Monday, January 19, 2015

Memorable Quotes from "Henry Miller on Writing"

In Henry Miller on Writing, Thomas H. Moore edited together a broad selection of texts on the subject of writing from the great body of published works by Henry Miller, including letters and excerpts from novels.

As I read the collection of writings on the theme, I was struck by many of the texts and anecdotes, and wanted to highlight some of them here in my blog, including his thoughts on censorship and obscenity, which continue to be all-too-relevant.

"A great work of art, if it accomplishes anything, serves to remind us, or let us say to set us dreaming, of all that is fluid and intangible. Which is to say, the universe." (pg. 23)

"Since I was convinced that I could write about anything under the sun, and excitingly, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to make up a list of themes which I thought of interest and submit them to editors of magazines in order that they might select what appealed to them. This entailed writing dozens and dozens of letters. Long, fatuous letters they were, too. It also meant keeping files, as well as observing the idiotic rules and regulations of a hundred and one editorial bodies. It involved altercations and disputes, fruitless errands to editorial offices, vexation, disgruntlement, rage, despair, ennui. And postage stamps! After weeks of turmoil and effervescence there might appear one day a letter from an editor saying that he would condescend to read my article if and if and if and but." (pg. 39)


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 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 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. 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." (pg. 161)

"Viscount Brentford is the gentleman who tried to protect the English public from such iniquitous works as Ulysses and The Well of Loneliness. He is the type, so rampant in the Anglo-Saxon world, to which the words of Dr. Ernest Jones would seem to apply: 'It is the people with secret attractions to various temptations who busy themselves with removing these temptations from other people; really they are defending themselves under the pretext of defending others, because at heart they fear their own weakness.'" (pg. 178)

"The sordid qualities imputed to the enemy are always those which we recognize as our own and therefore rise to slay, because only through projection do we realize the enormity and horror of them." (pg. 183)

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