Wednesday, October 28

Grown Up Coloring - What's the Fuss About?

We all have our different ways to dealing with creativity (or the lack of it). Margie likes to puzzle, Liz is a quilter. Usually when I'm blocked or don't know what to do with my manuscripts, I go for a walk or I sew.

For the past several months the interwebz have been awash in the latest creativity craze: adult coloring. Experts (and coloring book designers) insist coloring is a great way to de-stress, to be creative, to unblock those writing blocks.

News outlets have interviewed all kinds of experts about why coloring is good for us as adults, what this kind of intense concentration can do for our brains, and why it is suddenly catching on. I've avoided reading most of them, but I've seen the headlines.

There are a few grown-up coloring books on Amazon that have been #1 best sellers for weeks and weeks. There are mandala coloring books and hot guy coloring books and animal coloring books and flower coloring books...there are probably sex coloring books.

I wanted to see what the fuss was all about, so I decided to grab a coloring book, some colored
pencils and crayons and try this thing out. I headed to our BAM, but didn't find any books I liked, looked at Target and WalMart and none of them were particularly inspiring...so I raided bebe's stash of activity books and came across a couple of pages that I liked.

I've been hip-deep in revisions for Super #3 for a few weeks and I'm at the point that I know what I've finished is good....but I needed a little distance from the project to freshen my mind a bit. So I shut down my computer, turned off my phone and turned on the radio and started to color.

I colored a bunny (isn't he cute?) and some daffodils and didn't bother to make either of them look anything close to what we'd see in the real world. For me coloring has never been about recreating on paper something I might see in the wild; it's been about taking something from life and making it
brighter and different. I think the flowers are my favorite because they are just different enough to be completely wrong, but I like the way the colors play against one another.

I spent a solid hour coloring one afternoon last week. I didn't think about which colors came next, I just chose what felt right and colored whatever seemed to need that particular color.

It was fun taking a little time to do something different than my usual thing. I didn't feel like I was doing anything 'wrong' or like I was stealing time away from myself. I gained the distance I wanted from the revisions and now I'm nearly to the end and ready to send the pages off to my editor.

Still, I don't think I'll become an ardent adult colorer (is that even a word?). It isn't that I didn't like the act of coloring, because i did. I've always liked coloring, but I've never been in love with it. I was never the kid who created masterpiece after masterpiece, who filled up book after book. My mom probably still has boxes of partially finished coloring books of mine because 1) she never throws anything away and 2) usually I would get half-way finished with a page and be ready to move on to the next thing. That's kind of what it was like this time. It was fun while I was doing it, I felt creative. It was calming and I found myself whistling as I did it. But I never lost myself in the act of coloring the way I lose myself in the act of sewing. Maybe having one of those more detailed adult coloring books would make a difference, I don't really know.

What I do know is this: when I finish a sewing project, I feel a sense of accomplishment, and usually somewhere along the line I am hit with a bolt of inspiration about conflict or motivation or characterization. When I finished these coloring pages I felt. . like they were cute. So maybe sewing is where my non-writing creative outlet lies.

What about you? Have you tried out the adult coloring craze? What did you think?

11 comments:

  1. This is an excellent blog on the whole adult coloring craze, which I already said I couldn't figure out. It also brought back a memory. I have no idea how old I was and I--like Nan mentioned about herself in a conversation--had some trouble staying within the lines--but I colored this picture of a horse wonderfully! Right within every teeny tiny line. And I colored him royal blue. There began my lifelong love affair with the color blue--although staying within the lines went happily to the wayside. :-)

    I wonder--if you (and I) didn't sew, maybe coloring would work better, but we get such tactile satisfaction from manipulating fabric. Hmmmmm.

    Good post!

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    1. I *do* think the tactile thing has a lot to do with it. Feeling the fabric always brings it to life for me, makes me look at it differently and decide which way it should be laid with the other pieces. I'll still color with bebe (when she asks, which is rare because...she sews!), but I don't think I will seek it out.

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  2. Not to take away from the coloring craze (I don't do it now, but always enjoyed it as a child), but coloring a page doesn't warm your lap on a chilly evening like a quilt or other sewn project would. I don't see either... Writing is my creative outlet, and one I don't get enough time to enjoy.

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    1. Hi, Ava, thanks for stopping by! Writing is the *best* creative outlet, isn't it? :D

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  3. How great you did the experiment for us and what a good blog about this current craze. I probably won't try it except maybe with Grandboy (anything I do with him is always fun!). So here's the really dumb thing about coloring and me, as I said before I never could stay in the lines or make my pictures look very pretty and I'm guessing that hasn't changed much in the last 50 years. However, outlets for creativity is a topic I warm to because I just learned how to knit and I'm have a wonderful time with that. I've made scarves and baby blankets and a bunch of dishcloths. I'm getting brave and making a baby blanket right now that isn't simply straight garter stitch. And I want to try baby hats... and yeah, it's a tactile thing, I think... the yarn feels nice when it's knitted up. Thanks, Kristi!

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    1. I think it's great you're knitting; I have friends who do and they swear it's the most relaxing thing ever. I tried it, and learned that knitting doesn't like me. I think I'll stick with sewing! lol

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  4. Back in the early eighties, my soon-to-be husband delighted my heart with a present of coloring books and a box of colored pencils. The man was ahead of his time. Fortunately with grandkids, I have doodled more than once on pages of coloring books. But my creative relief from working on my romantic comedies is writing personal letters. I've never gotten into sewing or knitting, I don't have a single sewing gene. But I have boxes of stationery, pens of every color and shape, an envelope full of address stickers with seasonal or decorative images and I help keep the post office executives happy. Great blog!

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    1. I think that is awesome, Kathleen!! Whatever works for you, you should definitely do it. And speaking of pens and paper and stickers....I may need a trip to Staples, soon...

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  5. I wasn't going to read your blog about coloring, but here I am! I know nothing about this craze. My first instinct is to say it's probably a Crayola marketing ploy. Clever. Then I started to think its about left/right brain exercises. Balance. Anyway, I keep a few coloring books and box of crayons in a drawer at my desk. Have done so for years. Never thought I should read into the psych of it all, huh...but I do know this: I'm favorite Aunt always, because always willing to color with them at their table in those short, tiny chairs. So that's my advice. Color w/ the kids in short chairs and it'll probably make more sense. Good luck. --T

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    1. great advice, Tanja, I'm glad you came by! :) I do like coloring with bebe - when she asks! :)

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  6. I bought a couple of adult coloring books, along with pencils. And I've yet to sit down and enjoy them. I thought they'd be great to try while watching t.v. because I like to do something with my hands while sitting. I used to cross-stitch but my eyes don't see as well as they used to. Usually I resort to candy crush until I run out of lives :) I'm still determined to give the coloring thing a try, though, because I used to love to color. And one of my all-time favorite scents is a brand-new box of crayola crayons :)

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