Do you follow the rules?

I read a beautiful summary of W. H Auden on Brain Pickings the day I was sent this prompt. That summary recounted the formation and purpose of a commonplace book – a creative ledger of fragmented inspirations/quotes which a writer collects from other books and copy into a notebook, alongside their own reflections and riffs. Over time these fragments of borrowed ideas are in dialogue with the original writers and readers imagination and formed into original thinking.

The primary example outlined by Brain Pickings was Auden’s book A Certain World: A Commonplace Book and the chapter of ‘writing’ is where I now gain my inspiration for today’s writing prompt. Auden tells a story from his childhood, between six and twelve when he became absorbed in his own private world about lead mining. He addresses the reader about the psychology of sacred worlds; described as somewhat autistic; describes how he nevertheless needed help from others to obtain textbooks, photographs, machinery, maps, guidebooks and trips to mines. But this note that hit me most (and inspires me now) is how he defines a ‘secondary world’

“in constructing my private world, I discovered that, though this was a game, that is to say, something I was free to do or not as I chose, not a necessity like eating or sleeping, no game can be played without rules. A secondary world must be as much a world of law as the primary. One may be free to decide what these laws shall be, but laws there must be”

Do I follow the rules? By contemplating Auden’s explanation of forming a private world and laws there must be, I can only conclude that, yes I must do. Whether I follow someone else’s rules or my own, I am following rules regardless.

I set myself boundaries in how I meal plan, what I eat, what activities I participate in, who I spend my time with, how I behave – both in this ‘reality’ world and in my own sacred world too.

I have bent our common laws – been snapped speeding and paid the fine; smoked herbs that are not strictly legal everywhere; gave into peer pressure when I was thirteen and nicked a bottle nail polish and smoked underage.

I follow rules most of the time, but does that make me boring?


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