Henry Miller: On Writing and Routines

Henry Miller at work
Henry Miller at work

In 1932-1933, while working on his first novel, Tropic of Cancer, Miller devised a daily routine to help him stay productive. Among it was a list of eleven commandments and advise on how to break down his day.


  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 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.

Daily Program

A 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.

A Note from Miller: 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.

If you want to expand further on Miller’s routine make sure to check out Henry Miller on Writing.

About this series: Towards the end of 2016 I started playing with morning routines and how I could create one that would fit my way and help me stay on course. I’m still working on it and eventually will write about it, but for now lets explore other creatives’ northstars to get inspired, learn and live.