“Almost every advance in art, science, technology, business, marketing, cooking, medicine, agriculture, and design has occurred when someone challenged the rules and tried another approach.” Roger von Oech, creativity expert
Every day, we’re encouraged to live by the rules, to play it safe, to sit quietly in the boat instead of rocking it. Every day, there are rule makers who strive to make sure that we color inside the lines and don’t forget that they are the ones who created the lines in the first place. So here’s a question worth asking ourselves: Are we rule makers, rule breakers, or rule believers?
Most of us aren’t rule makers. The rules that govern our lives aren’t ones we created, they’re ones we inherited or suddenly find ourselves saddled with. And most of us aren’t rule breakers. We’re not all that comfortable being uncomfortable. We find it hard to break free of our self-imposed limitations, even though, as my great friend Coach Tully says, our dreams always lie outside our comfort zone. We may dream dreams but we never quite reach them because we can’t step out of the lines to chase them. Like butterflies, they flit away, just beyond our reach.
Where does this leave us, myself included? In the rule believers category. We expend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out what the rules are and then following them as carefully as we can. But by the time we’ve figured them out, new rules have often cropped up, so we end chasing them like butterflies, too.
Think about this in terms of writing. Take a moment to Google “writing rules” and a raft of them are likely to crop up: Don’t start a story with the weather. But how about The Big Sleep or Jane Eyre? Show, don’t tell. How about Pride and Prejudice or For Whom the Bell Tolls? Use adverbs sparingly. How about Great Expectations or War and Peace?
The rules list for writing is as long as it is for any other discipline. It goes on and on. Instead of working to master it, let’s put our energy into being creative instead of cautious, into doing something different. If we push ourselves even just a little bit every day to do something different, we’ll strengthen our creativity muscles and our work will be the better for it. Let’s write dangerously — let’s be rule breakers and make our own rules!
“Find another approach” — let’s make this one of our mantras and see where it takes us. Before too long, we’ll find ourselves in rule-breaking territory, where the sweetest fruit hangs. Write on!