The Henry Miller Writing Commandments
---- Henry Miller
In Henry Miller Miscellanea (and re-printed in Henry Miller On Writing), there exists a Top 11 list of "commandments" which Henry jotted down for himself, as inspiration for his writing work schedule in 1932/33. Not only do the listed items present a fantastic insight into Miller's self-reflective thoughts, but they reveal a man countering his own anxious writer demons. Every confident exclamated proclamation counters a weakness that nearly every single writer can identify with.
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 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.
MORNINGS: If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus. If in fine fettle, write.
AFTERNOONS: Work on section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.
EVENINGS: See friends. Read in cafes. Explore unfamiliar sections--on foot if wet, on bicycle, if dry. Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program. Paint if empty or tired. Make notes. Make charts, Plans. Make corrections of MS.
Note: Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occassional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafes and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for reference once a week."
A couple of years later, Miller was installed at 18 Villa Seurat. His studio work space was photographed by his neighbour, Arnaud de Maigret, seen below:
From this picture, we can see a few things that made writing a bit easier for Henry Miller. Desk facing a window. Radio. Telephone within easy reach. Quotes on the wall (it's hard to make out, but there are words high on the wall). A mirror sits right next to him, for literal self-reflection.
"I have moved the typewriter into the next room where I can see myself in the mirror as I write." [Henry Miller from Tropic Of Cancer, p. 5]
Banner art: Miller writing - an image capture from The Henry Miller Odyssey; notes - Miller's own notes, from the same source. Miller at right - from the cover of Nexus II.
De Maigret photo of Miller's studio - from an article on de Maigret's impressions of Miller and Villa Seurat in Magazine Litteraire (Paris) November 1972 [thanks to Pierre]. This article will be presented as feature post very soon.