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I Color Even If I'm Not A Kid Anymore, And You Should, Too

Well, why not?!

I got into the “adult” coloring book craze about a month ago when my sister Michele showed me the Johanna Basford book she had ordered. Luckily for me, she had one to spare.

So for a vacation, I brought my book and pens—never mind that they added to my hand luggage weight. The coloring kept me busy on the plane and on nights when I was by myself. But I haven’t dropped it since I got back, and here are my reasons:

1. It’s relaxing. It’s just me, my books, and my pens. Sometimes I ask my sister for her opinion on a particular color combination, but mostly it’s just me. I generally spend an hour or two coloring before I go to sleep. Getting into a rhythm is quite soothing. In France, the section for the coloring books is actually called “Art Thérapie.”

2. It’s a channel for creativity. Do I use pens or pencils? (My personal preference is brush-tip pens). Do I go primary, earthy, or pastel? Do I follow standard/accepted colors or do I go wild with blue squirrels and fuchsia trees? How do I shade properly? Did I just say this was relaxing?

3. It’s a great way to pass time. When I was traveling, I occupied myself by coloring instead of watching movies or sleeping. And time passed ever so quickly!

4. It’s comforting. On those days when you get home after a long day at the office or another night of nasty traffic, coloring can calm those jangled nerves. 

5. It’s an alternative to being online. Most nights, I spend my time in front of a computer screen–reading the news, checking social media, playing games. The coloring gives me a chance to unplug.

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6. It’s an exercise in discipline. Coloring sounds so simple and we associate it with an activity kids do. But if you’ve seen the intricate designs in the adult versions, you’ll soon realize that it takes a good deal of focus and discipline to produce beautiful coloring art. The word “mindful” is used quite often–you can’t quite be on autopilot as you have to make decisions while coloring.

7. It allows me to channel my inner wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic centered on acceptance of imperfection. In other words, beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. I have an inclination towards symmetry, so this is a good opportunity for me to experiment and break away from my natural compulsion to match colors.

8. It reminds me that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to color out of the lines. It’s okay to accidentally use the wrong shade. You can try to correct it with another, and in the process you create a new shade or hue that turns out to be exactly what you’re looking for. Which leads me to...

9. It’s a voyage of discovery. Who knew there were 20 shades of green and that you could use them all in one tree? Or that purple, brown, and red could come together in a rabbit? And that what starts out as just individual colors can coalesce into a beautiful finished product?

10. It’s FUN! Once you start, it’s so hard to quit. Especially after you’ve completed a couple of pieces, posted them on Facebook and Instagram, and had people admire your work. Then you start checking online for supplies and pre-ordering books, following the artists on Instagram, scouring the pen sections of all the bookstores, going to craft shows–it never ends!

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I know what some of you are thinking: This is just another crazy fad that will disappear. Those coloring books will end up gathering dust and all those expensive pens will eventually dry up.” That can happen, but in the meantime, adult coloring books are on the top of Amazon’s bestseller lists with many of the popular artists sold out. FYI, there will be a Game of Thrones version out later this year (although that might be a little too “adult” for me).

Barbara J. King, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary, might have said it best: Maybe it offers me the very mix I wasn’t able to value in my 20s: the combination of remembering the comforts of being a child while incorporating the creativity of an adult.”

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