You’ve gotta know the rules before you’ll know if you’re breaking them. And, you’ve gotta know the rules before you can consciously know how to break them too. If you think you’re writing your own rules or “oh so original,” human behavior suggests otherwise.
The best part about learning the rules is they give you the structure to understand why things work. Putting the ball through the hoop for points is a critical step to winning a basketball game. Every job, every industry, and every creative project has its own version of these rules. We have to know them.
Once we know how things work and why, we (usually) find out there’s no magic formula. True, there’s luck, but we also know that if just anybody could “make a hit,” everybody would. And then the idea of “a hit” itself would lose its meaning.
Beyond the basic rules, it’s all about form.
Michael Jordan played by the same rules as everyone else. He followed the formula of putting the same ball in the same hoop as everyone else. He just also happened to execute on a whole other level.
This is where our uniqueness comes in (even if we’re not an obvious star). It’s all about personal style and whatever you can bring to the table.
Shawn Coyne has said (of his Story Grid framework), that, “There is no formula, just form.”
We don’t have to do it by the book, but the book should inform our approach because there’s always an underlying reason things work the way they do.
Know the rules first. Break, bend, and butcher them second, as needed. It’s ok if you’re not the Jordan of whatever you’re trying to do, but you can embrace the formula and find the form to be as close as you can.