It’s stressful being an adult.
I was sitting on the couch at home, still working on a project and stressed out with everything I had to do that day. My husband, Gabe, had just come home, and we started to debrief with one another. At one point I let out a frustrated sigh and said, “I just wish there was something I could do to feel less stressed and more creative! Nothing too crazy—just something I can do when I need to take a break.” At that moment, I could see the light go off in his head, and he exclaimed, “How about adult coloring books?! I read about it in the news this morning. Check it out.”
My curiosity led me down a rabbit hole online, where I read about people coming together to color adult coloring books, and how beneficial that was. Eventually, I ended up on Amazon and bought three books on Prime—cause let me tell you, at that particular moment, I wanted to start coloring them yesterday! A few days later, I got them in the mail and found myself using adult coloring books to de-stress and to get my creative juices flowing. Who knew!
I pride myself on being a creative individual, but a year and a half after moving to DC from the San Francisco Bay Area, I was finding myself uninspired and overwhelmed. I came to DC to pursue an MBA from Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, and work with an amazing organization that drives technology to fight child sexual exploitation. I was taking part in projects that had a purpose, but I wasn’t feeling completely alive and inspired the way I used to feel in The Bay. A few weeks into my adult coloring book hobby, I began to think, “Maybe I can create an adult coloring book of my own?” I was in business school, so doing this could help me feel more creative and allow me to practice in the real world what I was learning in class. I decided to jump in feet first.
That idea was all I needed to feel creative again. In the next few months, I worked with illustrators, friends, and family to create Little Red Riding Hood: A Tale of Artful Adventures. An Adult Coloring Book for Stress Relief. I wanted to team up with people who valued creativity. I also wanted to push the adult coloring book concept a bit further. That’s how I decided on Little Red Riding Hood as my theme. The fable was a childhood favorite of mine, and so were coloring books.
In order to make the book relatable to adults, however, I wanted to deconstruct the characters and themes, add inspirational and relevant quotes, and tie it all together with the storyline. I also studied the adult coloring book market to see what was already out there, and what users wanted in a product like this, to plan out my business and marketing strategy for Little Red.
While I’m happy to detail my process, for those who might be interested in creating their own adult coloring book (or self-publishing a book in general), I’d like to save that for another blog post. The point I do want to make is the importance for all of us to be creative – especially as busy professionals. Here are my thoughts:
- Creativity helps us solve difficult problems. When we push our creative boundaries, we start to see things in ways we never have before. We expand our minds outside of how we think things should be, and explore what could be. That’s when we can potentially identify new ideas to challenging problems. Many of us know this as the process for innovation. One way to do this is through structured creative problem solving, or design thinking, a methodology I use in my career. To learn more about it, I recommend Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation.
- Creativity makes us more productive. When we are being innovative, we often get excited by the energy that comes with it. This energy pushes us to work and think smarter, more collaboratively, and outside the box. Moreover, establishing a more creative environment can help reduce our fear of failing. It gives us the permission to take calculated risks on big ideas. By being emotionally invested, and embracing our own limitations, we can see the path more clearly, which helps us stay focused and be more productive.
- Creativity benefits our well-being. Studies show that there is a clear connection between creating art and improving our health outcomes. One researcher who studied the impact of visual art activities on patients found that they can reduce stress and anxiety and increase positive emotions. Sounds good to me!
Now, I don’t know about you, but all of these benefits have been reason enough for me to prioritize creativity in my life. So much so that I decided to start my own innovation consulting firm, Create&, to help organizations launch big ideas. Little Red is just one of the many creative projects that has come out of Create&. Another is an app that helps enforce a human trafficking law in California, while engaging the community on the issue.
Since publishing my adult coloring book on Amazon, I want to help inspire creativity in others. A few weeks ago, I brought together some friends for a #CreateAndColor party, where we served wine and cheese and colored Little Red. It was a ton of fun, and people came up with unique masterpieces of their own.
As you can see, you really don’t need to be limited by the lines on the page. You can create your own masterpiece while taking care of your well-being. You should try it!
Right now I am running an adult coloring book Facebook contest. Download and print a free copy of Little Red, color it in, and post it on Facebook using #CreateAndColor. If you get the most likes by August 8th, 2016, you could win a free copy of my book.
So now it’s my turn to give you the same challenge Gabe gave me. Check out what this adult coloring book craze is all about! What do you have to lose?
Except maybe your stress.