Housebound

Christmas Tree Time Lapse 2017

Christmas Tree Decorating Time Lapse 2017 – Video Post

As some of you know, I’m well known for my obsession with Christmas and in particular, Christmas decorations, my partner and I decorated the tree together this year and recorded a time lapse video of the process. Please do check us out building and decorating it at 64x speed, Merry Christmas!

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Hello! My First Video in Front of the Camera!

Hello lovelies, friends and family have been suggesting to me for the last 3.5 years to do Vlogs and I’ve never felt confident enough or had any particular desire to do it so I’ve always stuck to just blogging. However, I’m getting a bit bored currently and really want to branch out and get my voice heard just that little bit more and video posts seemed like the best way of doing this and after a fabulous pep talk on the phone with a Uni friend today, I decided to bite the bullet and record something. It was meant to be 2 minutes of me just saying Hi, but it turned into something a lot longer and a bit more informative. Please do give it a watch and let me know what you think of it. I’m hoping to use these videos to expand more on my blog posts, to reach a wider audience and to help you see the face behind mental illness and invisible conditions. The link to the post about Trichotillomania that I mention in the video can be found here.

“The craze for adult colouring books shows how we’ve all become infants” – A Response from an Adult Colourer

Dear readers,

This is a link to the article I’m responding to – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/colouring-books-for-adults-prove-how-infantile-weve-become/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

 

Dear Susan,

I read your article yesterday titled “The craze for adult colouring books shows how we’ve all become infants”, and my readers and I were deeply upset and offended by your assertion that activities such as adult colouring, and reading Young Adult (YA) fiction, are “infantile” and “childish”. Your article also seemed to have little coherent argument and by the end of it, I was unsure what point you were even making; perhaps you were too? Here are my thoughts.

There is such a vast difference between embracing your inner child and being childish. Studies show the huge importance of playing, even into adulthood. I’m not sure what activities you’d suggest involve playing or having fun within the adult world, clearly none of these must be undertaken by children or they’ll be classed as infantile, but as a society we have decided that play is intrinsically linked to children and I think you’ll therefore struggle to find a playful activity that isn’t undertaken by them. I certainly don’t get to play whilst filing my tax return, nor doing the washing or dusting, and no matter how many times I try to turn it into a game of “who can get it the cleanest”, my partner and I don’t manage to play whilst washing up.

What qualifies an activity as childish? What qualifies it as adult? I think we’re doing children a huge disservice by criticising the activities they undertake and only allowing participants to be Under 18s. Many of the activities you criticised have wonderful psychological benefits which clearly you must be unaware of. Colouring has now been found to alter brainwave patterns and shift the brain into a relaxed state, somewhat akin to mindfulness. It also helps with fine motor skills, something most adults who don’t work a creative job are unlikely to be working on or improving, especially those who are ‘correctly’ adulting and not playing any form of digital games. Surely we can’t play sports either, unfortunately children play those, and we wouldn’t want to be associated with that calibre of activity would we? You suggested that cooking or sewing would be better activities and yet most people who undertake these are following a pattern or recipe, surely that’s exactly the same as colouring within the lines? How uncreative and unimaginative!

As for YA fiction, I get a real hint of jealousy from you Susan. Unfortunately, the main reason people had to hide the fact that they were reading those books, the embarrassment they felt, was because of fear of judgement, from people like yourself. How do you know what little these books have to offer if you’ve not read them? They’re written for young adults, the hint is in the category, but perhaps that means the young at heart too? I’m 25 and I would class myself as a young adult, I’m nowhere near middle-aged yet; under 18s aren’t young adults, they’re legally classed as children, they can’t vote, drink, or buy cigarettes, so I certainly wouldn’t class them as any type of adult as they’re not allowed to make adult decisions, perhaps they shouldn’t be reading those books either? Game of Thrones was created as an adult series of books, and is most certainly not a television programme that children should be watching with the sheer amount of violence, death and sex portrayed each week. Is it fantasy that you have the issue with? Is fantasy and the desire to imagine just too childish for you? Perhaps it’s escapism you have a problem with but what’s wrong with that? Surely as a child you didn’t grow up dreaming of paying council tax and working at a desk, adults need escapism, play and fun to keep their minds active from the mind-numbing work many of them are doing at their jobs each day. I was always brought up not to knock it until I’d tried it and you give the distinct impression that you’re yet to try colouring in an adult colouring book. My readers and I all agree that you’re the perfect candidate for this sort of activity. I challenge you to set aside 30 minutes and actually be open-minded and give it a chance before you write an ignorant and offensive article in future.

