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Rules? We don't need no stinking rules.

I saw this quote on a sign in a catalog today and let me tell you, if I had an official space where I wrote, I would hang this right above said space:

"There are no rules here. We're trying to accomplish something." --Thomas Edison

Holy cow, is this an important idea where writing is concerned. All art and creative endeavors, really. And, apparently, science too. In the creation stage of any project, I think it's absolutely essential to be able to let go of rules and conventions. The degree to which this happens varies with each creator, of course. But if you try to contain the passion and the fire, the explosions and alchemical reactions that happen during the creative process within rules and conventions and boundaries, they are stifled. Yes, your draft (in the case of writing) may be much neater and more organized and look closer to a finished product... but have you really accomplished the thing you set out to?

Let me be clear: I am not advocating crazy, random, free-association rough drafts. (Though, you know, if that works for you, super.) But the idea contained in Edison's quote -- the importance of freedom and room for an idea to grow and play and be wild and be explored -- really struck me as utterly essential to the type of writing I want to create. The writing that circles your heart with its fist. That kind of writing isn't born in rules.

I also want to be perfectly clear that I believe rules have their place in the writing process, as do convention and boundaries and the idea of process, itself. They just come into play later. I've posted about this many times before so I won't go into it too much here, but an example would be worldbuilding. You must define your world and then you simply must adhere to the laws you have defined. You simply. Must. This is a rule that I rarely, possibly never, forgive as a reader (or, I guess as a writer).

That being said, there are always (always!) exceptions to the rule. And that's why Edison's quote is so brilliant and why that rule-free (or rule-reduced) space is important in the creative process. You never know when doing it the "wrong" way is going to be exactly the "right" way.

I could talk about this all day. I won't. Instead, I would encourage you to pick up a book or audio CD by Clarissa Pinkola-Estes. I think she would have quite a bit to say on this topic, as well. :)


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 7th, 2010 04:38 am (UTC)
LOVE this quote, which is new to me. Thanks!
Dec. 10th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC)
Oh, yay! You're welcome. :)
Dec. 7th, 2010 05:43 am (UTC)
New to me also--LOVE! Thank you!
Dec. 10th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC)
Yay again! :)
Dec. 7th, 2010 04:17 pm (UTC)
I really needed to hear this today. Thanks for putting up such an awesome quote.

Dec. 10th, 2010 01:36 am (UTC)
Yeah, TOTALLY thought of our convo. :) <3
Dec. 7th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
Great quote and post! Loved them!
Dec. 10th, 2010 01:36 am (UTC)
Thanks dude!
Dec. 10th, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
I found you via Jon Gibbs' blog and discovered a quote near to my heart. Nothing stifles creativity like being bound by rules. I'm a firm believer in racing through a first draft and getting all the words out before trying to organize them. It's during revisions that knowing the rules is helpful. Then we can decide which ones to obey and which ones to ignore. :)
Dec. 11th, 2010 12:23 am (UTC)
Hello!! Welcome! :)

I agree wholeheartedly. *high five*
Dec. 10th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
What careann.wordpress.com said. That's a great quote & you set it in an inspirational post. I especially like "writing that circles your heart with its fist." That's my aim as well.
Dec. 11th, 2010 12:24 am (UTC)
Oh, thanks. :) To me, that's the best kind of writing. <3
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )



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