making empty space

Jay Clouse creativity, inspiration

It’s not uncommon for my Google calendar to resemble a jigsaw puzzle – many colored “pieces” butting up against each other in such a way that everything seems to fit, without any gaps.

Sometimes this is due to hyper-productivity, deadlines, and over-involvement. Sometimes I forget that my time is my time. Whatever the reason, it’s rare that I have several hours of time without any planned commitments. Equally rare are the times when my brain feels on fire creatively.

What I’ve begun to realize is that these two phenomena are completely related.

As Seth Godin has said, “We don’t know where creativity comes from, but we know where it doesn’t come from: staring at a screen.”

This weekend I created empty space. I went to my parents’ house out in the country. I drew and played pretend with my nieces, I meditated, I sat at a picnic table and did my morning pages, I read a book on the pier, I stared out at the trees and at the fish in the pond…

In this empty space, I had many thoughts come and go. I made some decisions I’d been putting off. I created a format for a course I’m putting together. I breathed deeply and I lost track of what time it was. Tonight, maybe I’ll take some of the ideas I had and make them reality on my website. Or maybe I won’t!

I didn’t have the option of thinking about what I was doing – because I wasn’t doing. I didn’t have the option of thinking about what I needed to do later, because I’m not doing later. I couldn’t avoid the discomfort of no plans by making plans, because all of my friends are hundreds of miles away.

My brain had free reign.

Eventually, I hope to find the discipline to create empty space in my apartment or when I’m surrounded by the opportunity to make plans. But for now, I’ll do what it takes to make it work.

There’s a magic in the empty space…a magic in the blank canvas.

Seek it.


One of the books I finished this weekend was “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight, a memoir by the founder of Nike. It’s one of the best biographies I’ve ever read – a chronical of four decades of disaster and rash decisions that somehow birthed one of the most successful brands in history. I recommend you pick it up.


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