Edit in Color by Catharine Bramkamp

Edit in ColorLet’s welcome back monthly columnist Catharine Bramkamp as she shares with us “Edit in Color! ” Enjoy!


You are probably familiar with the coloring book craze, which as writers we are allowed to view with irony and in some cases, despair. I have avoided even leafing through the coloring books for sale next to the real books filled with words partially because of that irony thing, mostly because I don’t have time to color. I also don’t have the time to meditate, take a yoga class, shop for healthy food or call mom.

But a ubiquitous trend will get you one way or another. I was ambushed by a black and white Mandala offered up by O Magazine. On a whim, I pulled out the illustration and brought it with me to a mountain retreat where I planned to spend hour after productive, focused hour editing my novel. These were the most difficult edits because I was incorporating my Beta Reader feedback. (What do you mean, You. Don’t. Get. It?).

I had heard (and O magazine endorsed) that coloring is meditative. I have also heard that regular meditation will cure all a person’s ills. Since sitting still is not part of my DNA, I thought I’d give this torn out black and white circle a coloring try. I made three copies of the black and white outline, grabbed the crayons I keep in the house for my granddaughter and set the coloring magic up next to the computer.

It worked.

I was surprised.

During the laborious editing process, each time I was stuck, each time I needed a better word, each time I was frustrated because the ideas and suggestions wouldn’t materialize, each time the internet connection hung up. I colored.

According to Art Therapy, “the subjects who colored mandalas or paid patterns experienced greater anxiety reduction than those who did free-form coloring.” Coloring a mandala was a revelation. I used this yellow crayon, then that purple crayon, then yellow again to fill out the pattern. After about a minute, I was ready to  return to editing with a fresh eye. I wasn’t distancing myself mentally or physically from the editing work, but I did create space enough for a brief reprieve. The coloring project was at hand, so I had an alternative exercise that was completely different from the computer work. I moved my hands in a different way. I supposed my brain calmed. The colors were attractive enough to distract, and so easy it prevented me from rushing to the kitchen for another cookie (you know who you are).

How to start? Buy a mandala coloring book. Or visit Printmandala.com for free patterns to download. Use crayons or colored pencils because once you color even a few sections you may be ready to leap back to your writing. This way you don’t need to worry about replacing the cap on a pen or knocking over the water for your paints. In other words, don’t get caught up in the equipment or process, this is an alternative, not the main attraction.

When you are stuck, color. You can also march around, insult the gods, and rummage for the cookies you hid in the freezer. But the coloring may be a quicker way back to the editing.

Coloring is not the ultimate answer. Coloring didn’t necessarily improve  my editing but it did help me get back to it faster, find the words faster. I am a fan of any activity that helps mitigate the gruesome, tedious, soul-sucking process we call book editing. And as I move relentlessly towards the future, I find that I do exercise more, I ate a healthy dinner last week and last Saturday I called mom.

Who knew that coloring could engender so many words?



Catharine Bramkamp, author

Catharine Bramkamp is the co-producer of Newbie Writers Podcast that focuses on newer writers and their concerns. She is a successful writing coach, Chief Storytelling Officer, and author of a dozen books including the Real Estate Diva Mysteries series, and The Future Girls series. She holds two degrees in English, and is an adjunct university professor. After fracturing her wrist, she has figured out there is very little she is able to do with one hand tied behind her back.

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  • Or, why not get “The Writer’s Coloring Book”? I created it for writers to help them have fun, but also to get their creative juices flowing. It’s available at amazon and at writerscoloringbook.com

  • Beth Barany says:

    Great idea, Rachel! Thanks for sharing!

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