People Get Scared When You Break Rules

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jun 09 2022

I’m a rule breaker more than I’m a rule maker. Don’t ever tell me I can’t do something, unless you really want me to do that. When I was in 3rd grade a friend’s mom told me I’d never make it in NYC. She determined that as a small town, pig-tailed, barefooted girl I would hate the big city. Not 20 years later that same mom was visiting my new home city and taking me out to eat in one of Manhattan’s finest restaurants. Don’t tell me what I can’t do.

I can never fully figure out why people like to keep others in boxes. The best I can come up with is boxes make us feel safe, not just for the safety of others, but safe in our own decisions. A writer who likes to break rules, shake up norms, and push the boundaries will likely come up against another writer who tries to box them back in. The critique group that says you can’t do that. The beta reader who says that’s too weird. Or even the agent who rejects because it can’t be done.

I’m not sure any of these people are intentionally boxing you in. They’re just scared. When I started BookEnds I don’t think the critics were trying to hurt me. I think they were either scared for me, or scared that my courage showed them their own fears.

One thing I tell writers is those who are the most successful, are those who break out of their boxes. They bend the rules, twist the constructs, and make their own way. It’s not that they don’t listen to the critics, they just trust themselves more. Their strongest critic is in their head and that’s also the person they listen to first.