Rules Were Made To Be Broken. Maybe.

IMG_20131125_084721My daughter was washing her hair. Through the door, I heard her counting. She was up to 120.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I’m counting,” she answered.


“I have to count to 180.”

“Uh huh.”

“Because I have to keep the conditioner in my hair for exactly 3 minutes.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because that’s what the bottle says. That’s the rule.” Splash, splash. “And I have to keep the rules. Now I’m over the 3 minutes.”


My daughter is my first born. She loves rules. Thrives under them. Desires them. Makes them up to enforce with her brothers.

I’m the youngest of four. I buck against rules. Dislike them. Wither under them.

Don’t get me wrong. I follow the rules. The ones that matter, at least. I drive the speed limit (usually). Wait my turn. Use the correct amount of detergent in my washing.

But I certainly do not leave the conditioner on my hair for the correct amount of time. Or steep my tea for only 5 minutes. Or play music to the exact key signature (metronomes are SO rule followers).

I like to do things my own way every once in awhile. And sometimes that means I break a rule here or there.

I’m working on my third novel. And I adore this story. I have my protagonist and antagonist. Supporting characters. Plot. Conflict. I found the hope in the story (which, to me, is essential in all my writing).

Now I have to decide. Keep all the novel writing rules. Or break a couple.

Keeping the rules is safe. Kind of. Breaking the rules is risky. Sometimes.

Confusing. Right?

But writing this novel is different. With Paint Chips I truly did NOT know the rules. I just wrote. With My Mother’s Chamomile I opted to follow the rules. And I’m glad I did.

So. With this work. Should I play it safe or take a risk or two?

That’s the question. What do you think?

Picasso once said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Are you a rule keeper? Or do you tend to go against them? 

8 Comments on “Rules Were Made To Be Broken. Maybe.

  1. Pretty cool, I didn’t know Picasso said that. I’ve said for quite a while now that I learn the rules so I can break them. Finding out how things work and then thinking outside the box to find a new way. Exploring every avenue and finding the best route, or different routes for different occasions. Music has just a few notes, art only has a few colors, all it takes is a person and an idea. Love it!


  2. In general, the older I get (I mean the more mature I become), the more I disregard rules. However, when it comes to writing, I mostly follow the rules (except for the ones that someone made up and everyone else thinks we need to follow).


  3. As a music major in college I loved learning the rules of theory and such, It was made clear from the beginning that the rules are only to be enforced as long as they assist the music. Almost every song you have ever heard breaks one or two of the rules (even the “Greats” like Bach and Mozart broke rules left and right and they are the ones who inspired most of the rules). If the rules are stopping your writing, disregard them. Every form of art needs a little hint of adventure or danger.


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