As people who travel, Mike and I have a weird social life. Which is to say that sometimes we have no friends to go hang out with on a Friday night. This is kind of crappy and leaves me feeling listless on a such nights.
Instead of just watching a movie and going to bed, I’d rather do something fun and different. Sometimes I will paint something. But I often find myself to be uninspired. After all, it is Friday night and I want to go out, not paint stuff by myself in my kitchen.
In Panama, I was in a store waiting out a downpour when I saw a coloring book and knew I’d struck gold. I could make something colorful and feel all artsy without needing to come up with a subject first. A coloring book totally solves that whole blank-canvas-anxiety thing. So I bought those crayons and that coloring book and I started to color at home on the kitchen table — for the first time in a long time.
This lead to hours of coloring and then coloring book Skype dates because coloring PLUS friends (even if they’re choppy and pixelated) is better yet.
As I packed for my trip to Mexico, I tore out and brought a dozen blank pages from my Panama coloring book, knowing it would be a nice break for me between yoga sessions and hoping it might be an excuse to be social too.
As it turns out, I struck gold again.
After a few evenings of M and me coloring in our room, I broke out some crayons during breakfast and by the end of the hour, we had ourselves a regular coloring party going in full swing. As others reluctantly joined, they said things like “I don’t even remember the last time I colored” which was almost always followed by “I don’t know what to do. I’m not as creative as all of you.” Which was followed by them totally sitting down and coloring.
Eventually, in this coloring party and in subsequent ones, the stories about creativity shame started to trickle out. These adults who were fully engaged in their new waxy masterpieces started telling stories about when they were young and were told they weren’t good enough. Stories they had forgotten since the last time they colored. They were often simple things, like little jabs by a sibling that just stuck. I was sitting at a table full of people who still believed they weren’t creative WHILE they were making beautiful things happen inside the lines on the paper in front of them (yep, that’s right. Most of us do color inside the lines).
I had already gone through my own “I’m not creative” nonsense at my kitchen table in Panama — that’s why I switched from paints to coloring books in the first place — and just like the other “not creative” people who sat down, I somehow thought I was the only one who missed the creativity bus. Silly humans.
I brought my crayons to Mexico with me to give myself a way to play — while hoping I could enable other people to play too. But I found that I had enabled something much bigger: an opportunity to plant new seeds in our heads that we are creative people. Sometimes it just takes a little colored wax to remember that. Before leaving Mexico, I equipped a couple of new friends with coloring books and crayons of their own. They plan to host their own coloring parties during their travels around the world and this makes me all squishy inside. I may have just started something really good.
Feel like challenging yourself? If you have not colored since you were a child, give it a go. Don’t color for perfection, just color for fun. And if you’re feeling extra brave, try coloring outside the lines.