Breaking the Rules of Art: With Experience and Time


Earlier this week, my professor gave me permission to break a citation rule. His note read, “With your background and skill as a storyteller and writer, you have all the authority you need to make this statement without a citation.” In all my years of writing hundreds (seriously, hundreds) of papers, I have never had a professor tell me this.

The fact that he gave me permission wasn’t what surprised me the most. It was what he said to validate the permission that surprised me. I’ve written about six papers for him thus far. Prior to this course, I was a complete stranger to him. He never read a written word of mine before.

Yet, he gave me permission to break the rules. It got me thinking about the above quote by Picasso. For one, I think his statement holds validity simply because of who said it. Picasso wasn’t your average guy stating this. He was one of the best artists known to man. He had the experience and life filled with amazing work. I am sure he also had pieces he never wanted to see the light of day.

He was trusted. He did not seek to be a trusted artist. He simply did what he could do best—paint. I understand that. I felt the same way when I read the comment from my professor. It hasn’t ever crossed my mind to blatantly break the rules in English. But, I do recall moments when I have disregarded tips to improve certain phrasing or terminology simply because I have years of experience to guide me.

I think that’s one thing people may or may not realize about this above quote. Picasso isn’t by any means declaring to intentionally break rules. He’s saying one’s art and their lifelong knowledge should come so naturally that breaking a rule isn’t a deliberate action.

As an artist, in whatever medium, through the years, one learns their niche in the field. One first learns all he or she can to truly understand the technicalities and foundation. Then, one learns where he or she stands in the middle of it all. Take, for example, the poet e.e. cummings.

The fact that I wrote his name in all lowercase letters is proof enough. Cummings learned the rules and broke them in such a way, that those who know him and his work can simply say, “Oh yup, that’s a Cummings piece.” Not only did he always lowercase his name, he also ignored most punctuation rules. He purposely had the words of his poems shaped into a certain design as a whole to enhance his overall message.

If you have experience in a field, there will come a time when you will break the rules naturally to maintain your specific voice and style. It’s not bad. But, it can’t be forced either. If you try to force yourself to break the rules simply to break them, it’ll be tacky and people will notice.

It will take much time. It will take many butchered stories, or poems, or songs; or many burnt cupcakes, or casseroles. You get the point. There will be far more failures than successes at first. Then, you will gradually improve. Not because you have to, but because you want to out of passion for what you love to do.

I think part of the reason why my professor may have said what he said was because he could see the heart I have behind my writing in every discussion prompt or paper I present. Anyone who meets me will shortly learn I love God, coffee, and writing. I am where I am in my writing because I have spent 10 years and counting constantly and diligently learning and growing in my craft. I constantly ask questions about my field. I research why one rule occurs over another.

And lastly I tell you, you can’t be the one to tell yourself it is okay to break the rules. Being a genuine artist takes relentless feedback from others. It takes consistently asking someone you trust, whose opinion you value, and who knows your style and voice well enough, to critique what you created.

In order to break the rules, one must first follow them, which means going through the sometimes painstaking process of creating something. It means hearing someone offer suggestions on a piece you’ve already fallen in love with.

I challenge you: If you possess a strong talent or gift that you sincerely enjoy, then consistently strive to improve. There is always more to learn. If you don’t know what you excel in, or you just began deeply learning about something you love, be patient. Art doesn’t happen overnight. Yes, having a natural born talent does help, but it isn’t everything. Most importantly, find your voice and style in your chosen field, even if it means breaking some rules.



Better Oversaid than Unsaid: I Love You


My husband and I probably say I love you to each other at least thirty times a day. We are those people who want to hear I love you as many times as possible, even in the smallest, seemingly most mundane moments.

Even though we both receive and show love in different ways, we still want to hear the words I love you. There’s something so special about hearing the words I love you, even when you already know.

There’s always an opportunity to say I love you. Always. But, I am a word driven person. Even so, I tell everyone I know whom I truly love and appreciate that I love them. I will tell my siblings or my parents any chance I get, even if it’s just in a text asking how they are doing.

A lot of people may think I overuse it. But, I don’t think anyone can every over say it if he or she truly means it. I think even if someone’s love language isn’t words, they should still hear the words I love you. Maybe not as often as my husband and I tell each other throughout the day, but they should still hear it. It could be when they wake up or before they go to sleep even. At least once a day, if not more.

