Breaking the Rules

There’s this idea I’ve been thinking a lot about recently: to truly master a (creative) craft, you must learn to break the rules. If at first, this doesn’t make sense, let it sink in. Many activities have a concrete set of rules. These rules are likely treated like gospel, and frequently go unquestioned; To question the word of the forefathers is sacrilege.

But the problem is someone had to make the rules. And no matter how good the rules are, they can’t possibly apply to every feasible situation. Oftentimes, these rules can be like training wheels. They are there to help you learn, and give you a simplified view. After all, the best way to solve problems is by breaking them down. But if you really want to spread your wings, the training wheels have to come off. They help you get started, but they also hold you back. They define a strict structure for how to go about things, but at some point, they stop being helpful.

Talented people will tell you advice, tips, and tricks that they’ve picked up along the way. Really talented people will tell you all that, but also to trust your own judgment. That advice is a summary of the lessons they’ve learned from experience. But everyone’s experience is different, so you have to know when to deviate from the path well-traveled.

That brings me to my next point: knowing when to break the rules. It’s easy to go crazy and break every rule possible. Feel free to do that1, but be warned that the rules exist for a reason. We teach people to hit a baseball with a tee because it teaches them how to do it. A baseball player wouldn’t spin around in a circle until they hit the ball. In the same way, you shouldn’t entirely disregard the rules.

Learn the rules. Know the rules. Embody the rules. Break the rules.

  1. By reading this, you agree to not sue me in the event of serious injury caused by this post. [return]