Do you doodle? I remember my mom making these elaborate doodles of shapes and flowers and leaves on the margins of whatever paper she found lying around–usually when she was on the phone, I think–and thinking they were incredible, but whenever I would try to doodle I felt kind of silly, like it was a waste of time or effort to draw without really drawing. Well, the other day I was in a fairly stressful situation–I had to wait about an hour to go into a meeting that I’d been anticipating for weeks, maybe months–and so I got out my notebook and started to draw. At first I drew one of my usual comics–myself in a funny version of the current situation–but while I made myself chuckle, it really only served to amplify my nerves. So instead of drawing another comic, I drew a heart. And then a another heart around it. And then I thought, I’ll make this a paisley. And before I knew it, my mind emptied of my current situation and focused entirely on the few square inches of paper upon which I was doodling. Soon enough, I was called into my meeting, and I didn’t feel stressed out at all.
I think this is why adult coloring books are so popular. It gives you something to focus on, something completely meaningless but difficult enough that you have to devote your attention to it. I’ve tried coloring those detailed drawings while watching TV and I always end up outside the lines, even with the sharpest pencil. And mostly, I’ve used adult coloring books or doodles as a way simply to pass the time–my life is not filled with the kind of anticipatory stress I felt the other day–but when I really had something to take my mind off of, boy did doodling work. Next time I can’t sleep because I’m obsessing about something, you can bet I’ll doodle my brains out.