It’s a beautiful summer day here in the Philippines. The intense heat had been tamed by thunderstorms a couple of days ago that caught many people unaware. Unprepared as they were for the sudden downpour, many went home soaking wet.
The sky is azure, almost cloudless. I have been working on knowing the names of the color variants, in an attempt to improve my skill at writing good descriptions. My favorite color had always been blue green – that’s the name I learned when I was in grade school. Today I learned it’s called teal blue.
My computer table faces a wall with three windows and I can see the Heleconia plant – all in full bloom. An occasional sparrow flies by, pecking on its dried leaves, flying away with more materials to build its nest. Summer is when the birds seem to be busiest. If I’m lucky I see a sunbird poking its long beak into the Heleconia blossoms. Flocks of Pied Fantail emerge at various times of the day, squawking and sometimes I witness a midair brawl, a sharp contrast to the mesmerizing song that the Golden-bellied Flyeater sings in the wee hours of the morning. Yes, I am also learning the names of the birds that fly around our urban farmhouse.
On this breezy summer day, I came across Henry Miller’s 11 commandments of writing and seriously considered them:
- 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.
Evidently, it worked for him, but many of his commandments won’t work for me because I am not working on a book now – that book project just had to be dropped because of my heavy workload. Writing is only a hobby and not a profession – I can’t “write first and always…” although I try to write as often as I can.
So I figured I need to work on my own commandments. That will be interesting.
If Miller’s 11 commandments work for you – hurray! and good luck with your book project. If they don’t, would you want to work on your own commandments too?