Episode #4: “Learn the Rules and Break Them” – Why It Is Important to Know What You Ignore

"Learn the Rules and Break Them" – Why It Is Important to Know What You Ignore Renaisearch – Andrew Lueth

Learn the Rules and Break Them

Today we will talk about breaking rules. That you should learn them before you break them and why you should strive to actually do so to a certain degree once you know them.

Can you relate to this? You learn something new or start out on a complex challenge. You dont really see the results you wish to see and can not be bothered to learn the basic rules of the craft, because you think “I want to do it my own way, and not copy somebody else!” or “I dont care about the rules, great people break the rules!”.
And I would say, you are not particularly wrong in thinking that, but before you go and
break the rules, you need to know what rules you are actually breaking and what advice you are not sticking to. Ignoring the rules can be great, but only if you know you are ignoring them.

Lets say you wanted to learn photography. well, there are certain basic rules and guidelines to making good photos, like having the right proportions, using
the rule of thirds, having a good focal point, keeping the horizon straight, keeping an eye on the lighting and sharpness of the foto etc.
Now, you could just say “I dont care about all these rules, I want to be creative and just do what inspires me right now, I am an artist, I dont stick to rules.”

Well there are great artists who do not stick to classic rules and are highly succesfull in doing so. But the difference here is, that they learned them so thouroughly that using them is more like “default mode” to them then not using them.
If they stray from using conventional rules it is intentional and there is probably so much still “right” that purposefully ignoring some of the rules creates just enough tension that the artwork becomes more interesting or excentric in a way because of it.
If you on the other hand never internalised the rules and guidelines of making good photos,
and just do what you like, you probably unconsciously break more rules than you are by chance getting right and your art would probably suck in a way, looking kind of strange and unharmonious… and unless you know the rules you are breaking, you dont know where this effect comes from and why your art looks the way it does, making it harder for you to realistically evaluate yor skill and improve it.

Rules are there for a reason:

People discover that something works reliably in a particular way quite effectively. And to replicate the results they are getting, they set up rules to guide future action or the efforts of other people in a way which brings similar results. Thats basically what a rule breaks down to.

Now, of course going by this definition, rules are never set in stone and may change over time. Some rules get outdated and need to be discarded all together, others stay relevant in some way but no longer apply to the particular context they were set up in. Some rules stand the test of time and are almost like fundamental principles.

Breaking the rules can be really effective and reap great benefits. But only if you know the rules you are breaking.
Most rules have a reason for being there and provide clear guidance, if you steer to far away from that you will most likely get lost, not knowing what to do.
Now, to a certain degree that is beneficial. Firstly to explore the boundaries of certain rules, to test where and in which context they still apply and if they need to be updated. Secondly, because most rules can only be general guidelines, not individualised plans of action. In many cases it will be necessary to bend certain rules to fit your own individual way of thinking,
acting and being to really use them effectively.

To conclude todays episode, i will leave you with something to reflect upon:

Think of something you are learning right now or a craft you are trying to master:

Do you know the basics rules?

Are you confident in the use of them?

Or have you ignored them until now?

Do you maybe stick to rules too rigirously and could benefit from breaking them to a degree?

In which way could you imagine breaking them?

Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.

Dalai Lama XIV

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