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What's with All the Coloring Books?

The adult coloring book craze is taking over my town. No longer confined to bookstores, coloring books have spilled over into office supply stores, convenience marts, grocery stores, and Dollar Generals. I’ve met plenty of people who claim that coloring is a good stress-reliever and increases “mindfulness.” I didn’t take any of this seriously at first, but according to last week’s Publisher’s Weekly, this trend is far from over. I decided it was about time I learned what all the fuss was about.

I set out to purchase my first coloring book. It was surprisingly difficult to find a suitable one—attractive, but within a college student’s budget—because there were so many choices. I found a pocket-sized book at the local Rite Aid for a couple of bucks, but the simple animal illustrations were rather boring. I adored a beautiful book of Egyptian-themed illustrations on water-color paper, but not enough to spend twenty dollars on it. Finally, I fished the perfect book out of a Barnes and Noble bargain bin: Art Nouveau Designs, by Dover Publications. After turning the house upside down looking for my colored pencils (erasable, because I’m chicken when it comes to art), I was ready to begin.

It quickly became clear that even one picture was going to take forever. My book’s illustrations weren’t especially detailed, so perhaps I just color really slowly because I don’t want to make mistakes (See? Chicken.) To work more art into my day, I carried the book around the house with me and colored while on the phone and watching TV.

My finished picture.

Soon, everyone in my family knew what I was up to. My mother peered over my shoulder and offered color suggestions. My friend gave me an animal coloring book she’d found, in case I got sick of Art Nouveau. My younger brother stole this second book and colored for about ten minutes before the lure of the Xbox became too strong to ignore. When I couldn’t decide what color to use for a background, at least three people offered suggestions (we settled on a safe sky-blue). I felt a surge of triumph when the illustration was finally finished and I proudly showed it off to everyone who encouraged me.

So, what did I get from all this? Coloring was fun, plain and simple. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, mostly because of how involved my family and friends became. I don’t feel any more mindful, but maybe coloring while watching The Avengers isn’t the path to enlightenment.

My coloring book didn’t change my life, and like any trend, it’s probably over-hyped. That said, I’m certainly not sorry I completed my experiment. Will I keep coloring? I might as well, since I now have two still mostly-blank books on my shelves. Maybe I’ll color another picture while I watch the Olympics.

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