Coloring With Audiobooks

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James Wallace Harris

Staff Writer

James Wallace Harris is a retired computer guy. Jim dreamed of writing science fiction in his social security years, but discovered he loved writing essays more. Life is short and novels are long. He’s written over a thousand essays for his blog Auxiliary Memory. Jim wrote about science fiction for SF Signal before it folded, and now for Worlds Without End. BookRiot gives him the opportunity to write about all the other kinds of books he loves. Finally, he has all the time in the world to read and write, but he never forgets poor Henry Bemis. (Who also found time enough at last, until an evil Twilight Zone fate took it all away.) Twitter: @JimHarris28

I’ve been addicted to audiobooks since 2002 when I joined Often I get friends and acquaintances to try audiobooks. However, many of them complain they fall asleep while listening. I do too if I’m just sitting. I tell my converts to try walking. Most people combine driving and audiobooks, but I don’t recommend that anymore because of distracted driving. Since my wife works out of town and I eat many meals alone, I find listening to a book while cooking, eating, and cleaning up to be excellent company.

Recently I’ve taken up coloring in coloring books while listening. It works great. I keep my pencils at the breakfast room table, and when I need to relax but not nap, I sit down and say, “Alexa, play my book.” And she will reply, “Getting your book from Audible.” I’m currently listening to One Wild Bird at a Time by Bernd Heinrich. I have no trouble listening to tales of befriending wild birds while scratching colors on paper.

Listening to books does take practice, no matter what you do. It’s a skill that improves with regular use, like learning to read with your eyes, but you might not remember that. Reading with our ears requires turning off the thinking mind. That’s why walking is a great time to listen to books. It’s meditative. It turns out coloring is also meditative. It doesn’t take conscious thought to color within the lines. Selecting colors can stir up interfering words if your mind talks to itself while picking through pencils. With mindfulness, that can be stopped. It’s helpful if you select your pencils and think about how you want to color before you start your book.

To be even more book nerdish, I’ve discovered I like to color in black and white illustrations from classic books, or interior drawings from the old pulp magazines. I can scan in the art from a book, or search Google for the images. I then use Photoshop Elements to resize to 8×11 and print out on 67-pound white paper I get from Amazon that works extremely well with my Prismacolor pencils. Even without coloring, these illustrations look good enough to frame because the paper is almost like card stock. I also buy coloring books and scan drawings into the computer, then print them out on the nice paper because I like experimenting, coloring the same drawing more than once. I try different approaches with the colors or doing it once in pens and another time in pencils.

I’m just learning to color. Here’s a John R. Neill illustration from The Patchwork Girl of Oz  by L. Frank Baum. The link is to the Gutenberg edition that has the original illustrations from the 1913 edition, some of which were originally inked in. That’s inspiring for coloring. Here’s my first effort.