“Most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game, or whatever, or even talking to someone you’re not vitally interested in.”
Henry Miller didn’t specifically try to break the rules. Like many remarkable thinkers and writers of the twentieth century, he was an unintentional exception. In other words, he just couldn’t help but break them.
He recreated the “novel” of his time, with a necessary plus of social criticism, as well as tasteful autobiographical, mystical and surrealist reflections borrowed from his own life.
His work can pose as fiction when reality falls short and as reality, when fiction demands it.
In short, he mastered the Art of Observation—the first and most important quality in a writer:
“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music—the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”
Like many unforgettable Writers, he also loved to Write on Writing.
Among other instructions, he managed to leave 11 musts, to be incorporated into a writer’s daily routine.
Included in his must-have volume, Henry Miller on Writing, they are worth reading, rereading and memorizing.
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.
If you’re like me, you can’t get enough. And the more Henry Miller you get, the less you want to stop.
Now I understand Anaïs Nin. (Get a taste of their romance captured in old letters.)
“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty.
Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”
Is writing synonymous with facing one’s life?
“What I want is to open up. I want to know what’s inside me. I want everybody to open up. I’m like an imbecile with a can-opener in his hand, wondering where to begin—to open up the earth… and then we’re all going to see clearly, see what a staggering, wonderful, beautiful world it is.”
So, dear writer, what are you waiting for? Does he have to repeat himself?
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