Coloring Outside the Lines

Whenever I see a little kid doing some coloring, I always smile when I see what kind of wild creation they come up with in their coloring books.  It’s often a bunch of crazy colors, none of which match and rarely are they able to stay within the lines.  I know it was like this with my nephews when I would see their bursts of Crayola-inspired artistry.crayons_full

But then when they reach a certain age (and I’m not sure exactly what age that is), I  think I fall into the same pattern of behavior as everyone else… admonishing them (gently mind you) that they need to start coloring inside the lines or they need to pick the “right” colors for their drawings.  It’s like my brain just cannot quite process a drawing by (for example) a 9 year old where they just can’t seem to stay neatly within the black-and-white pictures they are given.  I reason, “The pictures would look better and more life-like if they stay in the lines and pick appropriate colors!  I mean, cows aren’t green, for the love of God.”

Well, a friend/colleague/blog reader, Heidi, sent along a quote to me that really struck me about the above kind of thinking I (and lots and lots of other people) get snagged into:

Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.
– Alan Kneightly

Boom.  Headshot.

What a perfect little snapshot on what creativity should mean to each and every one of us.  I’m not going to go off on some rant about nurturing children or proper parenting techniques because (1) I’m not qualified having no kids of my own and (2) that’s just patronizing.  What I do want to say is that for myself, I really need to think a little more about how I view “coloring outside the lines” generally speaking, especially with my nephews.

Pencil mug from Sam In the end, does it really matter if my nephew, Sam, likes drawing all over the place or using the color red for… well… mostly everything (as is demonstrated by this pencil mug he did for me a few Christmases ago)?  Hardly.  I just wonder about the subtle effect of always forcing people into smaller and smaller boxes, hence smaller and smaller ways of thinking about things.  Would Sam be driven down a path of complete anarchy and chaos if he was never “corrected” to use different colors or try to be neat?  I kind of doubt it, but I do think that if he (or any kid) were to be constantly boxed in, they might not quite be to their creative potential as they should.

And I don’t mean anything about all of us needing to be artists and such, but I believe it to be a fact of modern life that creativity tends to be constantly stifled.  It’s like the old line of corporations wanting people to think outside the box, but then always putting them inside physical boxes (cubes) to do their work.  What is gained in neatly partitioned work spaces and potential floor plan efficiency may very well be lost in new ways of thinking.

My own remedy for my own potential stifling attitude (whether for others or myself) is twofold: (1) This blog.  I cannot even begin to say how liberating it is to do this and to write freely about topics of interest to me.  (2) Read The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.  I’ve had this book come highly recommended as a great read on unlocking your own inner creativity and letting it breath a little more.  I began reading a sample of it on my Kindle (so handy) and please do not be dissuaded by the title – it’s something anyone can find value in, not just artists.

Maybe I will even color my next chart for work outside the lines… if I could just bend that damn PowerPoint to my will…

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