First thing’s first: I LOVE to color. And yes, I mean that I color in a children’s coloring book; me and the Sesame Street gang have spent A LOT of time together and no, I’m not 8 (at least not on the outside…)
Somewhere in my early twenties I got the notion to return to this childhood mainstay and quickly got obsessed. I love picking out a page that reminds me of someone I know and coloring it for them; I even colored a page for a man I met on an airplane once. People will see me coloring and break out in a smile or a light-hearted chuckle. I get the feeling it brings them back to simpler times when coloring felt as necessary as washing the dishes. Well for me, it still is that way…or at least, I’ve prioritized it to be that way.
You see, I’ve come to see coloring as a form of moving meditation: as I focus on this one simple task my mind clears and relaxes. I’m not worrying about my to-do list or my personal anxieties and I am completely at ease with life.
But in order for this to happen, I need to color INSIDE the lines.
It hit me one day that the reason I’m addicted to coloring is because it’s one of the only times where I allow myself to take a break from attempting to be original and adventurous.
Society is constantly telling us to color outside the lines, think beyond the box and forge our own path. We’ve learned to praise innovation as the greatest good and to see following the pack as something for the dull-witted masses. While being different or innovative is not bad in of itself, I think there's value in trotting the beaten path as well. (Mind you, this is coming from someone who's life's ambition has been to buck the system!)
When I color, I follow the lines in front of me and use a limited set of pre-existing colors. Consequently, my expectations of making “great art” are lowered and the burden of “being genius” is lifted (as though that were a real issue, ha!) The paradox is that when I put down my coloring book, I am able to better create and innovate in other areas in my life, like songwriting.
The pressure to be different in our world gets compounded with the multitude of choices we have in front of us on a daily basis. In this great NY Times article about the dilemma of having too many choices, the author says that according to research “an excess of choices leads to us being less, not more, satisfied once we actually decide. There’s often that nagging feeling that we could have done better.” What if we all took a little time to give ourselves limited options? To be satisfied flowing with the river beneath us? To color inside the lines?
Only in this past year did I realize there’s a growing community of adults that are discovering the benefits of coloring and can’t get enough. There are now even coloring books for adults! My favorites are by Johanna Basford - I have her magically intricate “Enchanted Forest” book (thanks for the Christmas present, Mom and Dad.) Here’s what I have so far:
So how 'bout it? Color INSIDE the lines!