The Spaces Between

A pause in a conversation. A breath for the woodwind player. The relationships between people. So much potential is contained in these spaces. The pause allows for thinking. The breath is a recharging to support the next musical phrase. The personal relationships cause us to constantly assess and rethink.

Oddly, in visual art the space between forms is called negative space, but I think you can apply this charge or potential energy to this space as well. The space itself is not as important as the relationship between the forms. An obvious example is something like a picture of a predator and prey. How close or far apart they are on the page will cause tension: the space between them is crucial.

In both cases, when you think about art and when you think about creative writing, the spaces are important. This is just one example of how I think you can teach writing to artists and art to writers. The instructor's job is to teach ways of looking carefully.

While I think it is true that every person has a certain amount of innate creativity, everyone can be taught the craft of seeing. It's easy to look around and be overwhelmed by the amount of material out there to draw or write about. Robert Pirsig writes about this overstimulation in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (240-241) when the narrator is frustrated with a writing student who just can't seem to write because she can't seem to see, "Narrow it down to the front of one building on the main street of Bozeman. The opera house. Start with the upper left-hand brick." This suggestion leads the student to write a five-thousand word essay. Seeing was a matter of focusing, on being specific. The student couldn't stop writing after focusing on just one brick because there was a brick next to it, and a brick next to that. She had started looking at the relationships of the brick to its buddies and then to the building itself, and the building to the town, and so on.

Focusing on that space between two things or people is a good way to begin either a story or a drawing. What's going on between them? What is the exchange? How do the angles compare? How do the personalities compare? What kind of tension exists between them (either positive or negative)? Do they agree or disagree? What are they saying? Show how they are connected.

In bookmaking this space, this pause, comes at the turning of a page. The reader/viewer must remember during the pause from one page to the next. An apple on one page might be followed by a knife on the next. The reader/viewer has to decide if the apple is done for. The third page may confirm or deny (a slice of apple or a sliced finger?) The reader/viewer tries to make sense of the connections. In book form the connections indicate sequence. The sequence of the events are the connections between the events. The connective tissue. The spaces between.


Adriana said…
Thank you for this post! It adds to my understanding of structure..
Your blog is so interesting. I'm once going over your books I have in my library. I never tire of reading them and marvel at your creativity!