I have a love/hate relationship with rules. While there is a part of me that absolutely strives to have rules in place, there’s another of me that wishes to throw them into a bonfire and dance around them. What it means is that I often have a lot of conflict in how I want to go about things. One part of me believes that there is a predetermined path that must be followed to maneuver through whatever goals I have and conversely the other part of me just wants to blaze forward with a machete in hand cutting away my own path through the jungle. Neither side appears to really gain ground over the other as I go through things. And while I do make progress, that conflict can be problematic.
It’s a guess, but I imagine that most people fall into one camp or the other. People either want clearly defined rules or no rules. Maybe there’s some gray area there too where people are fine either way (or maybe not fine either way — who knows?). One can see who is who by those who insist that they are fed the needed steps to accomplish a new goal, or those who refuse to follow any rules. We all know a few in either camp.
Because of this internal dichotomy between those two side, I often find myself conflicted between the two. It’s not that I don’t care, that I shrug away either side, it is that I genuinely see the merits of both sides. I can’t fucking make a decision because of it sometimes.
Where it hurts me the most is with writing. On one hand I believe there’s a truly direct formula, a set of defined rules, that will step me right to the correct place. On the other I want to give the middle finger to rules and write as I please ignoring whatever these so-called “rules” say to do.
Rules do have a reasonable purpose. They set boundaries. They level out play to make it fair. They assert meaning to accomplishments. Without rules, how interesting would any game of sport be?
Conversely, rules can be restrictive. They can stifle accomplishment and create a scenario where things again are too dull, too predictable. Too much adherence to the rules can beat down any sense of creativity.
The best way is to truly straddle that line, to dance along the edge between adhering to the rules and seeming to break them. Some of the most interesting players to watch in a sport skirt along that line. We often say that they appear to bend the rules rather than outright break them. The same can be said for writing. Books that are more interesting seem to dance that line, carefully bending or breaking the rules of writing and storytelling.
To say that I am one that is straddling the line would be only a partial truth. For me, it is more an internal struggle to fall on one side or the other. I am not trying by any sense to move along the edge between the two. Rather, I am trying to keep my feet planted on one side only to then believe it best to jump fully over to the other side. But maybe that is how it is supposed to be?
I’ve thought about that, how the most interesting people have found ways to navigate that line between rule and rule-breaking that makes their work compelling. Maybe, like with me right now, they once struggled between the two, moving back and forth between the two dichotomies, eventually settling at the line between the two, leaning one way or the other when necessary.
At least, I hope that I am on the right path to get there.