Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don't Do. . .What?

Okay, so confession time. Psst, over hear. Come a little closer so I can whisper it in your ear. I. Hate. Rules. 
All right, so I admit, it’s not much of a confession. A little anticlimactic, really, but there you have it. Now, do you want to know why?  
Rules limit a person.
All those “don’ts” paint a box around each of us with thick black lines that say, Do Not Cross. Which my brain automatically translates to mean. . .“Get your butt up, over and into the fabulous world of Way-Interesting-Land. There’s something cool over there.” 

Call me crazy, but I always want to know what’s beyond the barbed wire and armed foot patrols.
Now, I’m being figurative here. There are some rules that aren’t meant to be broken. . .like the laws that govern our society along with the assortment of interpersonal ones that keep us from hurting other people or being hurt in return. But, I prefer to file those under common sense or the equally persuasive. . .the desire not to see in the inside of a prison cell.
What I’m talking about is all the rules we have about writing. All the rules we use to limit ourselves. . .to stay safely behind a fence that never allows us to test our potential. Yes, some rules in writing are necessary. They allow us to organize our thoughts and help others not only enjoy but connect with what we’ve written. Which, is the best of all complements for a writer. We want resonance, for our stories to touch the hearts and minds of our readers. But, how do we achieve that if we never push the envelope? Never step outside our self-imposed boxes and challenge the norm?
The answer? 
We don’t. We surrender to mediocrity. To the idea that rules are more important than potential. . .that the possibility for true greatness is out of reach because we refuse to color outside the lines. So, take another look at that box you’ve drawn around yourself. Grab a bright red marker and. . .if a little rule breaking occurs along the way? Well, good for you.   


  1. It helps when you don't think of them as rules and more as suggestions. I mean for every "rule" someone points out you can find probably at least 50 examples of people who broke it and succeeded anyway.

  2. Awesome advice, RM. Suggestions are way better than least, in my world! (:

  3. I'm sooooo right there with ya, missy! If you want to see me go off the rails in a hurry, just tell me, 'I'm sorry, you can't do that because it's just not done that way.'

    Yes, there are certain 'suggestions' that are necessary, but how do we grow and expand our writing talent unless we try new things?

    So, I agree with you - with every fiber of my writer's being! LOL

    Joni :o)

  4. I'm mired in mediocrity. No one knows this word better than I.

  5. Inspirational words, E.C.! Love the red marker idea...always did like to colour outside the lines. :)

  6. Thanks, Joni....solidarity and all that crap! GRIN!!!

    And Michael...I don't believe you. Not for a second! (: I read your blog enough to know you're just plain awesome.

  7. My long-winded comment got eaten! (Have you figured amway to keep comments to under 100 words?) ;) Good post. Timely. I've been experimenting with things recently. Writing, that is. It's always good to try new avenues and stay fresh, even if they don't all pan out.

  8. YES! I'm still hoping my novel with a prologue that opens with my MC waking from a dream and looking into a mirror, will fly! :) It's good to break the rules sometimes!

  9. Great post! Sometimes people cling to "the rules" because it seems safer than trying something different with their writing, or because they believe it's a sure route to bestsellerdom. But it can also result in work that is bland--it follows the rules, but all of the creativity in the story has been lost. I try to focus on the story first, and then decide if the rules enhance it or detract from it. :)


  10. I don't even like the word "rules." And some just scream to be broken.

  11. Oh...excellent advice, Donna! Although...I think I'll still take RM's lead and call them suggestions instead of "rules"! (:

  12. I'm a big fan of the Picasso theory (my name for it): Picasso couldn't have been the Picasso we know if he hadn't first been a classically trained artist. His early work is a study in rules and realism. Once he knew exactly what he was doing and how to do it well ... that's when the rules got broken and the cool stuff happened.

    I love knowing the rules so that I can discard them if I choose. :) Picasso Theory.

  13. If you look hard enough for every "rule" you will find another that permits you to break it ;) We are the writers, the creators of our worlds. Let us make the rules, and dare the others to break them.

  14. I definitely colour outside the lines sometimes!

    Good post.