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Breaking the Mold is What Creativity is All About
Rules are suggestions, and they're always evolving. Noticing what's changing and especially WHY might just change the way you see art, too.
This is part of my “Art of Noticing” series, in which I learn, find, or discover the things around me that usually go unnoticed and turn them into an endless source of creative inspiration.
Today I learned that some college volleyball coaches are willing to trade height for speed. It made me think that what we value is always changing … just like every norm and so-called “rule” that used to be absolute.
My daughter plays volleyball, and right now we’re in the recruiting phase: the daunting process of figuring out where she might play in college, at what level, and what she’ll need in order to make her ideal scenario happen.
While talking about this, another parent told me that some (definitely not all) college colleges actually prefer slightly shorter middle blockers over the comparatively tall ones they’ve traditionally wanted. At the highest levels, female middle blockers tend to be six-three, six-four. My daughter, who plays middle, will settle around six feet. In the past, those three our four inches might have made or broken her chances at a Division 1 school, but now I’m hearing that’s not necessarily true. Slightly shorter middles tend to be faster on average … and some coaches prefer having an edge in speed to having it in standing height.
It made me think about the larger issue at play: In all systems, rules are made to be broken. Established norms often dictate how things go: Things stay how they are because that’s how they’ve been in the past. But just as volleyball has evolved (in many ways since I played, not just this middle blocker issue), the creative world too is in constant flux. Unconventional methods and voices are always showing up — and should always show up — to challenge the status quo.
Simply put, artists and writers who feel they "don't fit the traditional mold might just have the power to redefine it.
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Here's how this "noticing" can benefit my stories and art:
Instead of trying to fit into pre-defined boxes, embracing what sets us apart can lead to amazing work.
I mean, I’m strange as an author. My books contain lots of philosophy and science, and I can’t stop referencing Robocop. But that’s okay. That’s GOOD. Unconventional protagonists, unusual art techniques, or a fresh narrative voice can captivate audiences.
Challenging Established Norms
Questioning the status quo and daring to rewrite the rules can lead to transformative stories and art.
Think of it as introducing a twist in a tale – it keeps the audience engaged and eager for more.
The Underdog’s Journey
The narrative of an underdog, whether it's a (slightly) shorter front-row volleyball player or a writer with a unique voice, resonates deeply with certain audiences.
In other words, what makes you unique might be the same thing that has made a reader feel awkward and ill-fitting their entire life. Just by being you, you helping them be them … and you’re connecting even more deeply.
Remember, in the ever-evolving landscape of art and life, it’s not always about fitting in. Sometimes, it’s about standing out and reshaping the game. Rules, as we all abundantly know by now, are made to be broken.
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Reading these posts is only one way to get these lessons. Every post here has a companion episode of my 10-minute, multi-times-weekly podcast, The Art of Noticing.
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