speaker had to ask about the mic. The third time, I was close. The last time, I got it right.

The first time, I was thinking about a text to Nancy. The second time, I was looking at an email. The third time, I had to decide to pay attention. The last time I had closed the computer.

If there isn’t enough white space in the book you are writing with your time, your life, your attention…if there isn’t enough in mine…maybe readers will give up, lacking the energy to process everything.



11 responses to “how much white space in your book?

  1. Margin won out in my life last week…thanks to a second-hand encounter with Swenson (Michael read the book) some years back. In the space of 24 hours, I had two invitations to become involved in two very exciting ventures.

    Right now, my life has a fair amount of “white space”. But at least one of the very exciting ventures I’m already committed to has the potential to grow…and I knew that I needed someplace for it to grow into. So I very peacefully said “no” to the new ventures.

    I used to think margin was merely for my comfort and ease. Now I know it is, at least in part, a place for the stories of my mission to be written.

  2. Lack of margins is a disease in our culture.

  3. amy, i love the image. It the place for the handwitten notes, for the highlights, for the application. And not for comfort.

    Paul, i think you are right. wait. I know you are.

  4. YES. Nail hit directly on the hood. It is no wonder simple things can get to be so overwhelming. It’s no wonder people are so stressed out and being treated for anxiety and depression. It is NO wonder.

    Now I have to go be overwhelmed.

  5. the head… not the hood 🙂 See- I was doing too many things at once and none of them well-

  6. Superb thought for the day…as I look at all my books with sticky tabs and note scrawled along the margins…publishers seek to fill each page for cost control. We shouldn’t think that way in our daily lives, for each day is rich.

  7. There’s a lot of evidence that we’re overloaded and overwhelmed with information. If you haven’t already, check out Barry Schwartz and the Paradox of Choice. It’s a great example of how more is actually less.

    I believe time is our most precious resource these days. Website readers face the same dilemma and owners need to address this issue with clear and easy web design. Any obstacle is likely to derail that session, causing them to move on to another site, or open another tab.

    I just wrote about this, in something I call Five Foot Web Design, which you can read here:

  8. Webconomist, i like your image, clear.

    AJ, great post about design and clarity. And the more is less and other people talking about the paralysis that comes from choices explains why deciding which donut is so hard. Really.

  9. There is no white space in my book. Each page overflows to the next.

    I need to work on that. Or maybe just let it happen.

  10. ah, but is there space at the bottom and top?

  11. I love having a life full to the brim. I love a creative challenge. I love the chaos of having three little boys. I love contributing to my community. I love starting something new each day.

    And THEN framing this full life within margins. And paragraphs. And pictures 🙂

    I’m not sure I can think about the margins without the context of the content (data)…

    Jon – paying attention – great point. I’ve been trying to make that a priority over the last year, and it seems to be working! Why try to juggle when you can just pay attention? I’m definitely having some “white space” time tonight!