Want to be More Creative? Try Coloring
At the end of the week you’re finally ready to tackle a blog post, short story or newsletter, but when the blank page appears on your screen you’re suddenly stumped for creativity. You’ve been working hard all week on your business and it’s hard to shift your brain to its creative side. How do you keep your creativity booming in the midst of the busyness of work and life?
I know adult coloring is quite the trendnow, and for good reason. Not only is it a ridiculously fun pastime, but the mindless activity has several effects on our adult brains. Coloring helps people who are coping with disease, experiencing anxiety or depression or having trouble fidgeting.
As a writer, I particularly enjoy the creative benefits of the activity. Juggling between writing and business matters, my job depends on a constant flow of creativity and imagination. But the creative muscle is something to train, and what more enjoyable exercise is there than taking crayons to paper?
How Coloring Fuels Creativity
According to Leigh Anne Jasheway’s article — “Creativity in Color” — in the September 2016 issue of Writer’s Digest, adults who take time to play are more creative. Coloring is certainly my kind of play.
Many people like to unwind by watching television or a movie at the end of the day. I’m the type that doesn’t like to sit still unless I’m doing something fairly productive. Coloring gives me a productive and creative outlet while watching a movie with my husband or chatting on the phone.
I know the challenge that comes with writing copy for your brand, website or blog. I know how difficult it can be to put into beautiful, flowing words the creative images you have in your head when so many other thoughts are competing for your attention. A regular coloring practice helps this process in a few ways:
Training the imagination
A coloring book is full of white pages and outlined shapes, begging us to brighten them with our imaginations. For any type of creative occupation — writing, photography, art, dance — training your imagination in other outlets helps us distance ourselves from your primary form of creativity and allows us to come back to it with a refreshed perspective. Stepping away from our work to color is like refilling the well of imagination.
In the Writer’s Digest article, Jasheway writes, “…the simple act of using your imagination lights up your whole brain more than almost any other activity you can engage in.” Coloring lets our minds wander, which allows the imagination to go to work.
Especially when we’re stressed, we’re always told to slow down, pay attention to our breath and practice being mindful. Yet it’s not always that easy to quiet our brains. With so many things going on and ideas bouncing around, I can have a hard time letting my thoughts chill out.
The act of coloring is mindless. Once we get started, it’s easy to zone out and enter a peaceful sense of quiet and calm in our brains.
Mindfulness is essential to creativity. When my brain is flooded with other things and I’m on tight deadlines, I can’t fathom taking the time to think about what I want to write. I just want to put words on paper and get the thing done. But that’s so much harder to do ifI don’t have a clear picture of how to approach the article.
Coloring gives us that time to think, daydream and brainstorm. Without that time for imagination, our writing can easily become bland and fall into the familiar styles that are already out there.
Focus and organization
Just as mindfulness helps us brainstorm for creative projects, it also helps us to organize our busy brains and focus our thoughts. One of the reasons we get stumped when it comes to writing is because we’re constantly thinking about other things.
We’re processing the boss’s comments from the morning meeting while trying to remember to mail a letter at lunch and pick up eggs on the way home so we can make cookies for the bake sale tomorrow before heading to another fundraiser — how can we possibly find the right words to make a compelling story with all those thoughts in our heads?
Coloring slows us down, allowing us to organize those thoughts, put them away and focus on something else. If my head is clouding up with too many thoughts on my creative project, the mindless act of coloring gives me the space I need to sort out those thoughts and fully explore and imagine each possibility.
I’m not saying we need to drop our work in the middle of the day and whip out a coloring book at the office (though that’s certainly one way to go about it!). But making a regular practice of coloring in our free time, maybe once or twice a week, is a great way to get these benefits and will help us be more creative when we need to be.
Coloring Books for Creativity
I have been coloring since college, but I’ve never once used an adult coloring book. I am going to admit it — I am addicted to poster-size Disney Princess coloring books. They. Are. Awesome!
Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we have to get the adult version. Part of playing and coloring is about tending to that childlike nature. Who cares if we’re coloring cartoons instead of beautiful detailed forests?
That being said, there are great options for adult coloring books out there meant to specifically aid us in creativity and imagination, including titles like Anatomy Lessons: 30 Illustrations to Stir Your Creativity and Make You Learn Something New (Creativity & Meditation).
I do think they look awesome and really would love to try them out…if I can ever step away from my princess pages.
I mean, come on…they decorate my office so nicely!
Tip: Decorate your work space with your colorings. Certain colors are also beneficial to the creative process!
It doesn’t matter what you color. More importantly, it’s the act of coloring that brings about creativity. Go with something you like. You can find coloring books of all kinds — even the Fight Club author Chuck Pahlanuik is coming out with a coloring book…for those of you who are looking for something a little darker than princesses….
Remember when you find yourself struggling to put words on paper, try reaching for the crayons more often. Coloring can give you the creative boost you need to fuel your writing.
How about you? Do you make a habit of coloring? What’s your favorite type of coloring book? I want to hear all about it in the comments!