No More Rules!

1005582_623093937700806_368896929_n-1_2I have just completed a seven stop book tour which had me visiting schools and libraries delivering a presentation I call “No More Rules!”  Listening to students talk about the rules they liked (not many) and the rules they didn’t like (many more) got me thinking about just how rule restricted we all are; students, parents, teachers, and writers too!

So, for the start of summer, here are some ideas on how to give children (and parents) a break from rules:

  1. Let them choose the rules.  At the start of a trip or new experience (even if it’s just a night out at a friend’s house) let them tell you what they think the rules should be.  At a campsite, you could ask them where it is safe to bike, what time they think quiet time should be, etc.
  1. Let them make all the rules.  Set aside half an hour where anything goes.  Offer to play a game with them where they make up the rules.  As long as no one (or nothing) gets hurt, you go along with THEIR rules.
  1. Let them break the rules.  How about eating dessert first?  Or staying up extra late one night?
  1. Let them talk about rules.  Believe me, they have a lot to say!  You don’t have to agree but you can try seeing things from their perspective.  If your kids won’t open up, get them writing… if you could change one rule what would it be?  Why?  Or get them reading… fiction books can be a great starting point.  What did you think of the rules in that characters house?  Why do you think that character broke the rules?

A lot of these can be used by teachers thinking about the start of a new school year (yikes!)  You will get a lot more students following the rules if they’ve had a role in making them.

Most writers are motivated to follow the rules, in the hope that it will lead us down a smooth path to publication.  But we’ve all heard success stories that come from not following the rules (Stephanie Myers and word count is one that comes immediately to mind.) What could be better for creativity than a little outside the box (or in this case, outside the book) thinking?  To give yourself a little summer break, here are a couple rules to consider breaking:

  1. Write a picture book for adults.
  2. Write a short piece of fiction that repeats a single word as many times as possible.
  3. Re-write a excerpt of your work in progress using as many adverbs and adjectives as possible (you can always take them out later!)

Let me know if you’ve got other ideas to add to the list!  As a writer and mother, I’m looking forward to breaking lots of rules this summer  After leading the protest in front of so many students, teachers, and librarians, I am more than ready to join the chant… “NO MORE RULES!  NO MORE RULES!  NO MORE RULES!

Yolanda Ridge is the author of Trouble in the Trees (Orca Book Publishers, 2011) a middle grade novel about an 11-year-old girl who fights the rule against tree climbing in her urban townhouse complex.

Yolanda Ridge