Henry Miller’s Work Schedule

July 1970 with Rip Torn

– Courtesy of Corey Mandell Screenwriting Ramblings

COMMANDMENTS

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 the 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 drought-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.

MILLER’S DAILY PROGRAM

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

Afternoons: Work on section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.

Evenings: See friends. Read in cafes. 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. Makes 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 cafes and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library references once a week.

Advertisements

Only describe the extraordinary

Image

Over the New Year I read a paragraph of Haruki Murakami‘s new novel 1Q84 (pg. 189 HB) and found a wonderful insight to improve my descriptive writing.

An older editor, Komatsu, gave a younger writer some advice on a piece of fiction he was we-writing:

“When you introduce things that readers have never seen before into a piece of fiction, you have to describe them with as much precision and in as much detail as possible. What you eliminate from fiction is the description of things that most readers have seen.”

There is nothing more sure to stop a person reading than if you describe an ordinary scene in a clinical manner. If it is just a room, call it that; a room, and leave the reader to fill in the blanks. But if the room is imperative to the story then describe it through the eyes and tilted perception of the mind of your narrator or character.

I’d love to read a literal translation of Marakami’s original dialogue for his character Kamatsu. Please comment if you find it?

No-Mind: Do not think about not thinking at all

Thoughts have a power all of their own. Any thought we hold too tightly, or keep too close to our hearts, can have a detrimental effect on our lives.  A thought can become an obsession. For example, a thought that our partner is having an affair develops in our mind, and we filter all of their actions through it, searching for evidence however small. This small thought could develop into an obsession and jealousy and mistrust begins to taint every moment of our lives. Eventually we will see things that are not actually there and over time this will strangle the relationship like weeds in an untended garden.

We should strive to regularly empty our minds lest a thought achieves a foothold that cannot be overcome. Takuan Soho (1573-1645), a Japanese Zen Master and Philosopher from the 1600’s, provided similar advice to his contemporaries whether they were the Shogun, Master Swordsmen, fellow monks or lay members of his community. In a translation of his writings The Unfettered Mind by William Scott Wilson, he said:

If your mind leans in the direction of these thoughts, though you listen, you will not hear; and though you look, you will not see. This is because there is something in your mind. What is there is thought. If you are able to remove this thing…your mind will become No-Mind, it will function when needed, and it will be appropriate to its use.

Unfortunately achieving this state of No-Mind is difficult if not practised regularly. We must make this state, even for a heartbeat, part of our daily lives. But again Takuan warns that this too is a thought: “…the mind that thinks about removing what is in it will, by the very act, be occupied.” He wrote a short poem to help us, and four hundred years later it rings as true as the day he wrote it:

To think, “I will not think.”-

This, too, is something in one’s thoughts.

Simply do not think

about not thinking at all.

Kaligrafia_08

Kaligrafia

Takuan Soho (1573-1645) was a prelate of the Rinsai Sect of Zen, well remembered for his strength of character and acerbic wit; and he was also a gardener, poet, tea master, prolific author and a pivital figure in Zen painting and calligraphy (William Scott Wilson – The Unfettered Mind, 1986).