Have you spoken to any adult colourers? Do you know anything about us or our stories? I’ll tell you a little bit about me. I’m a psychology graduate who went straight into working as a nursing assistant on an acute psychiatric inpatient ward after University. I loved my job, despite the high stress and pressure, and I was good at it. I ran groups for my patients, many of whom were very sick, and one of the most popular activities was colouring. The atmosphere in the room would noticeably calm down, people would quieten and focus and they’d be able to escape for a while. Fast forward 10 months and out of the blue I began having numerous panic attacks and then became agoraphobic pretty much overnight. I’ve now spent 2 years virtually housebound and turned to adult colouring for some escapism. I didn’t just do that though, I created a blog to review these books for the mentally ill community, a huge number of us are now colouring and getting great relief from it, we surely can’t all be infantile! In just over a year my reviews have received almost 1 million hits from over 100,000 people who are, according to you, trying to escape adult life. I simply don’t believe that’s true.

Filling in tiny spaces with felt-tips isn’t especially creative but you make no mention of the creative processes that go into colour choices, blending, shading, mixing media and the other aspects that make our adult colouring into works of art! Perhaps you’re unaware of the health benefits it offers but it’s used for so much more than not showing boredom in a meeting or just reducing stress. Anecdotal evidence from countless readers of mine, and thousands of people in colouring groups on Facebook suggests the numerous benefits include improving sleep, managing pain, improving concentration levels, reduction of mental illness symptoms and even increased confidence. You’re correct on one point though, colouring in someone else’s designs is easier than drawing your own, but why does that mean we shouldn’t do it? I can’t draw or paint at all, but I have a fair amount of skill for blending, shading, and bringing a picture to life. Surely writing a book would be better than reading one, performing in a play better than watching, creating a new drama rather than dramatizing a book? Where does it end? I do all sorts of creative activities, I crochet (with patterns), I embroider (using techniques from stitch books), and I bake (using recipes), all of this is just as creative, or uncreative, as “colouring inside the lines”. If it weren’t creative, why would so many artists and illustrators colour their own and others’ work? Johanna Basford, worldwide bestselling illustrator and colouring book queen, states that she creates books so we can create masterpieces and this quick google search proves that point!

What is it that you do that’s so superior to colouring or reading YA fiction? Is there some rite of passage that makes us become an adult because I’ve clearly missed the memo? I haven’t read Jane Eyre, Emma, or War and Peace, and I have no intention of doing so either, life is short and precious and I’d personally rather read Harry Potter. How are “adult” books any better for us than YA books? Which Classics is it that you think we should all be reading? The Hobbit and Alice in Wonderland are viewed as some of the very greatest classic books, they were written for children and yet they’re still some of the most read and most published books worldwide, should adults be banned from reading such infantile literature? Should anything based on fantasy be kept for the under 18s? Most Classics I have read, or have heard of are all based on fantasy, they’re fiction, they’re not based on real events. Books offer escapism, just as colouring and playing games do, who on earth are you to judge what’s childish, and what’s adult? I’d argue that people who constantly have their nose in a fictional book are probably trying harder to escape life than I am whilst colouring; colouring keeps me in the moment and stops me focusing on my anxious thoughts, books transport you to a completely different world, now doesn’t that remind you of exactly what you did as a child?

I can assure you that I, along with my readers, and countless other adults will be spending my time colouring, following recipes, crocheting from patterns, watching family films and reading whatever fantasy-based books I can get my hands on, not because I long to be a child, or because I’m childish, but because I want to play, I want to challenge my brain to imagine new worlds, think up new colour schemes, and most of all I want to have fun because being an adult doesn’t have to be the boring existence of reading out-dated classic books, being forced to write poetry, and trying to discover the well-hidden points that you described in your article.

Yours Sincerely,

Lucy (adult colourer and reviewer), Adult Colourers everywhere, and all adults who like to play, have fun, and connect with their inner child without being childish and infantile.

