11 Writing commandments, from Henry Miller

23 February 2012 |

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From ‘Henry Miller on Writing’:

1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.

2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”

3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.

4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!

5. When you can’t create you can work.

6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.

7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.

8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.

9. Discard the Program when you feel like it — but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.

10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.

11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.


6 thoughts on “11 Writing commandments, from Henry Miller

  1. I find 7 bafflingly true. Maybe writing is not a human activity and one has to be reminded to keep human. As I am reading a Muriel Spark biography at the moment, I am in tune with the sacramental ….

  2. The more I have been thinking about this, the more certain I am that writing is not a human activity, and yet good writing often has a fair portion of humanity in it. Perhaps without reminding oneself to “keep human” a writer would cease having anything to write about?

    Number 11 fascinates me.

  3. I am somewhat obsessed with this list (and in fact the whole ‘artist at work’ chapter in this book.

    7. is the most important, I think, and one that you don’t see so often in this kind of list.

    3. is also vital but I struggle not to be nervous even though I know it affects my work.

    5. does slightly enter ‘draught-horse’ territory doesn’t it? But how else do we get the non-creative stuff done?

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