Henry Miller’s 11 Essentials for the Everyday Writer.

{Photo: Cedric Wright / Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley}

“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.

{Henry Miller’s Library via HenryMiller.org}


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?




More from Writing Lab: 

>> “I start trembling at the risk.” ~ Susan Sontag’s Notes to Self.

>> Kurt Vonnegut’s eight essentials for a good short story. 

>> Jack Kerouac’s 30 keys to life & writing. 

>> 11 tips & tricks for troubled writers. 



{Write first & always.}



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Andrea Balt
Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Rebelle Society, Wellness Alchemist at Rebelle Wellness & Professional Dream Chaser at Creative Rehab. Unfinished book with a love for greens, bikes and poetry; raised by wolves & adopted by people; not trying to make art but to Be Art. Holds a BA in Journalism & Mass Communication, an MFA in Creative Writing & a Holistic Health Coach degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. In her work she tries to reflect the wholeness of the human experience by combining Art & Health + Mind & Body + Darkness & Brilliance into a more alive, unabridged and unlimited edition of ourselves. She is also on a quest to reinstate Creativity as one of our essential Human Rights to (hopefully and soon) be included in the UN Declaration. Connect with her in the Social Media Jungle via Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and sign up for her FREE MuseLetter.


  • karl saliter commented on September 26, 2012 Reply
    What’s not to love about “leave out the parts that readers tend to skip?” Love it.
  • Jeanette LeBlanc commented on September 27, 2012 Reply
    Ditto Karl’s comment. I wish I knew what those parts were, though :)
  • Andrea Balt
    Andrea Balt commented on September 27, 2012 Reply
    I’m currently in love with Miller & slightly upset at Anaïs Nin for stealing him. I imagine our conversations. :) PS. The parts are the same ones you’d skip. But you have to distance yourself from your writing first. In my case, I find it easier to do when I let it simmer for a few days (or hours). Whatever the Voices dictate on-the-spot is always begging for edits three hours later…
  • Rachelle Smith Stokes
    Rachelle Smith Stokes commented on September 28, 2012 Reply
    Nicely done my lady. I enjoyed. Good tips. Now…to remember them lol
  • ShaLaugh commented on October 15, 2012 Reply
    Cor, Andrea! The handwritten list of rules is by the mystery novelist Elmore Leonard – a legend himself, although not the artistic kin of Miller. Leonard’s novels get made into movies; Miller himself is the movie.
    • Rebelle Society
      Rebelle Society commented on October 15, 2012 Reply
      Fixed. Thanks for noticing. Henry and Elmore should go out for coffee.
  • Rebecca Sparrow Wanderlust commented on July 10, 2014 Reply
    I love this website but I’m pretty sure the picture of the man on the love seat is Truman Capote not Henry Miller.

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