Rethinking: Rules and Creativity

I recently got into a discussion/debate about a new project I’m drawing out in mind. It is a project in which I have no background, no experience at all, very little research, and it is very much in the idea phase. In other words, there is nothing concrete about this new project yet. I’m not even sure if this is a project worth doing given my lack of knowledge. All I have is a familiar trajectory; established practices that have shown to be successful, and the drive to do something new. I think that’s enough to keep me going.

Now I won’t get into detail about what I’m working on. It’s not relevant to this discussion. However, suffice it to say that there is a problem with ideas like the one I’m working with. It is that, at its core, it is simple. There’s already an answer. It’s so simple in fact that one might even wonder why that I’m even bothering messing around with the tried and tested formulas for success. Why don’t I just get on with it and get it done?

The reason is that its simplicity and its well-tread nature, is also what – in my opinion – prevents it from becoming anything more than what it is now. It’s been done before. It’s been charted. It’s been recorded.

Whenever I see things like that in the world, I always have to ask this: How can one make this better?

The Less You Know

There will be moments in your career where you will need to know a lot of things before you are able to create something truly extraordinary. The knowledge/experience/motivation/inspiration necessary to synthesize various elements in the world to make a truly amazing creation will just require it. That is the price of admission.

However, there are also those magical moments when you just decide to do things and you end up with something truly extraordinary, anyway.

Remember the first time you decided to make a comic book or the first time you decided to start sketching in the back pages of your class notebooks which eventually led you to become a really good illustrator?Remember the first t-shirt you screen printed in your garage? Remember the first photo you ever took? My brother, fpr example, started selling his logo design services through eBay when he was just 15 with no design knowledge whatsoever and look where that’s gotten him now. Didn’t all those things lead to something extraordinary? How did all these things start? I doubt any of you did any research or studied the works of Leonardo Da Vinci extensively or took design classes before you decided to put pencil to paper. Neither did a lot of people.

That’s OK.

For instance, when I decided to buy a camera, all I knew was that I needed a camera that worked. Everything else that I needed to know was going to be built around the foundation that I had a working camera. Then I just started shooting. I didn’t know the rules. I didn’t even really know how cameras worked. But I wanted to find out more. 4 years later, I’m still finding out more.

Not Knowing Makes it Easier to Go Further

I’m not saying that there’s value in ignorance. There’s not. It’s always better to be informed.

However, there is value in refusing to take things as they are. Just because things are the way they are, doesn’t mean there are not a better ways of doing them. That’s what innovation is all about. Innovation is finding new answers for old problems. Innovation is the soul of every creative endeavor, it is the dare we give ourselves to look foolish and in exchange we are given the opportunity do something intensely new and fresh.

Knowledge/rules gives us boundaries. It tells us what is already there. It tells us how far we can go. Denying knowledge takes away those boundaries freeing us to discover new ones and it makes it easier to take things further.

The point I’m trying to make is that while I was having this discussion/debate/Spanish Inquisition about this idea I have in my head, I started to ask why this person is even fighting with me on the fact that I want to do something new with this idea. I know that there are certain paths one can take to make this project successful or at least, viable. I know there have been proven ways to go about this particular idea. I know this already.

But I’m more intrigued by what I don’t know. The less I know about how to do this project, the more I want to find out.

Some of the history’s greatest explorers/innovators/inventors/scientists have gotten so far because of the desire to “find out.” Why not you? Why not me?


The rules exist for a reason. That’s why we learn them. They tell us where we’ve been. They also tell us where we can go again and still expect a modicum of success.

However, more importantly, understanding the rules also shows us where we haven’t been. And I think you’ll all agree that that is where truly amazing, mind-boggling work is done.

Now I’m not saying that I will change the world one day with my ideas. But I will dare myself to at least try.