Some Commandments for a Writing Plan

Do You Hold Yourself to a Writing Plan?

checkI saw a list on Facebook that outlined Henry Miller’s Commandments for writing. I was so intrigued by his list (and the effectiveness of it) that I have been studying him for the past few weeks. Henry Miller was an American writer and painter, most popular in the 1930s (he passed away in 1980). He is most famous for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new style of writing that combined fiction, autobiography, social criticism and philosophy. His books include Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring and Tropic of Capricorn. I haven’t read his books, and I’m not sure if I would like them. But I like his philosophy for his work–specifically his schedule. (Yes, I have an affinity for lists and schedules. If you don’t know that about me yet, you do now!)

Here is what I like about it: Everything Miller did was meaningful and deliberate towards the end of boosting his creativity as an author and artist. In perusing the book, Henry Miller on Writing, edited by Thomas H. Moore, I came across not only Miller’s Commandments for writing but his Daily Program as well. Imagine my joy at finding a list and a schedule on the same page of a book!!

I think we can learn something from him. Take a look with me: (my “coaching” notes are noted in parentheses).

Henry Miller 1932-1933


  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished. (Focus–important in our multi-tasking society)
  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to Black Spring. (A mirror of #1, but it got me thinking–when is it important to say, “No More”?)
  3. Don’t be nervous. Work Calmly, joyously, recklessly, on whatever is at hand. (I’ve seen a Bible verse to that effect–good advice)
  4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time! (This one is good–especially about the stopping. Balance is important.)
  5. When you can’t create you can work. (Takes writer’s block right out of the equation!)
  6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers. (A good way to keep moving forward towards your goal!)
  7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it. (Good advice for writers who tend to be reclusive!)
  8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only! (Enjoy what you are doing and you will produce better work)
  9. Discard the Program when you feel like it–but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude. (Give yourself some freedom, but remember your plan will work only if you stick to it)
  10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing. (Focus!)
  11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards. (Because you are not a writer if you don’t write!)


I also love his Daily Program. Here was the plan he laid out for himself; I see how it helped him reach his goals.

Henry Miller’s DAILY PROGRAM


  • If groggy type notes and allocate as stimulus.
  • If in fine fettle, write.


  • Work on section at 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 (of town)–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 and occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafes and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for reference once a week.

How about you? Do any of these resonate with you? What can you learn from Henry Miller’s Commandments or Program?

Share with us here so we can encourage one another on in the coming year!