Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

As a writer and marketing communications specialist, I regularly need lengthy chunks of time to think and stare at the blank page (or out the window). When that time shrinks, so does my creativity, and my work suffers.

Therefore, I am constantly reassessing my schedule to ensure that I have time to do my job well. Scott Belsky calls this our “sacred space” in an article titled “What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space”.

But in today’s ultra-connected world, sacred space is hard to find. Belsky writes that our intense need for affirmation causes us to abandon our downtime (i.e., our sacred space) for something he dubs “insecurity work”: the work we do to reassure ourselves that we matter and that people care. (Think of our obsession over gaining Facebook comments or Twitter followers).

Belsky sums up our need to fill time and space with this insight: “Space is scary.”

Space is scary because that’s when we are quiet enough to hear our own thoughts — and to hear from God. Neither is controllable, so we avoid both by filling ourselves to the brim. Besides, it’s less scary to be purposeful by checking e-mail, Facebook, news updates, and so on.

But avoiding the quiet and the space does nothing for creativity. Space is necessary for quality work, especially in the creative realm.

The poetic opening verses of Genesis remind me of this sacred space: “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) It is rather unsettling, but in that scary, formless void, God moves. He is there. And He is about to do some mind-boggling creative acts.

Likewise, as I embrace the scary space that is essential for knowing myself and knowing my Creator, He will meet me there, hovering until He unleashes in me and through me something creative. Perhaps not mind-boggling, but creative nonetheless.

It isn’t easy to unplug and put down the insecurity work that so entices. But creative work requires a bravery to face the scary stuff, knowing that God is already there waiting for you.


  1. I was reminded of how little inner space I leave myself when for the first time in I-can’t-remember-how-long I took a half-hour walk. Alone in the woods. I think I would hear much more clearly from God if I had that kind of time regularly.

  2. Beautiful article!

    I find that my creative ideas while sitting in front of a computer are rather limited… its as if there’s too much noise to be able to hear what I’m thinking. Instead, I’ve found that while sitting on the train or walking to work or going for runs is where I can both listen and think more clearly.

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