Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box – Not the sharpest pencil



I am not colouring-in. There, I said it.

I don’t get this whole colouring-in craze. Have we all gone mad? Are we so sedated by life that’s all we’re left with. For fuck’s sake, learn to knit. Crochet around your tea towels. Do a TAFE course in tattooing.

Colouring-in is a waste of time. But that doesn’t seem to be the current popular consensus. The pile of adult colouring-in books in my study is growing. It seems everyone thinks I need to crack out the pencils. ‘Mandy, you need to relax.’ Yes I do. I’d prefer a massage.

And when I do finally relax I’m not regressing to the activity of a 4-year-old. I’d rather smear myself in poo. In fact, when I was small that was my first impressive art installation: poo paintings. It certainly got a lot of reaction. The feedback wasn’t always positive, but it wasn’t work that went unnoticed. Unlike colouring-in books poo paintings aren’t banal. They send a message. Perhaps I could try using poo on my colouring-in books.

Every gift shop, every newsagents, every hipster store sports a variety of adult colouring-in books. The patterns or line drawings are as mundane as the concept. Surely there’s an adults-only section? A colour-by-numbers erotica? I am 48 years old. I have shit to do. I don’t have time to be colouring-in. ‘Sorry, kids, dinner’s late tonight; mummy had to finish colouring-in her lion-in-the-forest mandala’.

I once joked that I don’t have time for tantra. Tantra is for people with whole weekends spare. No lawns to mow. No emails to answer. No children to drive places you don’t want to go. Perhaps colouring-in books are for people doing tantra – to keep them busy doodling during the long hours of genital worship when they’ve started to numb up a bit, a bit of pencil work keeps them on task so they don’t drift off. They could even colour kundalini.

I never liked colouring-in the first time round. Colouring-in books made me angry, with their big crude dictatorial lines remarking Snow White or a handsome prince on a steed. I was a frustrated 6-year-old unable to resist the urge to scribble on Barbie’s face. Give her a beard. Make her blue. And as the years went on, draw a cock on her head.

I never won any prizes at the local supermarket for my colouring-in skills. I don’t even get the point of a colouring-in competition. They should call it ‘who is the most compliant competition’. It’s a short life, and frankly I’m not interested in staying in the lines; I like making my own marks.

There’s something fascist about colouring-in books. The way they audit creativity creeps me out. It’s a philosophy of ensuring your wildness is kept neat and contained so you can be ‘creative’ and not make a mess. Colouring-in is what you want your kids to do after you’ve cleaned the house. You certainly don’t want them to crack the paint out.

Creativity should be messy. You should make mistakes. You should take up more space than a tiny bit of tabletop. Colouring Books are for Control Freaks. Clearly, I don’t like being told what to do. Nothing tells you what to do more than a colouring-in book. It says, ‘Here are the perimeters for you to work within’.

Perhaps it works for people unable to set their own perimeters. I am sure regulators, auditors and compliance officers would find this most pleasing, and perhaps even mildly relaxing. But not me. I’m a draw-your-own-lines or go-outside-the-lines kind of girl. I have never been good at staying in the lines. I can’t even stay in my clothes. I always have something spilling out, a stray boob, a bit of leg…

Colouring-in the lines is boring. Surely if you’ve got time to colour in, you have time to do something actually useful. Like volunteer at a soup kitchen or sell raffle tickets outside the newsagents where first prize is a stack of 10 colouring-in books.

Apparently colouring-in is good for you. It’s the new mindfulness trend. I would say it’s not mindfulness at all, its mind-lessness. It’s the gateway activity to painting rocks white. My advice: don’t colour ‘in’. Become interesting, and Colour Out.

8 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box – Not the sharpest pencil”

  1. Vince Kean says:

    Colouring books are from control freaks!! Good God Mandy your relentless, mindful, intelligence is amazingly on the spot. Thank you for your insight. Colouring books for adults, some people have no maturity and no shame!!!!

  2. lynne ashcroft says:

    Yep totally agree with the author ……addit colouring in is what our rehab specialist occupational therapists offer inpatients in mental health units …. It does my head in!

  3. Margaret Bailey says:

    That’s a bit harsh, each to their own I say, colour in till your heart’s content. Better than playing the pokies.

  4. Serena Valerie DOLINSKA says:

    Love it Mandy! Colour OUT, not in!!!
    ( ‘Course I’m biased being a visual artist….my whole life is about “colouring out”!)

    Thought this piece might have segued into something about The Pencil Tree…now pencils for writing, specifically for kiddies in India & Nepal, now there’s a need.

    In Nepal’s case, school buildings would help too.

    Tell everyone to send pencils! And money. The Pencil Tree, on facebook.

  5. Vanessa says:

    Wow, what an ugly rant about a pleasant pastime. Who cares if an adult enjoys colouring in as a way of relaxing and doing something a little creative? You seem to miss the entire point of it…it’s a time to give your brain a rest. You are basically saying if you are not engaged in something useful or constructive it’s time wasted. I disagree strongly – and that attitude is a major part of what is wrong with humanity today. Everyone has to be busy doing, achieving, succeeding. How about just ‘being’ ?

  6. Roger Andre says:

    This trend really fits in with our historical period, for which I have a title: ‘The Great Dumbening and the Rise of the Idiot’.

  7. sandra says:

    You are obviously an insensitive self centered person. Take a moment and read about how coloring is used as a therapy at ANY age for people who cannot go for a massage or who have medical challenges in life. You are also MUCH TOO long winded.

  8. Meg says:

    Mandy, get over yourself – it’s great that people enjoy doing different things. Colouring-in is a wonderful way to relax. It’s also a lovely activity to do with kids to encourage creativity, chatting and non-screen time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Become a supporter of The Echo

A note from the editorial team

Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

The Echo has never underestimated the intelligence and passion of its readers. In a world of corporate banality and predictability, The Echo has worked hard for more than 30 years to help keep Byron and the north coast unique with quality local journalism and creative ideas. We think this area needs more voices, reasoned analysis and ideas than just those provided by News Corp, lifestyle mags, Facebook groups and corporate newsletters.

The Echo is one hundred per cent locally owned and one hundred per cent independent. As you have probably gathered from what is happening in the media industry, it is not cheap to produce a weekly newspaper and a daily online news service of any quality.

We have always relied entirely on advertising to fund our operations, but often loyal readers who value our local, independent journalism have asked how they could help ensure our survival.

Any support you can provide to The Echo will make an enormous difference. You can make a one-off contribution or a monthly one. With your help, we can continue to support a better informed local community and a healthier democracy for another 30 years.”

Echonetdaily is made possible by the support of all of our advertisers and is brought to you by this week's sponsor Vast Furniture & Homewares Ballina.