P.S. In case you’re interested, below are some examples of my efforts at “colouring in someone else’s tiny drawings”, as well as images coloured by my “infantile” readers.

Adult colourers and colouring book illustrators, a large number of you were deeply upset and offended by the original article, as shown by the comments on my Facebook post here. Please add your voice and thoughts in a comment below and share this post as widely as possible so we can be heard. As you’ll see from the gallery below, adult colouring IS art and is anything but “infantile” and “childish”! Thank you to everyone who offered their colouring for this post, it’s beautiful and greatly appreciated!

One Year of Reviewing – A Review!

Well, lovely readers, it’s been one whole year of reviewing and I thought I’d do what I do best, review the year! It’s hard to believe it’s been that long and that short a time, in some ways it feels like only yesterday that I sent off the first batch of emails to publishers explaining the aim of my new venture and asking for review copies of books, but it also feels like a lifetime ago.

So, what’s happened in a year? I’ve set up two Facebook pages, one for my original mental health blog, and a second for my colouring review blog. I’ve set up a Twitter account and have been trying to get to grips with Tweeting, being succinct (there’s not a lot you can say in just 140 characters), and learning to ask for things and not feel guilty for doing so. I set up a Goodreads account and now add all of my reviews there. I also add my reviews to Amazon where I’ve steadily climbed through the reviewing ranks from around 25,000th in the Summer to becoming a Top 100 Reviewer on the 12th of April with a current rank of 93rd on the whole of Amazon UK! I’m staggered that a colouring book reviewer could rise that high when most of the reviewers at that level have written thousands of reviews about a wide range of products. On my blog I’ve reviewed over 150 adult colouring books and colouring mediums and utensils, certainly not the highest volume of reviews online but potentially the most detailed and I’ve stuck to writing for my target audience – people like me who are housebound and entirely reliant on reviews because they can’t visit shops. My aim has always been to make it feel like you’ve looked inside the book, or used the pens or pencils yourself so that there aren’t any surprises when your purchases arrive, and particularly, aren’t any disappointments. I really hope I’m succeeding in that!

In the past year I’ve learnt A LOT! It’s hard trying to think up all of the things I’ve learnt but here goes: The biggest thing is how to review. Until a year ago I’d never really written a review or even thought about what made a good one or bad one, it was only becoming housebound and being entirely reliant on them that made me realise their value and importance when purchasing items and being unable to see the product in person. I’m sure a lot of people take one look at the length of my reviews and are put off because they want a quick overview of the item and then they head off to the shops to check it out themselves. However, for those of us that are housebound, this isn’t an option and so I set about writing the most detailed reviews I could about these books after discovering that most reviews on Amazon a year ago simply stated “Great book, must buy” or “Not what I expected, sent it back for refund” and other one sentence summaries that usually didn’t explain why they did or didn’t like the item. My reviews are lengthy, but it’s for a purpose, it’s to give you all of the information that you’d garner from looking at the book in the shop yourself, as well as the added benefits of me testing pens and pencils on the paper so that you know what sort of quality it is ahead of time without having to fork out money on a book that’s unsuitable for the mediums you’re wanting to use on it. Other things I’ve learnt include how to use coloured pencils, how to shade and blend, and I’m learning new colouring techniques every day. I’ve also learnt all sorts of marketing techniques to gain social media followers and increase my reach as well as my rank on Google searches. I’ve learnt important communication skills which I’ve used in emails to publishers, tweeting, social media, getting messages across in blog posts and reviews and generally communicating with you all without being able to speak or infer tone of voice.

So what have I achieved in the past year? I’ve created a blog with over 150 reviews of colouring books and mediums to help the housebound community venture into this wonderfully calming activity. I’ve advised countless people who’ve emailed me with their requirements about books that would suit them and pens and pencils that wouldn’t exacerbate any pre-existing conditions. I’ve become a Top 100 Amazon Reviewer, a goal I set for myself a few months ago that I never actually believed I’d achieve. I’ve gained loads of followers, many of whom have shared their stories with me which has been incredibly encouraging whilst on this journey. I’ve been interviewed for The Guardian newspaper, TV, online magazines and on radio, all from my home. This blog has now received over 700,000 hits from over 70,000 visitors and combined with my original blog where I also post all of my reviews, I will reach one million hits within the next 6 weeks or so, not bad for a colouring book reviewer who mostly only has access to the outside world through a laptop and an internet connection!

