I’m sure I’ve talked about how severely left-brained I am, but in case you didn’t read those posts, or have forgotten what I said, I’ll do a short recap here. The left side of the brain is primarily responsible for thinking and logic; the right side is the creative side, the part of the brain where dreams come from. I was employed as a computer programmer before I retired. A very left-brained occupation. Writing requires using more of the right brain.
My left brain has been very happy for the past two months as I edited and formatted and set up “A Game of Murder” on Amazon. I’ve created Facebook posts and tweeted and participated in a Facebook event to promote this latest book. Even as I did this, my right brain was crying, “What about me?”
So, throughout this process, I promised my right brain that once I was done with launching the book, I’d give her a new toy.
In case you hadn’t heard, adult coloring books are all the rage. Mostly Books, the local independent book store that carries my mysteries, even has a monthly coloring night. You bring—or buy—your own coloring book, and they supply the colored pencils, gel pens, and markers, as well as a space and company to do this activity. I decided the new toy would be a coloring book and colored pencils.
In my left-brained fashioned, I spent a lot of time browsing the coloring books on Amazon, reading reviews, looking at photos of the pictures inside. Of course, I wound up with one called Creative Cats. There was no avoiding it. Just as, given a choice between two articles of clothing or two book covers or two coffee mugs, it’s a fair bet I’ll choose the blue one, choosing which kind of pictures I wanted to color inevitably led to the one with cats.
Then I had to decide what to color the pictures with. More research. In this case, I had to balance cost against utility. It was very tempting to buy both colored pencils and gel pens. Even after I decided to only buy pencils this time, there were 36 packs, 48 packs, even an assortment of 150 colors! Reminding myself that I often start projects like this but don’t keep them up, and that eight Crayola crayons had been sufficient for my eight-year-old self, I decided on the 24 pack of Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils.
Now that I’ve started coloring for an hour in the morning, I’ve been surprised by what stands out most to me: the colors!
I’ve realized that I spend most of of my time in a colorless world. I type in black letters on a white screen. I read on my Kindle PaperWhite or on a sepia-toned screen on my iPad Mini. Or a book, which again is black letters on cream-colored paper.
Although greener now than usual, the view outside my window has limited color. It’s a desert. It’s mostly brown, except for when the cactus bloom in the spring. I get very excited when an Arizona cardinal perches in one of the trees, even though Arizona cardinals are a duller red than the Eastern kind.
There’s a section in the right side of my brain that’s sucking in the colors through my eyes and lighting up with glee. I’m trying out the different pencils, seeing how the colors look on the page, experimenting with which ones go together and which ones clash. It’s creativity of a different sort than the kind I use for writing stories. It’s helping me transition from all those left-brained tasks to the very right-brained task of creating a new story.
Doing this over the past few days has brought back memories of sitting on the stoop on hot summer afternoons, sharing a coloring book and crayons with a girlfriend. She’d color the picture on the left-hand page while I colored the one on the right. Or vice versa. I vaguely remember intense discussions on who would color which picture before we started. Then we’d work on our “masterpieces” side-by-side, in silence, until we finished those and had to decide what pictures to color next.
This kind of play is necessary for me. Creativity is a messy activity. You have to be free to think of the most outrageous things in order to come up with something new. So, while I organize my notes and take another class and put together a project plan, I’m also coloring in my coloring book. It’s play time.