How to Use Coloring to Overcome a Creative Block

If you’re a writer, musician, painter, or artist of some kind, you’ve likely experienced a creative block. Maybe you’re not an artist at all. You might be a business owner, account executive, or social worker. And perhaps in your job or life you’ve been faced with a moment where you felt stuck.


Whether your work is focused on creative thinking or problem solving, you’ve likely encountered that uneasy, slightly terrifying feeling of not knowing what to do next or how to move forward.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

The upside is that feeling stifled or stuck is usually a sign that something big and exciting is about to unfold. Unfortunately, it’s all part of a cyclical process – a roadblock often leads to a breakthrough. But, before you can get to that a-ha moment, you have to work through the muck.

What’s Holding You Back?

There are two main reasons you may be experiencing a creative block. The first, and most common, may surprise you because it’s not really a lack of ideas or inspiration at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s overstimulation. Think back to the last time you were feeling stuck. It was likely when a major deadline or milestone was approaching. Often, when you have the pressure of a project looming, your mind is flooded with thoughts or solutions. This can happen so intensely that the mind shuts down, and you’re left paralyzed and uncertain about how to move forward.
The second reason you may be stifled and stuck is in fact a creative void or disconnect. This type of block likely results from a change or new situation. For example, maybe you just got a new job, started a new business, or moved to a new city, and you’re having to tackle a new type of project for the very first time. You may find yourself at a loss for where to begin or how to approach the situation because you’re not only lacking stimulation but also missing a creative process to fall back on. When you have to start from scratch, you may very well experience a creative block.

Coloring and Finding Solutions

When you’re faced with a deadline or a new endeavor, you may never think to turn to a coloring book. However, you might be surprised at how helpful coloring can be to work through a period of stagnation. Coloring has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, which can both contribute to creative blocks. In addition, coloring helps to increase your focus, spark your creative juices, and allow you to return to other projects with a fresh perspective.

Scattered to Organized

If you’re feeling stifled because of overstimulation, try opening up the space in your mind to quiet all of the noise and hone in on your ability to focus your thoughts. Coloring is a great tool to help you tap into each of these areas. First, coloring helps to relax and center you. For some, the repetitive nature of coloring can even be meditative, and meditation is a proven method to help you ground yourself and build a foundation for strong work. Coloring also provides structure and focus by allowing your mind to concentrate on a single page in a book, a single design on a page, and even a single shape within a design. Coloring can be a very detail-oriented process, so it helps to boost your systematic skills and allows you to better organize and make sense of your thoughts and ideas.

Distracted to Engaged

If you’re experiencing a creative block because of a lack of stimulation or disconnect with yourself or the project at hand, try to re-engage with yourself and your potential. Coloring can help to bring your spark back to life. Completing a design in a coloring book can give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It can remind you of your creative abilities and help you reconnect to the potential within you.

Why You Need a Coloring Book, Not a Blank Page

When you’re feeling stifled, one of the worst things you can do is to put yourself in front of a blank page. We’ve all experienced that moment of opening a fresh document or PowerPoint slide with that ominous cursor tapping away, counting each second that goes by without typing a single word. A blank page is sure to increase the stress and anxiety that’s likely exacerbating your creative block.

Unlike doodling, journaling, or even something more organized like creating a mind map, coloring in a coloring book allows you to start with something. It gives you a jumping off point, unlike a blank page. A coloring book provides more structure and guidance than a blank sketchpad. It helps to unlock your creativity without the demand to produce something from nothing or from scratch.

The Connection You Might be Missing

Using a coloring book to work through a creative block is a great solution because it’s active, as opposed to more passive methods like taking a walk or simply going outside. However, coloring is not just actively engaging your mind. It’s engaging a connection between your cognitive skills and your motor skills. Although you may think that there’s no correlation between cognitive skills and motor skills, working on your sensory motor skills may actually help to boost your cognitive ones. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, refers to brain scans that show “sequential finger movements activated massive regions [of the brain] involved in thinking, language and working memory.” So, as you physically pick up your colored pencils, press them to the paper, and move them to color in the shapes of the designs, you’re actively igniting sparks in your brain that could lead to creative breakthroughs.

Free Your Mind, and the Rest Will Follow

It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best things you can do when you’re feeling stifled or stuck is to walk away from the situation or project and free your mind. Sometimes, when you intently focus and think about something, you’re really not accomplishing anything other than further inducing the pressure and stress that may be causing the creative block. However, if you want to move past the block you’re experiencing, you should try to free your mind in a productive way.

A coloring book provides the perfect balance of freedom and structure to help you work through a period of stagnation. You’re able to engage your mind fully, both the right and left sides of the brain. Coloring allows you to unlock your creativity through the designs you choose and colors you use, and you’re able to do so methodically and with purpose. Once you allow your mind to focus on another activity, you’ll begin to open spaces that were stuck or tap into places that need to be unleashed. Coloring is a perfect tool for combatting a creative block no matter what type of block you’re experiencing.

Coloring into the Answers

Remember that on the other side of the roadblock may very likely be a breakthrough. Feeling stifled or stuck often means you’re about to open up space for a fantastic, new opportunity or tap into a brilliant, new idea. Instead of opening up the project or a blank document, turn to your coloring book instead. Color until you unleash the answers that are already within you.

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