"When you can't create, you can work"
How do you write? Do you have a system for writing? Someone asks these questions almost every time I speak. As though there might be a magic formula. As though if you do just the right things in just the right order, words will flow out of your fingertips. Don’t I wish!
I came across the 11 Commandments of Writing and Creative Routine –words of writing wisdom from Henry Miller, written in 1932-33 when he was working on his first novel, Tropic of Cancer. Apparently he was struggling with the same challenges all of us writers face.
HENRY MILLER’S COMMANDMENTS
- 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 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 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 advice is to himself is practical and realistic. It recognizes creativity and how the pleasure can be encouraged or lost.
The commandment that resonates most with me at the moment is #5 – When you can’t create, you can work. I write new material in the morning. When my creative energy lags–as it does around 3 every afternoon–then I can edit, work on my website, Tweet, add to a marketing plan. In other words, there are many ways to be productive. And success often comes from keeping at it.
Thanks Henry Miller!