Love is a complicated, beautiful word. It’s complicated when someone says it and doesn’t mean it. It’s complicated when someone wants to hear it but it’s never said. Love is a complicated, beautiful word when we make it something of human flesh.

I think part of the reason why my husband and I say I love you to each other frequently is because we have the greatest example of love reigning in our hearts and lives each day—Jesus Christ, Our Savior, Redeemer, and Lord. It so simple to say I love you to another human when you have the love of God inside you.

Saying I love you to anyone important whom you truly value is the simplest way to show Jesus, especially to those who have words as their love language. Even more so, there isn’t one person in this world, in their right mind, who doesn’t want to be loved. Even the people who proclaim they want to live life alone and without a community want to be loved.

It’s in human nature to want to be appreciated, valued, and loved. We cannot escape that desire. We had it in us the moment God gave us a beating heart. He created us to be a people among other nations and peoples, not on our own.

I challenge you: Tell someone I love you. It doesn’t have to be a significant other. It can be a sibling, a friend, a parent, a grandparent, a coworker, etc. Say it and truly mean it. If you truly mean it, it should not matter who hears those words. Even if it may be uncomfortable, say it. This is coming from someone who cares so deeply about others, some days it physically hurts my heart to see them in pain.

Yes, I may be extra feelings driven. That’s how God created me to be. Regardless, the challenge still means something. I don’t challenge others to something unless I wholeheartedly believe in it myself. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, for the next week, just once each day (or more, if you’d like) tell someone you love him or her, even if you’ve told this person a million times before.

It never hurts to hear it again.



LA 2024: To Witness Olympic Greatness


This week, I found out Los Angeles could possibly host the 2024 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee announced the city as a top five finalist a year ago. Indeed, I am a little slow at hearing the news. Despite the fact that I was slow to hear this news, I was ecstatic, nonetheless!

Most people don’t know this, but one of the items on my bucket list is to attend a Summer Olympic Games in person. It’s a lofty goal, yes. But, I believe it is possible, even if it means I have to leave the country.

I don’t know what it is about the Summer Olympics that makes me want to pack my bags and go. It could be simply because I love the season. It could be because I love watching the gymnastics, or the diving, or the swimming, or the beach volleyball.

Not many people can say they saw the Olympics in person. I am sure it is much different than watching them on television. It is definitely more chaotic, I am certain of that. But, it’s alive. It’s exciting. It’s thrilling.

I don’t write those words like someone who has already been there, done that. I write those words like someone who follows Shawn Johnson, 2008 Beijing Olympic Champion, on YouTube. It was so interesting to watch her view of the Olympics; to hear her stories about the events that unfolded; and her memories as a former competitor.

I am not even an athlete, but nothing beats the comradery and high-level competitive nature that comes with the Olympics. I think the reason why I love watching Olympic Games over other athletic events is solely due to the determination and effort athletes go through to compete at that level.

It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to even proclaim you are an Olympic athlete, let alone to state you are an Olympic champion. The closest way I can consider myself an athlete, period, is my decent basketball shot and follow-through.

Despite my lacking athletic abilities, growing up, I always wondered what it would be like if I competed in the Paralympics. It remained a dream that never flourished. But, it was a nice thought. Who knows? One day I may decide to compete in a running event. Only God has that plan for my life.

Regardless of whether or not I become a Paralympian or attend the Olympics live and in person, I will always cheer on dedicated, devoted, and talented athletes. I will be proud to be an American citizen. I will be even more thankful I am able to witness greatness.

Here’s to the possibility of fulfilling one of my dreams and bringing the Olympics to the United States of America in Los Angeles in 2024! The official decision will be announced in one year. I cannot wait!

I leave you with this: No matter how cheesy or weird a life goal of yours may be, be excited about it. Do all you can to make it happen. And, no matter what, never lose your spark of making a dream a reality. Let the little kid inside you always believe it can happen.



Don’t Be Grand: Fewer Words Mean More


The other day, I heard the above quote while watching a television show. It stuck with me. A lot of words stick with me. These words not only stuck with me, they stuck out.

As I am sure I have said before, I love classic novels, especially from the 20th century. Nowadays, it takes a lot for a book to stand out. Barnes and Noble stores are filled with hardback after hardback. I don’t think the problem is getting a book published. I think the problem is making it memorable.

I think this century of writers and readers alike aren’t as fine-tuned anymore. Everyone considers themselves a lover of books and tea or coffee without really knowing what it means. Reading is not as honest and true as it used to be. Just as the writing is not the same.

