Doodle Outreach

Is Doodling the Same as Coloring?

on August 14, 2016

crayonsWhen I was a little girl, I liked coloring in coloring books. I had a plastic Capezio bag with a drawstring that my ballet slippers had come in, and it was filled with colored markers. Bag of joy.

I loved my coloring books, actually. I liked the precision of coloring in the lines. I enjoyed the focus and control. It was easy. Satisfying. Something to do.  Peaceful.

The book I remember the most, however, was called the Anti-Coloring Book. It contained pictures, partially created by the author, left open to be filled in by me. I loved the idea of it. I felt something positive in the originality that was being offered, but I don’t remember drawing that much inside of it. I thought I couldn’t draw.

I had another book, How to Draw Cartoons, that taught me some basic shapes and how to make a few things, but they never looked “right or realistic” to me, and no one else around me gave me any pointers, and I could always go to my coloring books and enjoy filling in the lines, . . . so visual art, especially drawing, fell away for me as a child.

What I didn’t know then but I know now  — always a basic doodler, hearts, flowers and the like, and now a born-again, albeit around age 40 — is that everyone has a voice, a visual voice. It is unique and it is right on. It is a style of communication that everyone has. We are all seeing images in our minds all the time. Making simple pictures is a way to capture some of those images that may be running but just slightly out of our full awareness and bring them out. “Knowing” how to draw makes no difference here. I don’t care if you can draw or not. I kind of can now, but I really don’t know how to make a lot of things, but I don’t care anymore. I still make them.

That is the voice of a doodler, in the Doodle Outreach way of saying:

doodle definition from og

So where does coloring fit in?

I’d say they are cousins. Or maybe coloring is the younger sibling of doodling. They are related in the creative instincts toward colors and uniquely filling in designs. They are related in the tools used. They are both excellent for focus, quieting the mind, relaxation, distraction, and fine motor support.  I’d say that problem solving is benefited by both. Coloring can put you into a meditative state, like taking a walk, in which new ideas may occur to you. It’s a repetitive motion, like sewing. Something that can be done while you think (or rest your mind) about something else.

Doodling, however, as presented by Doodle Outreach and the books that I write, is also a doorway to a whole new world beyond the structured lines. Neither doodling nor coloring is right or wrong. They are just different.

I started teaching doodling classes some years ago after directly realizing the therapeutic benefit of doodling. The realization came after I was invited to my first 30 Day Doodle Challenge. I was highly on alert for all things therapeutic as I was working as a social worker in a psychiatric hospital at the time of the first doodle challenge. I taught my first doodling class right after I unexpectedly lost that job.  The point is, right away, I saw how the people who took up some thoughtful prompts, who looked into their present experience and brought it forward in pictures — simple pictures — shared several tangible results:

  • relaxation
  • comfort with authenticity
  • the experience of being heard by others
  • immediate connection between people
  • self-acceptance
  • creative problem-solving
  • increased ease with decision-making
  • release of unexpressed emotions
  • surprise at how profound the experience is, especially when shared (This last one still happens to me, and I do this all the time.)

Here’s what I know about all of these things: they must be experienced first hand. I can’t talk you into your own experience. You can find out for yourself the differences and similarities between these two practices if you want. There are coloring books in every grocery, drug and office supply store, at least in my town. Tons of them, on every topic you could want. There is a joy in coming back to the tools of childhood. When was the last time you picked up a crayon? Anything that gets that going is a good thing.

And you can also grab a blank notebook and some fresh markers and just play around with whatever comes to mind, day to day. Stick figures and flowers and words and shapes and colors and you and your sweetheart and you and your dog and what you had for breakfast and what you’re dreaming of, if nothing is holding you back . . .

And you can also buy a really great book, 365 Days of Doodling: Discovering the Joys of Being Creative Every Day, small coverthat I have been using since January 1, which makes this about day #227, and it’s freaking awesome. The book gives an introspective prompt daily, covering our dreams, what we’d like help with, and many subtle slices from the present moment, transformed and keepsake-d, in simple, stick figure fashion. It’s really beautiful. The habit is easy to keep up: I just follow the instructions in the front that remind me that it can both be quick and messy. Deal.

Find your bliss and let that be your path!

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Carin Channing is a professional Rest & Creativity Encourager and is the author of 365 Days of Doodling: Discovering the Joys of Being Creative Every Day and the forthcoming follow-up, Doodle Book Junior — 101 Creative Prompts for Kids, due August 2016. She is the founder of Doodle Outreach and can also be found at her other home, The Therapy Booth.


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