Conquer The (Tiny) Blank Page

We asked Devin Redmond of Leafcutter Designs to give us a few tips on tackling text, no matter the size of your canvas! Read on for big time inspiration! 

It’s easy to think of creativity as an expansive free flowing exercise of raw imagination. It’s sometimes described as a spring inside you, from which ideas simply bubble forth and demand to be released into the world. Every once in a while, I’ll sit down to write a letter and the pen just seems to have a mind of its own. I already know what I want to say, and the right words keep stepping up at just the right moment. I love it when this happens!

But more often than not, the blank page engages me in a quiet staring contest. Its pure white expanse simply affords too many options. In these moments, I benefit from the imposition of creative constraints.

Sometimes its a writing prompt, like one from our Letters To My series, that gets me started. Other times, I’ll turn to our Worlds Smallest Post Service Kit and pull out a sheet of tiny writing paper and the included .005 Micron pen. Knowing I have only limited space to craft an entire letter forces me to boil my message down to its stripped away core. Word choice becomes essential; introductions and explanations fatal. Say only what you mean, and nothing else!

Ernest Hemingway intuitively knew about the focusing power of constraints when he famously challenged himself to write a novel in only six words. David Bowie knew this too, when he brought a set of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies into the recording studio. Take away the 140 character constraint, and Twitter is just another run-of-the-mill online publisher. Without limits and boundaries, even our most creative minds can easily get lost in the wilderness.

While there will always be an essential role for long form writing, keeping it short is an art form all its own. It takes practice to master. To paraphrase Pascal's 360-year-old witticism (or more recently Mark Twain, according to urban legend), “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have enough time."

If you want to play with length as a creative constraint in your own letter writing, or just love the sight of these mini-missives and tiny packages, go for it! Here are three ways you can use the World’s Smallest Post Service Kit to spread joy and surprise to friends and family.

  1. Challenge yourself to write a six-word letter/poem to each of your closest friends. Six words only. No more, no less. See if they reply with brevity or long-windedness. This idea is inspired by Hemingway, SMITH Magazine’s Six-Word Memoirs project, and the emerging flash fiction genre.
  2. Plan a tiny-themed party and send everyone tiny invitations. Make miniature bags of popcorn and serve tea a sip at a time. We did this at the Leafcutter studio not too long ago!
  3. Resolve to give small gifts of wit and ingenuity, instead of material goods, for your friends’ birthdays this year. Find a small inexpensive object, like a square of chocolate or a toy compass. Think up a sweet or sassy message, like “There’s nothing semi about you and me,” or “Wherever you go, I’m sure to follow." Wrap it up in an exquisitely detailed tiny package!

What are your favorite creative constraints when it comes to letter writing?