I am one of those people that likes to break rules, but also likes to have them in place first. Does that make me not so"free?" I don’t think so. Maybe I like editing over writing due to this.
I think of it this way; even most improvisitory jazz musicians vamp over a predetermined set of chord changes, often based on a Broadway tune. Even the truly "free" jazz usually rests on some loose framework.
How about you? Do you need rules?