What I Talk About When I Talk About Coloring

There is a new craze sweeping the nation and it is not the Whip or the Nae Nae. It is the creative renaissance of adult coloring books. Yes! You heard me right. If you have been to a bookstore recently, then you have seen them on prominent display, often at the very first table you encounter when entering.

For many of us, an interest in coloring and creativity isn't new. The only thing new about this is the availability of the books. Johanna Basford's book, 'Secret Garden', jumped from an initial printing of only 13,000 books to nearly five million copies sold worldwide. It is currently selling at the rate of one million books per month in China alone. There are many reasons that contribute to her success. I think that one reason it has re-lit the creativity within adults is the simple fact that the word 'Adult' is included.

"All grown-ups were once children . . . but only a few of them remember it." - Antoine de Saint-Exupry,The Little Prince

One of my favorite adult coloring books is 'Fantastic Cities' by Steve McDonald. His architectural theme is a perfect fit for me.

We have always had the opportunity to take a blank page or canvas and color or paint on it, but there is nothing more intimidating to an artist as a blank page. The patterns provided in the books give us just enough direction and constraints for us to start immediately and proceed at our selected pace. We don't exactly know what the final result will be, but we know that it won't be a dead end, and that is enough to wash away the fear of starting a new page.

Coloring, as an activity, is therapeutic and reduces stress and anxiety. Famed psychiatrist Carl Jung prescribed coloring to his patients to calm and center their minds.

It is a nostalgic activity that provides a small digital detox for us. Coloring groups are popping up everywhere. 'Coloring and Cocktails' has replaced book clubs and dinner clubs. It has even shown up at VLK Architects - Fort Worth as a monthly activity.

My hope is that this new artistic freedom for adults will transfer to their kids. The value of creativity is at a critical juncture. Professor Paul Torrance developed a creativity test for children that he used for extensive research on the topic. He measured a rise in creative thinking every year from the 1960's until the 1990's, then it started to decline. This loss of creativity is linked to the rise of standardized testing, which focuses on a single correct answer (Convergent Thinking) rather than discovering multiple ways to solve a problem (Divergent Thinking). A few examples of divergent thinkers include Albert Einstein, the Wright brothers, and Walt Disney. The years of teaching the test has been killing creativity and it is dangerous for our future. Analytical and repetitive jobs have been, or will be, outsourced or replaced soon. A perfect example is the tax software that we all use every April.

"The new work culture will be defined by our ability to be creative thinkers." - Daniel Pink

How can we fix this?

The solution must come from multiple directions. Children value what their parents' value, so parents must treat creativity as valuable. Parents can do this by making creativity accessible to their children. Hang art at home, color together, go to plays and concerts, and read books. Schools can teach creative problem solving rather than memorization. They can teach that mistakes lead to growth and can reward creative behavior. I believe that creativity is your currency and it comes from a wallet that will never be empty.