By Linda Commito Creativity needs space and play time without judgment. I grew up with a workaholic father in a business that enveloped all of us. My dad owned Art’s Variety Store, a 15-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year business. The only time that the store hours were shortened was on Christmas day, by four hours, so that my dad could enjoy dinner with our extended Italian family. It may be hard to believe, but the first and only day that the store was actually closed was for my wedding. (Maybe he should have kept it open!) So, it came as no surprise when, many years later, I found myself working 60 to 80 hours a week in my home accessory business. The concept of free time as an opportunity to allow creative thoughts and ideas to manifest—or to simply ‘just be’—wasn’t a big part of my reality. It wouldn’t be until decades later, after I sold my business, that I could explore other ways of being in the world. Concerned about not being productive and fearful that I wouldn’t find anything that I would feel as passionate about, I wrote this poem: White Space so unfamiliar. Open, expansive, unfulfilled, yet so full of promise. The past was a time of “filling spaces”, unable to accept the quiet, emptiness, the white walls. And now life is one big space, with nothing to do, but to let go and just be in it . . At first, I felt apprehensive about “white spaces,” especially when I tried my hand at painting or writing, unsure whether I could fill the empty canvases or pages with something meaningful or worried that I might somehow mess up their pristine appearance. I remember taking an art class titled, “Freedom, Passion and Painting.” We students arrived in the studio, armed with several large sheets of white paper. Many of us felt intimidated, wondering if we would ruin these pages with our inexperienced hands and paint-filled brushes. But we didn’t have time to think about it. The first assignment was to fill the entire page with paint in 8 minutes, all while listening to lively music. No white spaces and lots of smiles! The next assignment was to paint the UGLIEST PAINTING that we had ever done. No problem there! While keeping our feet moving to fun music, we playfully threw paint on the paper. But wait! We looked around . . . there were no ugly paintings! We laughed. “OK, we can do this!” By the next assignments, we were open and fearless and having a blast! I learned that creativity needs space and play time without judgment. I loved having the time to learn, explore and discover new things and I no longer needed to fill up every space and moment to feel productive. In fact, while writing my book, Love Is the New Currency, my best writing flowed when I let go of stress by doing some deep, slow breathing or walking in nature. I was pushing to get the book finished in two years, working nonstop. A friend said, “Linda, natural child birth is a much better way to go”—and so it was, many months later. I no longer accepted that we have to sacrifice precious moments to a culture that demands productivity at the expense of creativity. Francesco, a talented, professional musician, believes that “like children, we need play time to be creative. Imagining and dreaming are vital to fostering a sense of freedom and creativity.” Many of us have had a lot of white space this past year and much of it has been uncomfortable. And it’s not that we still don’t have responsibilities. But what if we could value not only what we have accomplished, but equally, the creative ways that we have “reinvented ourselves” and what we have learned, read, written, or simply enjoyed? Linda Commito, author, speaker, entrepreneur, consultant and teacher, is passionate about her vision to leave this world a kinder, more loving, and interconnected place. Linda’s award-winning book of inspirational stories, Love Is the New Currency, demonstrates how we can each make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others through simple acts of love and kindness. Her latest project, the card game Just Ask 1 2 3, was inspired by a desire to connect people of all different ages, beliefs and lifestyles to share our individuality and find commonality. Linda also created “Kindness Starts with Me,” a program, book and website for children. For more information visit http://www.LoveistheNewCurrency.com or visit the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/Justask123game.