The Eleven Commandments of Henry Miller

Henry Valentine Miller (1891-1980) was born in Manhattan, New York to Heinrich Miller, a tailor, and Louise Neiting. He briefly attended City College and was a member of the Socialist Party of America. He wrote his first novel, “Clipped Wings”, while working for Western Union. He never published it because he felt it was too long and too bad. He used pieces of it in other works, however.

While still married to his first wife Beatrice, he met and fell in love with a dancer named June Mansfield. Roland Freeman, a wealthy man, admired Mansfield. Mansfield regularly took pages of Miller’s work to Freeman, claiming she had written them. Freeman financed a trip to Paris for Mansfield, with Miller in tow.

Later, Miller returned to Paris alone. Finding benefactors, he continued writing. Later he would travel to Korfu, Greece, and California. His works were uncensored, including detailed accounts of his sexual experiences, some being initially banned in the United States. Some of his most famous works include “Tropic of Cancer”, “Black Spring”, “Quiet Days in Clichy”, and “Sexus”.

His 11 Commandments:

  1. Work on one thing at a time until you are done.
  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring” (his project at the time).
  3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is at 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 everyday, 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.
  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 things come afterwards.
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