Cruising around Pinterest (my new toy), I came across this list of Henry Miller’s eleven work commandments, posted by Sadie Skeels. I’m astounded by how absolutely apt these commandments are for my own writing practices.
For instance, #10. I struggle with this problem all the time. And #2. I remember a conversation I had with my agent when I was writing Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill. I was so enthralled with the material that I couldn’t stop researching, and finally she said to me sternly, “No more research.” #5 is terrific advice; when I can’t seem to write, I can review my notes, edit, cut…and pretty soon I’ve started writing again. I think about #11 in a different way; I struggle to make sure that writing doesn’t crowd out other things that are also important to me.
Henry Miller’s Commandments, 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.
These rules seem helpful to non-writers as well; in almost everything we do, it helps to stay focused, refreshed, and perseverant.
What work commandments would you add? And what exactly do you think that Miller meant by #6?
* As I mentioned, I’m really enjoying Pinterest—”an online pinboard where you can organize and share the things you love.” If you’d like me to send you an invitation, drop me a request at email@example.com.
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