How colouring helped to make me a better writer
One reason I like colouring is because sometimes I hate writing.
Don’t get me wrong. MOST of the time, I love it. My passion for it was so strong that I decided to make it my primary source of income. It should come as no surprise then, that there are some moments when writing feels slightly less passionate and a little bit more job-like.
It’s these same moments, the less passionate, more job-like ones, that tend to bring me the most anxiety. When I write for myself, I feel a lot less pressure. After all, I’m not paying myself for the work I put out. If I feel like something is garbage, well, I can hide it in a Google Doc somewhere and never think about it again.
When I write for clients or for a project that is particularly meaningful to me, I feel a lot more pressure to produce great quality work. My writing becomes a reflection of me, and that reputation is something I value very much.
Unfortunately, for us writers, creativity is not something we can just turn on or off. We are often plagued with the idea that we either ‘possess’ it or we don’t. I watched a particularly relevant TED Talk the other day by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the very famous ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. After receiving ridiculous amounts of success from that book, she was haunted by the notion that her greatest achievement was behind her. She understood, suddenly, this dark place that creative geniuses can sometimes find themselves in:
“We’ve come to accept that creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked, and that artistry, in the end, will almost always lead to utter anguish.”
(Take a second to watch the full talk here. It’s pretty great.)
Creative ‘genius’, colouring, the ancient Romans and me
In her TED Talk, Elizabeth Gilbert described how the ancient Romans believed creative geniuses to be physical entities that lived in the walls, not within individuals of remarkable insight or ability.
When you take the genius out, it releases all this anxiety associated with the process. It gives you a little more control to embrace your creativity or keep it living in the walls for now. Creativity can become a collaboration/conversation when you want it to. You and your creative genius are a team. All you have to do is show up for your part of the job.
So what does this have to do with colouring? When I first started colouring, it wasn’t because of any rumored health benefits. It just looked fun! (This colouring book by Arttapi, in particular, is BEAUTIFUL.)
I LOVE bright colours, and my colouring books became an excuse to splash them against each other, unapologetically.
I found myself looking forward to when the work day would be done, and I could retreat to a little nook in a cafe somewhere, colouring pencils in tow and simply breathe.
There, I wouldn’t feel the stress or pressure to produce great writing. I had one simple task in front of me, and it demanded nothing of me. I felt at peace, and almost always, when I finally returned to my workspace, I was renewed and refreshed. The act of writing became that much easier and more fluid.
Turns out, there is some science to this. I like scientific validation. It helps reinforce that I’m not just drinking some giant, trendy bowl of Kool-Aid, that there’s a good reason why I’m particularly drawn to something.
According to Dr. Rodski, a neuropsychologist, “the inability to focus is often a symptom of anxiety or stress. Colouring elicits a relaxing mindset, similar to what you would achieve through meditation. Like meditation, colouring allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus on the moment. Tasks with predictable results, such as colouring or knitting, can often be calming.”
My creative genius, a spunky and feisty broad I’m sure, likes to visit me in this state of mind. For me, finding a pleasant place to camp out and colour away my stress is my way of showing up for my part of the job.
And I think it’s made me a better writer because of it.