Henry Miller’s prose is unconventional, unapologetically sexual and philosophical, the topic of much controversy (his books were banned in the US until 1961), which is why he’s the kind of writer who has something to teach you about writing.
1.Work on one thing at a time until finished.
When not busy doing something else, most writers work on more than one project at a time.
I know this first hand. I have 73 works in progress that I have no idea when I’m going to finish.
I also know that whenever I worked and worked and worked on just one project I managed to get it done obviously, but also felt inspired and motivated enough to sit down and work more and more each day, which translated into the project being done faster.
2. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
How many times has writing felt like a terrible chore, the kind that Zeus used to condemn people too back in the day?
We often forget to enjoy the process, the journey of discovery that is promised by the simple act of putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard.
3. Work according to the program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
The most important thing when it comes to writing is to show up.
Nothing can take its place. Not talent, not luck, nothing. If you want to get the job done, you’ve got to show up. You’ve got to do the work.
4. When you can’t create you can work.
The muse is kind of a jerk. We all know this. Inspiration comes and goes, but we can always work.
Writing is, after all, mostly about rewriting. We can edit our drafts, we can revise them, read them over.
When we don’t feel inspired enough to create, we can always work.
5. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
This is fantastic advice. I think that it all comes down to building a strong enough foundation. Getting the basics right. Knowing which rules to break and which rules to bend.
I think that we should not try to make something grow unless we know what we want, why we want it, and how to get it.
6. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
I feel this is one of the most underrated aspects of writing. If you do not live, what are you going to write about? If you do not experience life, with its ups and down, then what are you going to share with others?
No matter what genre we write in, we are all using words to build a portrait of the strange and perilous odyssey that is our life.
7. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work, as Aristotle used to say.
We should always try to remember this.
8. Discard the Program when you feel like it but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
We can and sometimes we must take a day off.
We have to recharge, reconnect with ourselves, free ourselves of certain limitations. We can only do so if we take a break from writing.
But we must be careful that we only rest, not quit. We should be careful that a day off does not become a week off, or a month, or even a year.
Take a day off if you feel like it, but then return to punching those damn keys the very next day.
9. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
Creative people are strange in this regard.
We all have a lot of ideas. As a matter of fact, it’s easy to daydream a lot of ideas into existence and never get any actual writing done.
Put an emphasis on getting stuff done.
10. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
We are all the consequences of our priorities. What we choose to do determines who we are.
Do you want to be a write? Write. Do you want to be a painter? Paint.
But if you want to write, you’ve got to show up and punch those damn keys even if there are other things you could do, because there’s always something else you could do.