This past Friday, I hosted a coloring party at my office. It’s part of my role as a member of the Professional Development Group – a small contingent of employees who take on the challenge of connecting staff throughout the various Institute offices through programming (i.e. guest speakers, seminars and the like). When joining the group back in December of last year, I brought to light my professional – and personal – goal of introducing more creativity into one’s daily routine. And, when a colleague shared a recent article in the NY Times about coloring for grown-ups, I thought… bingo.

So, come Friday, 10 or so of us – all “grown ups” in various stages of our professional careers – took seats around a wide, round table and began to color. The pages and postcards from our chosen book, the Secret Garden, were no easy task. The intricacies and teeny-tiny lines made the design fairly challenging – the levels of concentration and precision (if you’re into that) trumped most of the conversation at the table; although there were a few strands of chatter that emerged once someone took their eyes off of the task at hand. After several hours, there were a few completed postcards… but for about half of the group, there was still work to do. Their work was incomplete.

Which was 100% okay. There were no rules, I said. Color outside the lines, leave white space and of course you can come back to it later, when you have a spare second to shade in a spot or two. Simply leave it in my mailbox whenever you’re done. I myself hadn’t finished my design. So, like the others, I packed up my spot and tucked my page into my bag, where it has sat since Friday morning. Untouched. Unfinished.

All in all the event was a success. After all, it did bring people together – on a different level than that of a weekly meeting or even a professional brainstorm. But, I couldn’t help but feel like a disappointment to myself. Here is one more “piece” that I’ve started and have yet to finish. Sure, it’s only been a few days (and, in my defense, I did scour the desk drawers for some rogue colored pencils or fine-point markers that I had stashed away, turning up nothing) but it’s been a few years for some of my other creative saplings. Essays abandoned. Memoirs suspended. And it’s not just pieces of writing. There are three blank canvases and a set of oil paints tucked in a dark corner. A clarinet in my childhood bedroom. Will my poor little coloring page be left hanging with the rest of my creative pursuits? I realize it’s a question that only I can answer, or better yet, determine.

But, is that was this is about? The results? Or is it more about the method? Bringing to light my lack of discipline and inventory of unfinished work was not the intention of the coloring party. It wasn’t a competition or a race. It was supposed to be fun, a way to exercise a different part of the brain, alleviate stress, remind us that life isn’t always about work. Creativity itself is constantly touted as a method for stress reduction, for an increase in productivity, for success. Grown-ups across the world are clamoring for these books, the latest and greatest antioxidants of the mind. When complete, the design is a reminder of the pathway it took to get there, proof that they can discover a creative side of themselves that might be hidden far beneath professional goals, skill sets and proficiencies.

My essays, canvases, even the clarinet. Those pathways are still there, waiting for me to pick back up where I left off. And perhaps my biggest road block is where my concentration lies: the finish line. Results. By looking so far ahead, squinting into the horizon for that infinitesimal line to cross, I forget all about the beauty of the present, the wonder uncovered in every step forward (or sideways and backwards), and the benefit in taking one’s time, even if it means pausing for one moment – or many – to gather my thoughts.