The Joy Of… Self-Imposed Rules

2014 Artwork Self imposed rules sketch

Ever since I got back into creating art on a daily basis in 2012 and got into writing non-fiction on a daily basis in 2013, I’ve set myself a lot more rules than I used to.

Whilst, back in 2009, my only real “rule” for myself was something like “Don’t post any nude art on DeviantART” (which was just as well, given how terrible my art looked back then). I seem to have picked up a lot more “rules” since then. Although I’ve thankfully got rid of the “no nude art on DeviantART” rule though…..

Some of my new “rules” emerged out of fear of external censorship or controversy, but many of them were things that I imposed on myself for various random reasons.

I’m not going to list them all here, but they include things like not directly using my favourite four-letter word on this blog (which can be really f—-ing annoying sometimes!), setting myself limits on how often I can produce some of my favourite types of art (eg: zombie art, art featuring various eccentric fashions etc…), trying to avoid politics as much as possible etc…..

Anyway, since I’ve already written more than a few articles about the downsides of these self-imposed limitations, I thought that I’d turn things around and look at the positive side of self-imposed rules.

At first glance, it might seem like making up self-imposed “rules” for your own writing or art practice would do nothing but stifle your creativity. More to the point, you might wonder, why would anyone bother to do this?

After all, creativity is supposed to be about expression and freedom, right? Many people (including myself) would, quite rightly, oppose any kind of externally-imposed “rules” being placed on creative people. I mean, censorship and regulation is the enemy of creativity.

So, why would anyone do this to themselves?

Well, one of the advantages of coming up with rules and limitations for your own work is the fact that it can actually make you a lot more creative. It can prompt you to make more varied types of art or writing and it can also be a good way of finding your personal art or writing “style” fairly quickly too.

After all, if all or most of your work has to fit within a set of rules that you’ve come up with before you started, then it’s going to have a fairly consistent and distinctive “look” to it after a while.

Not only that, if you’re the kind of rebellious soul who is driven to create things for yourself (rather than just looking at things that other people have created), then you probably hate pointless rules. So, the idea of being able to “break the rules” occasionally or of finding sneaky ways to “bend the rules” can be a very powerful driving force for creativity.

So, if you make up some self-imposed rules that you can break and/or circumvent later, then this can be a good way of keeping things interesting when you’re writing, drawing, painting etc….

Yes, the idea of rebelling against yourself might sound kind of bizarre, but it can be a good way to feel like a rebel quickly when you’re uninspired. And, let’s face it, many people do their best creative work when they feel like they’re rebelling against someone or something.

In addition to this, if you set limits on how many of your favourite types of stories, drawings and/or paintings that you can produce within a given time (eg: only allowing yourself to write one horror story a month), then this makes these things seem a lot more “special” than they might otherwise do.

If, for example, you can only produce one thing that you really love every week- then you’re going to put a lot more enthusiasm and energy into it than if you produce it every day.

The other great thing about setting rules for yourself is that the only person you have to answer to is yourself. In other words, if one of your self-imposed rules is actually hindering your creativity rather than helping it, then you can drop it. Likewise, if you want more of a creative challenge, then you can come up with a few more rules to follow. It’s totally up to you.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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