Breaking Rules

From the time I was a young teen until my mid-twenties, I was making money in photography. First, as a stringer for the Associated Press and United Press International as well as my local newspaper. Later on, I worked as a free-lance photojournalist and finally the owner of a studio based business.

The story I want to tell you about took place when I was about 17 years old. I got invited to attend a prestigious photography salon where people projected slides of their photography and then members of the salon critiqued them. I was really happy to attend because up to that point in time, I was totally self-taught and I thought I could really learn something from watching other people’s work be critiqued.

It turned out to be the single most bizarre incident of my photography career. Well, other than the time the really big guy showed up at my door and wanted to punch me out for taking risque photos of his wife – which I had not done. Turns out some crafty bastard had used my name and my business card. I was very thankful that the person’s description didn’t fit me.

Anyway, back to the salon. As the first slide was projected, someone began to critique. Actually, they began to criticize and point out all of the technical flaws. After two hours, I thought I’d choke someone if I heard the term “rule of thirds” one more time.

You see to these people photography was all about technique and rules. Not once did anyone mention how the image made them feel. Not once was there a discussion about emotion or gesture. I left disappointed. I wondered if I had a future in photography since I didn’t know all the rules and my love for photography was based upon creating images that evoked emotion.

I tell you this story because it is easy for us to become stymied by rules that someone else has created for us. Too many of us play old tracks in our mind that were recorded based on someone else’s idea of what rules we should follow in life.

A good friend is one of the best I’ve ever met in her particular field but is always playing a tape about how lucky she is to have gotten this far since she didn’t go to the right school. Her rule stops her from creating even more extraordinary results.

An artist gives up his art because his parents played a tape of life success rules that didn’t include art.

Too many people spend their work lives in a cubicle dreaming of what they could have done if only they hadn’t listened to the rules. “Get a good job, keep your head down, retire.”

About a month ago I got an email from a colleague that put a smile on my face so big it might have cracked if I wasn’t still using that stuff for my face from Tova Borgnine. Here’s part of the email:

Bob –
I quit my job today. It was the scariest and most exhilarating thing I’ve done in quite a while. I want to devote all my energies to Blazonfire (with a little left over for the wife and kid).  So I took the plunge and I’m not looking back.

Paul decided to stop the tape in his head and break a couple of rules. I exchange emails with him once a week and he’s never sounded happier or more excited.

What’s stopping you from breaking some rules? Maybe it’s time to turn off the tape someone else recorded for you and begin playing a new one that you create.

I bet you find you’ve never been happier.

5 thoughts on “Breaking Rules”

  1. Starting Blazonfire was the smartest thing I’ve done aside from marrying my wife. It’s still scary… still exhilarating… and I’m having the time of my life.
    Breaking rules is fun! Unless you’re my son, and then you get a timeout.

  2. I truly enjoyed reading this and find inspiration. I don’t plan on leaving my job anytime soon but maybe I can find some rules I’ve followed that may need a good breaking. Thanks

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