BY: DANIEL WATERBORNE
Henry Miller is a writer who knows that the purpose of language is to liberate us from our own skin. He didn’t believe in writing for readers. He didn’t believe in writing for critics or awards for his mantlepiece. In Reflections of Writing Miller once wrote:
“Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one: it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order to eventually become the path himself. “
“What the general reader or critic makes of it is not my concern. I am not establishing values. I defecate and nourish. There is nothing more to it.”
For over two decades, Miller’s works were banned in the United States on grounds of obscenity. His works, such as his masterpiece Tropic of Capricorn, dealt with a liberated view of human sexuality. He believed that to purposely hide the vulnerability of nakedness inside the bedrooms of the nation was to omit a fundamental part of human life. His works were smuggled into the United States and Great Britain creating a persona of an underground artist. His unrestrained work was vital to the development of American literature and free speech. Miller believed that “a book lying idle is wasted ammunition;” he also believed that these eleven rules were vital to his own creativity.
- Work on one thing at a time until finished.
- Start no more new books; add no more new material to “Black Spring.”
- Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
- Work according to the program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
- When you can’t “create” you can “work”.
- Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
- Keep human! See people; go places, drink if you feel like it.
- Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
- Discard the Program when you feel like it–but go back to it the next day. CONCENTRATE. NARROW DOWN. EXCLUDE.
- Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
- Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
MILLER’S DAILY PROGRAM
If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.
If in fine fettle, write.
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.
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 occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafes and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library references once a week.