Nothing invokes a visceral reaction to the creative soul quite like this one f*cking word in the glorious, expansive English language.
No, contrary to popular belief, it's not “conform.” It's not even the awful word “oppressive,” nor is it the soul-tearing terms of “mundane” or “basic” or “mediocre.”
It's the one word that encompasses all of those dire, boring as hell adjectives. It's the one word that puts everything that makes us creative beings in shackles and makes us feel uncomfortable and stifled under one massive umbrella.
And that word is: rules.
I can feel a headache make its way across my forehead and my fingers suddenly stiffen as I type the word: r-u-l-e-s.
Grant me the opportunity to explain how one of my favorite people in the world, a wildly successful CEO of her own innovative startup and a successful artist in her own right, became victim to rules.
Her name is Lisa. And things weren't so easy for Lisa growing up.
I met Lisa the first day of ninth grade. The moment I laid eyes on her, I knew we were going to be friends.
She was a madly gorgeous redhead with a perfect constellation of freckles dancing on the bridge of her ski-jump nose.
She was opinionated, hysterical and an incredible painter. Her bedroom bore her hand-painted murals, and her binders were decorated so gorgeously that I would get lost in their stunning beauty during our fourth-period math class together.
Lisa was born a creative girl-creature. She was teeming with endless ideas, madly innovative thoughts and a hyper imagination.
Like most creative beings tethered to a traditional high school, Lisa was always and forever getting into trouble for not abiding by the "rules."
She colored outside the f*cking lines of her f*cking coloring book. And while she created intricate masterpieces that wowed her peers, her teachers perpetually scolded her.
If a teacher forced her to write an essay in a specific format, she would always find a better, more provocative way to tackle the subject she was writing about and do that instead.
If she had to do a presentation about a book, she would make it a performance and dress as the character. If we had a poetry assignment, she would do slam poetry instead of a conventional iambic pentameter.
But teachers didn't care if her version of a project was undeniably brilliant. They didn't care if her 2000-word essays posed groundbreaking, thought-provoking questions.
They didn't care if her poetry and paintings were the most exhilarating, emotion-invoking pieces of art they had ever laid their keen eyes upon.
All they cared about was that she broke their rules. And she needed to be punished.
I know what you're thinking: She was probably one of those disrespectful, rebellious artist-type kids who needed to be chained down and disciplined anyway.
Well, she was many things, but she wasn't frighteningly rebellious. She had deep-rooted common sense and wasn’t in any way even remotely disrespectful.
She just followed the rules that made sense to her: She showed up to school on time every day and didn’t talk back to her teachers, smoke cigarettes in the bathroom or salaciously make out with punk rock boys in the school hallway.
She knew what rules were important and which ones should be tossed out of the proverbial window. She understood the murky difference between total and utter anarchy and the art of delicately pressing the right buttons.
But she couldn't control her creativity. And that's exactly why she was feared.
Creativity can't be controlled or contained, which is why it frightens authorities. It threatens the good ol’ men and women in charge.
Rules set a path; creativity charts new territory.
Rules set a clear definitive path: Go to school. Go to college. Get f*cking married. And breed.
Those are the “rules” we’re expected to blindly follow without thought or question. It's safe, it's secure, and it's on the map.
Creativity creates a new path. Being creative is to question the confines of the comfort zone and chart new, fresh territory.
Creativity is the wild card who goes into the woods for a few years, comes back, moves to the city, becomes CEO and takes over the world.
A creative person's power and inability to follow the expected course of life frightens all who lack imagination.
Rules tell you what to do; creativity asks questions.
Rules perfectly display exactly what one should do. Uncreative people indulge in the rules because they don't attain the ability to think outside the box, so they feel safe with perfectly concrete directions.
Creativity is the exact opposite. Creativity looks at the rules and dares to ask why they are in place to begin with. Creativity takes what's set in place and looks it at from a different perspective.
Creativity doesn't always have an answer, but it always makes you think.
Oppressive people fear the questioning nature of creativity. Teachers are all afraid of the creative kids who dare to ask questions about rules.
Because it forces them to answer. And sometimes there is no answer.
Rules ask you to conform; creativity lets you be who you are.
Rules encourage us to be like everyone else. Rules are the stiff school uniform that students have to wear so they look the same.
But sometimes, the boy would rather wear the schoolgirl skirt and the girl would feel more comfortable in the schoolboy's pleated pants and bowtie.
Creativity is the very thing that questions the school uniform and tells you to go as yourself instead.
Rules maintain order; creativity shakes sh*t up.
Of course, there is a time and a place for some rules, kittens. I'm not preaching mad chaos and loud anarchy.
Rules exist to maintain a semblance of order, which is often a really positive thing. Rules are grand when it comes to following speed limits and abiding by traffic laws and paying for your subway fare -- all of that is what keeps the world safe and peaceful.
But there is a time and a place when the world just needs to be shaken the f*ck up, don't you think?
People who fear creativity fear the disruption of change.
Why do you think our elders preached against rock and roll? They knew the creative spirit was infectious, and it would make all of the young people question the societal norms.
Imagine if rock and roll didn't exist. We wouldn't have moved forward into the glorious social change we bask in now.