Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments for Writing

Henry Miller always seemed like a kind of, um… freewheeling guy, based on his books. So, it might surprise you to learn that he lived by a set of 11 commandments, which he worked up while writing his first novel, Tropic of Cancer. Unearthed from his book Henry Miller on Writing by the wonderful Lists of Note, it’s a trove of both personal reminders (“Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring'”) and universally excellent advice (“Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand”) that’s sure to be helpful to any aspiring writers out there. Click through for a serious dose of inspiration.

COMMANDMENTS

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.