Is it okay that we have rules, but have no inclination to follow them?

An older man in the poetry workshop I was in could not fathom how free verse was poetry. “What about rhyme?” He’d say, frustrated at every modern poet we read.

Personally I’m a fan of free verse, but I have a high respect for the classic rhyming poems because they are incredibly hard to pull off. Rhyming is so very easy to go cheesy with.

But the lack of rhyming in poetry doesn’t concern me–I like the internal rhymes you don’t catch right away, and the music-like quality free verse can capture without abba abba cdcd.

But when you study literature you’re taught the different “eras” and the people responsible for the new developments. They took chances, went against the grain…

But like the older man I have some qualms about a few creative choices. Like, deciding to forgo punctuation…I thought that was a 60’s fad? Or using only lowercase letters. (It’s a visual thing, I got that.)

We grow up learning these writing “rules,” then we learn about how some of the greats broke them and revolutionized a mode of writing. Then we’re told that we should write what we want.

It seems we’ve gone from making creative choices and creating new genres to doing whatever we want. Mostly because it’s easier than learning.

Here’s where people get confused: You do actually need to learn the craft of writing before you’re permitted to break the rules. It’s the same in any field, really. Instead, I see the picking and choosing of technique without any real reason, or conviction behind it.

In other words, the writing falls flat.

I find a lot of people use the excuse “I write what makes me happy,” which is okay…depending on whose answer that is.

If you don’t know why you favor a writing technique I’d challenge you to think about it. One day someone may ask you why you write using stream of consciousness. This way you’ll know why you do it (and it won’t be, “Cause I like it,” or you could always make something up as long as it sounded like you know what you’re talking about, which is what I do.)

(Did that joke translate?)

If you break the rules, do it well and with reason.

What do you think, should writers be allowed to have free reign over language or should we carry the traditions of the past into the now?