Coloring Outside the Lines
We train our young to color inside the lines and then act surprised later in life when they cannot think outside the box.” —Dr. Cirone, Business faculty
These words changed my life. Or at least my Friday night. To some, it's about the same thing, I guess. But I decided to test Dr. Cirone's theory! What would a group of post-coloring-age young adults do when you brought them back to the childhood nostalgia of Crayola without the lines to confine their creativity?
On Friday night, students came from all over campus to join in my experiment. There were piles of coloring sheets, hundreds of crayons, and just one rule: "Do NOT color inside the lines."
One-hundred and thirty-four pages were filled with meticulous designs, shapes, storylines, and cartoons, all completely outside the lines–mostly. For some, crayon crept into the lines anyway. Old habits die hard, right?
What was more interesting was the many who showed up to see what was going on, but quickly left. "I can't just NOT color inside the lines," they said. "It would drive me crazy!"
It was exciting—and yet strange—to see the scores of colored sheets and blank pictures.
One graphic design grad student finally pointed something out that night: "It took me four years of creating to realize that I needed boundaries in my design. Boundaries gave me a place to start, and something absolute to go back to."
I took a second look at 134 coloring sheets and was struck: what were 134 creative drawings based on? They were based on 134 sets of coloring lines.
And so, stacks of coloring sheets and piles of crayon stubs later, I learned a lesson: don't go into a random crayon experiment thinking you'll know what you're about to learn and then ask a graphic designer and have him prove wrong your entire theory and life work, and probably a multi-million dollar job researching people's coloring habits.
The more important lesson that I learned was of moderation. (I have an extreme forgetfulness of moderation. Always.) Oh, that moderation!
So we must have the lines! The lines give a foundation to build upon--they enable us to signpost the direction we're headed. Yet on the flip side, we are to innovate and use our God-given creativity! After all, God has made us unique people with individual gifts we are to add to the world.
So with that in mind, get out there, thank the Lord for the "lines" He's established in the world around us, and think a little! And color while you're at it–it's pretty therapeutic. One-hundred and thirty-four people will tell you so.