There’s this thing that’s been playing with my mind for a few months now, cropping up at unexpected times, in the most unusual places. And the more it teases me the more I notice how it permeates everything. This thing is space.
Last month I was in Spain on a residential writing course. We stayed at a quiet farmhouse a couple of miles from the nearest town. Our view was spectacularly empty, a verdant valley and one white house. The rooms were enormous and each participant had, just about, their own wing. For me, this was the perfect environment in which to find space for writing.
What disarmed me, though, was that the greatest space I found for creativity came from the kindness of my fellow writers. As we wrote and shared our work I invariably felt a nervous apprehension in advance of reading a piece of my writing out loud. But the beauty, oh the delightful beauty, of these soulful scribes was the space they gave to each piece of work, however rudimentary or refined. An unplanned, respectful silence followed each reading, unwittingly honouring its creator. And that delayed commentary allowed each word to settle as it was wholly heard, and digested.
Since returning to Cornwall I’ve been observing space in all of its forms, but most especially in conversation. I’ve found enormous room to breathe in banter with work colleagues, and a claustrophobia in exchanges with advanced yogis. I’ve noticed couples who talk back without listening to one another, as well as children who simply need some space to be heard before they’ll eat their peas.
And, of course, the politicians that give no space to acknowledge their interviewers’ questions and talk about a completely different topic to the one being discussed.
For me, space in communication is what transforms a monologue into a conversation, allowing dialogue to be built and sustained with a certain equilibrium. And, without a doubt, space brings dignity to a relationship and makes it last.
I’m still working on creating space in the words I share, and the ones that are shared with me. A golden nugget I’ve learned so far? Taking a deep breath to assimilate what you’ve just heard helps; three espressos before nine o’clock doesn’t.