Life was simpler before Social Media and Self Publishing came on the scene. How would Miller have dealt with those distractions? Today, a writer is supposed to be both wordsmith and self-promoter. For many of us, it’s an uneasy mix. On the other hand, the fact that one can bypass traditional publishing is wonderful—as is blogging.
I particularly like Miller’s Eleventh Commandment.
“Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.”
The world conspires to distract the writer. As a consequence, you have to be ruthless, or you’ll spend your time doing what others think of as being the right thing rather than writing.
Doing what others think of as being the right thing is probably wrong if you are a writer. The right thing for a writer is to write.
I have long recommended that if a writer has a baby, it should be kept in the washing-machine (saves time) and if you have a dog, it should be dead and stuffed (less distracting). The point is not that I have anything against either babies or dogs—I’m fond of both—but that writing has to be your priority.
As for your wife, husband, mistress, lover or whatever…I’ll leave that to your imagination. Probably better to have a mistress or equivalent(better sex and less time-consuming). That said, I know some writers who have wonderful marriages. But being married to a writer cannot be easy. After all, we are held to be moody, obsessional, and debatable bread-winners—though we can be interesting. We are also absent a great deal of the time—in spirit, if not in the flesh (that’s pretty creepy, now I think about it).
In compensation, of course we are lovable—entirely lovable! And we are faithful except in the interests of research.
- 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.
Under a part titled Daily Program, his routine also featured the following wonderful blueprint for productivity, inspiration, and mental health:
If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.
If in fine fettle, write.
Work of section in 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 cafés.
Explore unfamiliar sections — 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 an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafés and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for references once a week.