Once, long ago, before we we were old enough to vote, before we could have applied for a driver’s licence, we read Henry Miller for the first time with round, shocked eyes. Then — quite soon — he struck us as a bit of a bore. Now, it seems as if his oeuvre could define repetitiousness.
Still, we have never found a more amusing or accurate listing of the challenges to productivity, or to balancing life and work, than in these instructions Miller apparently wrote to himself — to make faster progress with the manuscript of Black Spring (1936). They have been reproduced in more than spot on the web and appear here to explain why post-Gutenberg will be taking a week’s break — which could become an absence of a fortnight if we find ourselves fighting more than the expected headwinds.
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.