I’ve been blogging in one place or another for the past decade, so my opinion is automatically worth more, right? Right??
Over the Christmas holiday, Amazon’s top selling “books” were adult coloring books. This distresses me because A) Amazon has a category issue; I don’t consider a coloring book to be a “book” in the same way I don’t consider a book of sudoku puzzles to be a “book”, and B) adults have turned to something so simple as a means of creative entertainment.
Before I get into the meat of this, I’ll preface by stating I’m no literary snob. While I prefer certain books over others, I think there is just as much literary value in James Joyce’s Ulysses as I do Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight. Reading material is supposed to entertain first and foremost. If it manages to teach, enlighten, and encourage conversation, that’s wonderful, but it’s first purpose is to entertain. If a book can’t do that, it fails before the reader has even picked up it.
Today’s diatribe, however, isn’t actually about what constitutes a book and what doesn’t. My gripe is that grown people are choosing coloring books over alternatives for a creative outlet.
Coloring gives people an opportunity to be creative without any of the necessary talent that goes into drawing or painting or even writing something from scratch. Coloring provides a sense of accomplishment that is normally reserved for those who have spent years honing a craft, which troubles me greatly. Rather than put forth the effort necessary to practice drawing or painting or dancing, adults turn to the coloring book because it is quick and easy.
If I’ve griped about anything throughout any of my blogs, it’s that I find most facets of adulthood to be difficult, so I fully understand the difficulty in finding the time to practice the skills needed to have a true creative outlet. I’ve had a piano in my apartment for 7 seven years, but I can hardly tinker anything familiar on it, and even after a brief stint of attempting piano lessons, I’m still no good at reading base clef. I’d love to take up painting, and after a random morning at home and watching a Bob Ross episode on PBS, I may still try again, but as many others often find themselves saying, “I just can’t find the time.”
Most adults could find countless options for a creative outlet, but the ones who don’t put everything else ahead of that need. While I can understand the stresses of work, spouses, children, cleaning the house, keeping up on laundry, maintaining the lawn, remembering to call Grandma on her birthday, and so forth, everyone can carve out time to work towards a creative outlet, but few do using many of the aforementioned excuses. What truly perplexes me is that the same people who can’t seem to find the time to practice writing poems or practice drawing, still somehow find a block of time to sit and color in an adult coloring book.
Coloring within the lines requires little creative effort. Creating the actual designs that go into coloring books, however, requires months or years of effort. In a society constantly looking for the easiest routes to success, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that people opt for the simplest path.
So, why do I complain that grown folks are opting for coloring books? I don’t look down on the exercise as a means of mental calm. I understand that it can be quite soothing, but so can many other creative outlets. I can’t get past the first few stanzas of Moonlight Sonata on the piano, but after a little tinkering with a tune found in a beginners practice book, I have a harmonious simple tune that I can play by heart when the moment warrants it. While working on any “major” writing project can bring its headaches, sitting down to create a new story from the beginning just because I can do it is more freeing than anything else I experience in life. A hectic life needs a method of calming the mind, but there’s nothing that suggests that that method has to be as simplistic as the adult coloring book.
Everyone needs a creative outlet. Whether it be writing, dancing, photography, learning, or (in the case of my mother, with whom I discussed this post in the midst of writing) applying customs law in creative ways, everyone needs a creative outlet. One doesn’t even need to be exceptionally good at said outlet either. Like I said, I can hardly read base clef, but it doesn’t stop me from playing the one song that I can play on the piano. I may never get published, but it doesn’t stop me from writing whatever I want whenever I want.
Creative outlets provide a mental calm in a hectic life and past the elementary school years, one can do far greater and better things to achieve that mental calm than pretend to be artist while filling in lines created by others. Stop taking the quickest, easiest routes towards a sense of accomplishment and put forth just a little effort. No one will hang the completed coloring book page from a 30-something on the fridge, but they may find delight in an original creation.
There’s a very real possibility that I’m missing something fundamental in the adult coloring book, but then…this is still my three cents on the issue.