I think that to be a writer, in fact to be any kind of artist, you have to be breaking rules on a daily basis. If you're not, you're not really trying; you're staying within the boundaries set by other people and your/our own limitations.
Art is not about following rules.
Or is it?
It's easy enough to say that I will break the rules and not give a damn - but at the same time I also want enough commercial success to retire from being an employee and regain control of my life.
Can I do that and break the rules? Surely staying within the rules is the fast path to success? I suppose it can be, but that's about the best I can say.
What about breaking the rules to succeed? Loads of poeple have done it this way. Many have stayed true to themselves and their art and won. Given that there is no garantee of success either way, why should we bother to stay safe?
One of the problems we face nowadays is that the marketing depts of publishers are very focussed on what sells, so they like genres, something that is easy to sell, something that slots straight into the current template - fast and easy, bang, bang, bang and it's done.
You can't blame them for that. But it's not all they do. There are reams of books out there that break the rules or aren't a safe read - and the first that leaps to mind is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
It's not exactly a comfortable read is it? It's grey and dirty and depressing from start to finish, but I still think it's great, as are all his other books.
So, given that publishers are willing to stick their necks out, why do we as writers/artists stay within the rules, within our own comfort zones?
This is a question I ask myself again and again as I dream of writing the sort of story that I really want to write, whilst doing my best to ignore the demons that crawl around inside my head urging me into pastel green pastures with paths, easily accessed and well worn, with no surprises and no food for the soul.
So my advice, assuming I'm qualified to give any, is to follow what you think is right; write what you want and write it for you. Bring poetry into your work and dare to find your own images and way. You should also gather a few supporting friends, friends who will speak the truth and want you to achieve the best you can.
I'm still struggling with this, and I expect that struggle to go on for a long time. My thanks and love go to those who help me to realise better things, it's because of you that it will happen.