Rule breaking

When my daughter was a senior in high school, the administration declared Senior Prank Day dead. Basically, it was a senior tradition that in the spring, the graduating seniors would do something silly, like wear crazy clothes and cartwheel in the hallways, etc. It didn't involve anything dire or dangerous. But as old white men who are principals in large high schools are wont to do, the principal decided he'd had enough. Anyone participating in Senior Prank Day would be suspended. I thought the whole thing ridiculous and said so.

My daughter is a rule follower. In fact, she gets very annoyed at those who don't follow the rules. I'm very grateful for her sense of obedience and basic inability to get into trouble on purpose, but I'd been hoping she'd screw up at least once before she turned 18. After all, that's what the teen years are for. Make mistakes while you're young, learn from them, and go forward a wiser person into adulthood.

So when she came home from school and said she'd been suspended for participating in Senior Prank Day, I couldn't help but give her a high-five. "Yes!" I crowed. "Good for you!"

She couldn't believe it. Here I was, her mother the lawyer, ecstatic she'd broken the rules and been suspended. Only it wasn't true. She was pulling my leg. She and I had a good laugh, and I gave up my hopes she'd ever misbehave. I was cursed with a perfect daughter, something I'd never been. How could I have gotten so lucky?

Rule breaking has its place, however. Passive resistance, freedom marches, the Underground Railroad, the Suffragettes, you name it, there's a history of changing the ways things have always been by breaking the law or shaking up the status quo. Fighting for justice, equality, and the basic freedoms of all mankind haven't come cheap. Lives have been lost, empires have fallen, good people have done what needed doing to bring about change no matter the personal cost. I admire them all.

Writers need to break the rules, too. We need to take the story where it needs to go, and if it's not comfortable or acceptable in the unhallowed halls of modern publishing behemoths, too bad. The book will find its audience. Nothing can stop a right idea.