How I stopped writing and learned to love felt tips

Hello again. A month passes. I make plans to write, really I do.

Instead, I head back to doing some colouring, when the evening comes round and my time is (relatively) my own.

Because, at least for now, colouring is good. Colouring is peaceful. Colouring gives you something nice to look at the end.

And colouring is really the last thing I would have expected to find myself doing, even a year ago.

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Somewhere near the start of this year, one night, I found myself out of sorts. I needed something to do with my hands.

Not cooking. Not typing. Not sewing. Just something that felt like…not work.

I found a few of my kids’ colour-in birthday cards that hadn’t been done. I half-inched a pot of felt tips out of a sleeping child’s room, and made a start.

It was…peaceful. I even sent a few of them, to other grownups who know me well enough that I can send them coloured-in birthday cards done by me.

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I had a set of fine tipped felt pens, bought for a journalling thing that didn’t quite take off.
I had a couple of books of geometric colouring designs, bought for the kids’ craft stash.

At some point, I decided to combine the two. And the whole thing took off.

Much later, I started to see colouring books everywhere. In bookstores, bargain stores, in magazines sent by people who want you to buy their books.

There was all this mindfulness stuff mentioned in the blurb for the colouring books. And I’m pretty sure it’s there. If you want it to be.

But maybe for me, the six- or seven-year-old me that used to colour grids of squares and triangles and hexagons had made a reappearance.

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I’m not great at drawing. I understand, yes, that I can be better, that practice is true for drawing as well as for writing, cooking, roller-skating, and many other key things in life.

But in the meantime, I can do colouring. In fact, I can imagine I’m in somewhere in North Africa, or maybe southern Spain, gradually putting together a mosaic floor.

That’s the kind of colouring I find myself doing the most. Sometimes there are flowers and leaves, and tendrils, and, you know, I put up with them too.

But what I like most is the geometric stuff. And what I like even more than just the colouring is the outlining, especially where you do a lot of it.

Then it starts to feel like you are not just involved in the shapes, but that you are somehow creating them. Straight line after straight line combine, and all of a sudden you have a twelve pointed star, that you would not have been able to manage otherwise.

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What I also really like are those moments when you look up from what you are doing, or turn the paper a bit to do a fiddly bit.

And suddenly, you see a new element in the design that you hadn’t been able to see before. The squares that interlock between the triangles; the succession of new shapes marching off across the page.

There’s something that is both very small (line after line after line after LINE), and something that is very big: the way that space works; the way that shapes fit together.

That’s not the kind of thing I’ve been used to looking at so much. But I could get used to it.

I find that I do.

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