September 23, 2015

Are we all outdated children?

Dr Seuss said that adults are all outdated children.

The British author and critic Will Self made some biting observations along these lines on ABC TV’s The Book Club recently when another author admitted to not actually reading the first fiction book for review, but listening to it on audio, and that led to questions about when is reading not reading and is listening to a book a cheat’s way. Self also noted that the second book discussed was a graphic novel, and likewise questioned the choice. He thought the text of the book was perfectly fine and didn’t need cartoons. Finally, there was chat about the craze for adult colouring-in books. All of this resulted in Self making ironic comments about the state of adult reading in Australia when it was all for children.

This craze fascinates me as there is something both feminine and controlling about colouring-in. I wonder how many blokes are seriously into getting out the colouring-in book after a long day shovelling concrete or driving buses?

I well remember those girls at school who were way superior in just about everything. They had tidy hair and never scuffed their shoes, and didn’t make blots in their books, bite their nails or leave grubby marks on their sewing. And of course when it came to colouring-in, they were always immaculate at staying inside the lines and their pictures were perfectly colour-matched. Whereas I was one of those kids when forced to sit still and colour in an aeroplane, would have made one wing blue and the other green, with polka dots on the propellers, and then I would be sneered at - even ticked off by the teacher - for not taking my efforts seriously.

Squadrons of psychologists and counsellors are saying it helps stress. There are loads of articles about its benefits to be found online such as here and here. And there are a few who not at all sure it is a good thing, like this one and another that calls it the McDonaldisation of the mind, here.

Maybe it does help people to relax and improve their well-being, but the old cynic in me smells a cash-cow. I’m old enough to remember when paint-by-numbers was all the go in helping you switch off. And then doing knots and macramé were supposed to relieve stress. Ditto various types of daisy wheel knitting or Tunisian crochet. Granny squares are in and then out, as are varieties of puzzles like the Rubik cube, Sudoku, etc. that become cool, make a lot of dosh for people who publish books, kits, etc and ride the bandwagon until everybody gets bored and drops off. Who is seriously still into scrap-booking now? And is that rubber-loom-band thing already so last year? I wonder if cutting out and playing with adults only paper-dolls will be next? And how about marbles ... or maybe not, because outdated children might swallow or slip on them and then sue the manufacturers.

Commonsense says if you want to relieve stress over the long-term it pays to find yourself an activity that isn't some fad but remains a satisfying form of relaxation. I personally quite like doing jigsaw puzzles to classical music when my mind has been over-active with all the writing that I do. Jigsaws use a different part of the brain and make you slow down, although I expect someone is already ahead on this and there are DIY jigsaws out there that you have to colour-in first ... nah please not!

Glad to see some people are having fun with all this enforced relaxation. Check some examples here at and other fun titles on Amazon like Fat Ladies from Space or Unicorns are Jerks ... then I see there are also adult dot-to-dots - a whole other topic altogether!


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