Give Yourself a Little Space

October 25, 2009

I talked to my mother on the phone yesterday and she told me she hoped I would give myself a little space. She probably knows me as well as anyone does, and she knows how difficult I find it to turn off my mind, relax, and do nothing. I very seldom do nothing. I have so many things that I want to do.

Instead of worrying about what to write today, I’m going to share some of my favorite quotations about space, about taking time to just relax and think (or not, if that’s your preference) and then I’ll finish reading Twilight (Stephenie Meyer, 2005). I should have already read these books (I have Meyer’s New Moon and Eclipse waiting too) since I teach about adolescent literature, but I’m behind. The upcoming release of the sequel to the first movie reminded me that I should know what the fuss is about.

I collect quotations and have thousands of them written on 3×5 cards. I categorize them in Ziplock© bags and store them in old suitcases. Of course, you can easily search for inspiration in other people’s words on the internet, but many of the words I save come from my everyday life: people I know, things I overhear, the newspaper, magazines, movies, television. Some of my quote cards are categories I collect somewhat indiscriminately like quotations about breasts (I have an art exhibit called Breast Wishes and am working on a related book that includes the more than five thousand quotations I’ve collected about this cultural obsession), but others, like the ones that follow, are words that resonate with me and remind me of things I don’t want to forget.

There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.
• John Cage

If you are a writer you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or walking or doing housework, you can still be writing, because you have that space.
• Joyce Carol Oates

Perhaps it would be a good idea, fantastic as it sounds, to muffle every telephone, stop every motor and halt all activity for one hour some day just to give people a chance to ponder for a few minutes on what it is all about, why they are living and what they really want.
•James Truslow Adams

Even the wildest dreams have to start somewhere. Allow yourself the time and space to let your mind wander and your imagination fly.
•Oprah Winfrey

Reason is like an open secret that can become known to anyone at any time; it is the quiet space into which everyone can enter through his own thought.
• Karl Jaspers

A child, as well as an adult, needs plenty of what in German is called Spielraum.
Now, Speilraum is not primarily “a room to play in.” While the word also means that, its primary meaning is “free scope, plenty of room”—to move not only one’s elbows but also one’s mind, to experiment with things and ideas at one’s leisure, or, to put it colloquially, to toy with ideas. . .
•Bruno Bettelheim “The Importance of Play”

If you think that we are each original combinations of genes that have never existed before, you must pause with wonder as a new child strives to become himself or herself. But in our haste to get things done, be efficient, save time, keep the schedule and avoid harm, we rush children through childhood. For we are a very busy culture with little time for quiet thought or contemplation. It takes immense patience to allow children to learn at their own pace and through their own mistakes. Perhaps it is only vanity for us to think we can better past cultures by jumping to maturity without having exercised growth.
• Ann Wiseman (1973),
Making Things: The Hand Book of Creative Discovery

We need quiet time to examine our lives openly and honestly. . .spending quiet time alone gives your mind an opportunity to renew itself and create order.
•Susan L. Taylor

Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.
• Dee Hock

Inner space is so much more interesting because outer space is so empty.
• Theodore Sturgeon

It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.
•Gertrude Stein

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response is our growth and our freedom.
• Viktor E. Frankl

Our time here is magic! It’s the only space you have to realize whatever it is that is beautiful, whatever is true, whatever is great, whatever is potential, whatever is rare, whatever is unique, in. It’s the only space.
• Ben Okri

Contrary to what we usually believe, the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times, although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.
•Mihaly Csikszentmihaly

Whenever you read these words, promise yourself that as soon as you can, you’ll take at least an hour and do nothing—or something—In whatever way makes you happy.

My most creative mode occurs in the bathtub. I’m a horizontal thinker.
• Marty Gibson


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