The biggest thing I’ve gained from all of this is a sense of purpose. I’ve found a place in the world where I can make a bit of a difference, even whilst ill and stuck indoors. I’ve been able to reach out to others and lots of you have reached out to me too, whether that be liking or commenting on my Facebook posts, messaging me, or commenting on my blog, it all means so much to me because it helps me know that I’m on the right track, that I’m giving you the information you want and need, and that I’m making a difference. Thank you all for your support whether this is the first post of mine you’ve read (where have you been? You’ve got some catching up to do!), or whether you’ve been with me from day one when I wrote my first colouring post – Keep Calm and Colour In; whether you’ve read almost every review like some of my very dedicated family and friends have (I’ll always be eternally grateful to you all), or you like to dip in and out, thank you to all of you from the bottom of my heart, you will never know the good that it’s done me. I’m currently further away from recovering from my anxiety disorders than I’ve been at any point through the last 2 years, but most of the time I’m distracted from that and don’t have the time to wallow in it or obsess over it, I’m too busy contacting publishers and colouring and reviewing books. This process has certainly created anxiety on plenty of occasions, and also challenged it and it’s given me a lot of opportunities to practice doing anxiety-provoking things like asking for things, saying no, and being critical. I still find those things incredibly difficult but I’m learning to do them and I’m really excited about what the year ahead holds. I’ve no idea when the colouring craze will calm down and I’ll be out of a job, but I do know that I’ll be sticking at this for as long as I can and I’m sure I’ll find ways of branching out when the colouring books do end up being published less frequently and I need more things to fill my time with.

Thank you all and I’ll leave you with some of my favourite colouring pages, favourite reviews, and achievements. Here’s to another colour-filled year, hopefully sprinkled with even more opportunities to reach out to the outside world about mental illness and get everyone talking about it just a little bit more! Colour On everyone, Colour On!

Doctor Who Colouring Book – A Review
Guest Post – Tangle Wood Book Launch
Lost Ocean, a US and UK comparision
Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom Deluxe Edition – A Review
Secret Garden Artist’s Edition – A Review
Tangle Bay – A Review
T’Gaal Adjustable Pencil Sharpener – A Review

Guest Post – Tangle Wood Book Launch

Hi, I’m Joe, Lucy’s partner, and I’m writing this because last night I went to a book launch for Tangle Wood, on Lucy’s behalf. She was sent the invitation a little while ago and I knew she was upset about not being able to attend so we decided I could go in her place to thank Jessica Palmer (illustrator of Tangle Wood) and Search Press Publishers for the book and their publicity in regularly sharing her review.

On arrival at Shepherd’s Bookbinders in London, I was presented with a glass of bubbles and quickly managed to strike up a conversation with a member of Search Press, who turned out to be Lucy’s email contact; she was also the person who found Lucy’s blog originally and requested the review. It’s always nice to put a face to a name! When I told her I was representing Colouring In The Midst Of Madness, she instantly knew who Lucy was and remembered the review she’d written. I was then taken straight over to Jessica and introduced as being related to “that review you really like”. Jessica told me how much she liked the review and how much it means knowing that something she has created is helping someone. I felt such pride at knowing how much other people love Lucy’s review and knowing how happy those comments would make her.

It was then speech time, which was mostly what you’d expect from a speech, Jessica’s backstory, interests, and what led her to where she is now – creating a papercutting book and the first of two adult colouring books. When she started talking about her target colourers – primarily female, stressed out people who lead busy lives and are looking for something to help them calm and de-stress, she mentioned me (which I was not expecting) and asked me to talk about Lucy’s conditions and how colouring has helped her. I explained about Lucy’s anxiety and how she wouldn’t have coped with London (I barely cope with London) and that colouring helps her to calm down, at which point, thankfully, she took the speech back over and went on to finish thanking people.