I think what sets apart writers in the past from writers in the present is accessibility, resource, and most of all, talent. Nowadays, it seems like more people get offers to have books written about them than they do to simply write on their own.

This is merely speculation. But, I think it is a worthwhile topic. We live in a world where people simply talk and write to be heard. Not to make a point. We live in a word where attention matters more than authenticity. We live in a world where that same attention cannot last more than 15 minutes at a time. Yet, others continue to fight for it and prevail.

No longer are words of the few important. Now, it’s how much can you say and how many ways can you say it. This above quote can be interpreted in many ways, and that’s okay. But, I think Kerouac had a point.

We are constantly trying to find the right words to say this or that in this amount of time, rather than simply saying. Writing and communicating with others can be hard, especially when we are fighting so many distractions in the world.

Writing and speaking should be simple. Yet, we have overcomplicated it. I am sure Kerouac had some unspoken thoughts he needed to express when he said this. But, I don’t think that was his point. I think he was trying to show that even writers have trouble finding the right words, in a distracting world.

He wrote in a troubled time filled with a lot of change. He himself had his own faults and setbacks. One thing is certain, though, when Kerouac committed to saying something, he gave it his all. He wrote one of his novels in 48 hours.

He did so not because he had a pressing deadline. No. He was inspired. He did not hold himself back. As one of his fellow writing cohorts, Ernest Hemmingway said, he wrote until he bled. I know I just talked about writing last week.

But, this quote stuck out to me. And writing is a passion of mine, no matter how hard and unfulfilling it can be at times. Sometimes, I will continuously hit walls of creative nothingness. Other times, I simply have to find the right words.

It’s just that simple.

My call to you is simple: Don’t be grander than you ought. Say what you want to say, how you want to say it, when you want to say it. I am not saying do not ever have a filter. I am saying don’t have such a thick filter you forget what you are trying to say in the first place.

Time and word count are not of the essence. Genuinely honest thoughts are.




As a Writer: Honest Intentions


I think there comes a point in every writer’s life they feel burnt out and unpassionate. Part of me believes I am at this point right now. For the past month or so, I wrote because I had to, not because I wanted to. For the past month or so, I sat down with no ideas ready to dive onto the paper.

I keep an accumulating list of ideas. But, writing takes inspiration. It takes an igniting of one’s heart to put thoughts to paper. Writing doesn’t happen without inspiration. Writing takes time. Although I have an ongoing list, I can never seem to find the right moment or words to put an idea in motion.

Over my years as a writer, I have learned writing can’t be forced. It must be genuine. It must be honest. It can’t be out of discontent or pressure from others. Writing must first come from the heart. Everything else will fall into place afterward.

As a writer, I’ve learned my main concern should be to speak from the heart. It should be to speak the truth I know to be true in my life. Everything else is secondary.

I am still trying to embrace the notion I am not writing to please anyone; therefore, I should not timidly hold back out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings. That doesn’t mean I can be cold and heartless about how I say what I say, but it does mean I should write with love and truth.

Just like anything else I do, I have to remind myself why I am doing what I am doing. I have to reevaluate my intentions. I have to ask myself why I maintain this blog, why I want to write a book, why I even consider myself a writer in the first place.

As of late, I don’t like my answers to the questions. As of late, I find myself in a funk. It could be because I added school onto my plate recently. It could be because I have slept less lately. It could be because I am going through a lot of change. It could be because I feel distant from God. Or, it could really all boil down to a heart issue.

All of the excuses I listed above have one common problem—my heart. I am not invested as much as I could be. Or, I could even be overinvested in some areas. I may spend my entire life learning how to balance my priorities and never find the answer.

All this to say, writing has been difficult for me lately. Being vulnerable has been difficult for me lately. I am abundantly blessed, no doubt. I simply don’t know how to make sense of my intentions. I need to take a good hard look at myself.

If my writing hasn’t felt as true and honest lately, I am sorry. It takes a lot for someone to evaluate their God-given talent. I know I’ve always had a knack for writing. Sometimes, I misplace the root of that talent.

I leave you with this: Be prepared to answer the big questions. Be prepared to make changes if necessary. Most importantly, be honest. Believe it or not, the older I get, the more I realize, honesty really is the best policy. Thanks for taking this writing journey with me. May it continue to bless each of you and may it reignite my heart once more.