Whose rules are these anyway?

“I am not writing anymore for a teacher or for school. I am writing for myself first and I don’t have to stay within my limits, not even margins. This gives me a psychological freedom and permission.” Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones

A Soul is Born to Earth…to not necessarily follow every rule. Rules, after all, are just made up by some human. Who are they meant for anyway? And who says you have to follow them?

We’ve heard it all before: Color outside the lines; think outside the box; rules are made to be broken. But I’ve never been more acutely aware of these bits of wisdom as I am with writing this blog. Because never before have I so openly shared a creative project this close to my heart. I want to do it right, but I know if I lookup what “right” means and all it entails, I’ll be stifled by all the information and quit. So I’m going for it with wild abandon, as I tend to be an all or nothing person. I can’t count how many times I’ve jumped into something, only to quit shortly after, once I researched everything about the subject and got scared by all the rules around it – feeling overwhelmed and not good enough as I compared myself to the experts.

I wanted more than anything to study art in college. I was “art student of the year” my senior year in high school and I’ve produced some pretty good pieces. But one of the many reasons I didn’t follow my instincts (a whole different matter) is that I don’t like following many rules about art and I couldn’t handle being graded by someone else’s subjective opinion. I’ve since grown much more confident than a teenage girl, and thus, have begun to share my creations with the world again.

I’m determined not to be stifled here. I know there are grammatical rules to follow that help the words to flow smoothly and make the writing easy to understand. I took honors English in high school, but to be honest, I don’t remember very many writing rules. I’m not really sure how to use a semi colon or a dash, and I don’t care. I just put them in where it feels right, and maybe google the correct usage later. I’m taking a new approach this time, writing with no self-imposed pressure, going easy on myself, and learning a little here and there along the way.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t learn about our chosen craft and refine our skills to produce the best work possible. But when I think about how people pursue Masters and Doctorate degrees in one writing format alone, poetry for instance, it scares me into wanting to quit. Who am I to write a poem when I haven’t even read one full poetry book? Why even try? Others are so far ahead on the learning curve. However, I recognize this voice as the young self-conscious girl within. This older, wiser, more confident woman is writing poems anyway. Why not? Writing isn’t astrophysics. Everyone starts somewhere and there will always be someone who knows more or who is farther along. Use them as inspiration for what is possible and perhaps as a resource for knowledge.

My soul needs to create and I’m finally honoring that urge. Creating because I have something in me that simply needs expressed and must come out. If it doesn’t follow the rules someone made up, who cares? To the soul there are no rules. Like a child who has no clue what the rules are, but plays and creates with glee anyway, learning by doing with a beginners mind.

I’ve always been a bit of a rule pusher, not breaker, but pushing the boundaries out to see how far I can get away with something. For instance, at about the age six, I went around the whole house with a pink highlighter and made tiny dots all over the walls – one over by the fireplace, another by the stairs, a few in the kitchen – just to see how many I could do without my dad noticing. This makes me snicker with mischievous excitement still today. I can’t remember my dad’s reaction when he finally noticed, but oh how I wish I could ask him about it today. I like to think on the inside, he laughed a little too. And that’s how I feel now. I bit of rebel excitement in doing something not many other people have the confidence to do – express who I really am in the form or writing and art.

Is there a social, cultural or technical rule holding you back from doing or saying something you really want? It’s most likely a rule made up by someone you don’t know, or your parents, or even yourself. So who says you have to follow it? You are not a child anymore. Forget all the rules and check-in with your true inner wisdom. What feels right in this moment? Do that. Start now. Because in the end…what’s going to matter? We must always come back to this question and be mindful that our days are indeed numbered. Let’s try not to break any laws, but let’s live the truth inside while we’re here.


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