I spent the rest of the evening mingling, chatting to Jessica’s family, a couple of her friends from the BBC and the lovely people from Search Press. I then got chatting to the Store Manager who was hosting the event about how you forget old-fashioned bookbinding stores even still exist and I was surprised by the sheer number of different types of white paper and binding styles – no wonder adult colouring books are so varied with this amount of choice available.

The evening wound down and as everybody was making their way home, I ended up walking back to the station feeling very proud of Lucy and happy that I went because I had a really nice time. The people from Search Press and Jessica were all lovely, kind and friendly and I’m looking forward to Lucy hopefully being invited to the next book launch for Tangle Bay which we’re working towards her being able to attend herself.

If you’d like to read Lucy’s highly regarded review of Tangle Wood, you can find it here.

My Magical Oasis: Art Therapy Colouring Book For Creative Minds – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
My Magical Oasis: Art Therapy Colouring Book for Creative Minds is published and was kindly sent to me for review by Plexus Books. This is the first book in the series and the second – My Magical Oasis  is reviewed here. In short, this book is stunning and, in my opinion, comes close to rivalling the current bestsellers in the field. This square book is paperback, glue-bound and contains a whopping 101 images that are printed double-sided with no border so a small amount of the image is lost into the spine until this loosens up with use. The paper is white and fairly thin with a little texture so it is ideal for use with pencils (I used Marco Fine oil-based pencils which can be found for a VERY reasonable price on Ebay) but not so great with fineliners as they bleed through so if you’re wanting to use them pick your images carefully to avoid ruining one that you’re desperate to colour on the back.

The images in this book are fairly cohesive and there is a lovely flora and fauna theme running through it though there are a few very different image styles that have almost been chucked in and seem quite out of place (see the Ram below). Mostly though, this book has a great flow and contains heaps of images of flowers, animals, patterns and mandalas to keep you colouring for weeks. The images vary in intricacy level but this is not a book for beginners or those with poor eyesight or fine motor control issues because mostly the images are intricate-highly intricate with a lot of detail added to most so good visual acuity and a steady hand will be a must! The line thickness varies from spindly thin to thick and chunky but mostly resides in the thin (but not too thin) area. Many of the images are realistically drawn but there are also a huge number of stylised and almost cartoon-style drawings. Some of the images are double-page spreads and others show a pattern or whole image on one side and then a zoomed in or repeated version on the opposite page creating a really nice pair without them being matching. There is no pre-added colour in this book but there are a number of pages that have gaps and spaces and written hints about what you can add there so for those of you that like drawing there is scope to add to and embellish this book.

In terms of mental health, this book is a great one and should definitely be added to your collection. The sheer variety of image content means this book was already onto a winner but the level of intricacy and detail in the majority of the images means that it’s perfect for keeping you focused and occupied. Those of you who have days of poor concentration will be able to use one of the simpler images contained within to still get your colouring fix but these are sparing so those of a moderate to advanced level of colouring would be best suited to this book. That said, I found it really relaxing, calming and distracting and it’s staying firmly in my “to keep” pile as it’s joined my ever-growing favourites list. As you’ll have seen in my other reviews, I rate books with natural images of animals and flowers very highly because they seem to have the greatest calming effect on me – the fact that there are ready made colour schemes for real things such as snails, lilies and irises means that if you really struggle with colour choices you can just head to google and choose from there. I also find it very soothing colouring natural images because I’m virtually housebound and don’t often get the chance to go outside and experience these things in the real world anymore so being able to colour my own flowers and animals is a helpful way in which I can reconnect with nature without my anxiety disorders kicking off and ruining my enjoyment of it. This book really is a magical oasis of reality and fantasy and totally brings you back to nature. This is a fabulous book for calming your thoughts and has more than enough detail to keep you focused and distracted from worries and stresses. I would highly recommend it, in particular to those of you who are fans of JB and MM’s work as this book is somewhere inbetween but with its own unique and beautiful style.

If you’d like to purchase a copy then head over to Amazon UK via this link My Magical Oasis: Art Therapy Colouring Book for Creative Minds or Book Depository Worldwide here – http://www.bookdepository.com/My-Magical-Oasis-Eglantine-De-L-Fontaine-Various/9780859655354/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The images below were coloured using Marco Raffine Coloured pencils, Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Scribbilicious fineliners from The Works.