Henry Miller’s Creative Commandments


henry_miller-31In his writer’s notebook, 1932-1933, Henry Miller, an author with a deep sense of process, laid down his ‘commandments’ of writing. Here they are adapted to whatever it is you want to create:

  • Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  • Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand. Work according to The Program (the timetable you’ve laid out for yourself) 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 next thing you want to create. Think only of what you are creating now.
  • Do it first, always. Painting, music, friends, cinema — all these come after.


Chris Doyle’s Creative Intelligence

“I didn’t start making films until I was 34. But that wasted youth was probably the most valuable asset for what I’m doing now. You see the world, you end up in jail three or four times, you accumulate experience.Cinematographer Chris Doyle

“And it gives you something to say. “If you don’t have anything to say then you shouldn’t be making films. It’s nothing to do with what lens you’re using.

“I don’t believe in film school or film theory. Just try and get in there and make the bloody film, do good work and be with people you love.

“I tried to learn cinematography…[but] you can’t learn how to make films. You gotta make mistakes and you have to appropriate the mistakes, and then you learn from those things.

“Then you have a voice.”

No Answers, Only Questions

Ten Thoughts on creating from Pamela Travers, author of Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins

Julie Andrews as ‘Mary Poppins’

  1. The Unknown — our beautiful Anglo-Saxon word, intimate, reverberant, profound, not so much to be understood as stood under while it rains upon us — that is something I could live with and, indeed, have revered, cherished, and tried to serve for many a year and day.
  2. Call it the Unknown and one can conceive of the creative process as being a next door neighbor to it.
  3. C.S Lewis, in a letter to a friend, says, “There is only one Creator and we merely mix the elements he gives us” — a statement less simple than it seems. For that “mere mixing” while making it impossible for us to say “I myself am the maker”, also shows us our essential place in the process.
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Creative Intelligence Quotes by Orna Ross

Here are some of my favourite quotes and insights for your reading pleasure.
Creative Intelligence Quotes
  1. “Finally I’ve learned from my mistakes. From now on, I’m only making new ones.” – Orna Ross. (creative response)
  2. The creative…”can only find his way by moonlight..his punishment is he sees dawn before the rest of the world”. – Oscar Wilde (solitude)
  3. “Creative success comes when your desire to achieve exceeds your fear of foolishness or failure.” – Orna Ross (fear)
  4. “The road to success is always under construction.” -Lily Tomlin (change)
  5. “Creative intention makes you strong, wishful thinking makes you weak.” – Orna Ross (intention)
  6. “The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem (resistance)
  7. “Dance to the music that’s playing not to the noise in your head.” – Orna Ross (awareness)
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Boosting Self-Belief by Orna Ross

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right,” said Henry Ford. Or, as my old Irish auntie used to grumble, “You get what you put in for.”

It would be hard to find a philosopher, sage, counsellor or coach who’d disagree.

It’s no secret that self-belief is the central pillar of success — but it’s easy to forget. Or to underestimate its importance in the creative process.

To give your self-belief a boost at any time, do this F-R-E-E-Writing Exercise. Set a clock for 15 minutes, allowing 3 minutes each for the following five questions.

  • What do you believe in?
  • Do you believe enough to convince others?
  • Do you believe enough to succeed?
  • How are your success and your belief intrinsically linked?
  • How might you strengthen your belief?

F-R-E-E-Writing is a much more creative way to where you want to go than setting goals or plans.

Regular free F-R-E-E-Writing (where you F-R-E-E-write for a set time or number of pages, putting down whatever comes to mind will), over time, really boost your belief.

As if by accident, you’ll find your horizons expanding — and yourself soaring right over them.

The Creative Space. By Orna Ross.

Consider a page of writing. Black marks on white paper, like the one below.

The marks are full of meaning — for the person who wrote them and for the person who reads them. Between this meaning, between the words and between the letters, is space.

The words always get much more of our attention, but both words and space are necessary to meaning. A page with only marks on it is all black, unreadable and meaningless.

In general, the more space around the words, the more meaningful they are, one of the reasons why a page of poetry or song lyrics is more eloquent than, for example, a dense page of legalese.

As with writing, so with life. We have the content of our lives — the thoughts, feelings, events, experiences, stuff, people. The “thingness” of life, if you like. This we notice, but also always there is the “no-thingness”.

The space that lies within, around and beyond. It, too, is necessary.

Space is what allows things — thoughts and feelings, events and experiences, people and animals and plants — to be.

Nothing is what makes everything.

creative process words and spaces

Creative Intelligence: The Holstee Manifesto. Words and the space between the words.

Creative Intelligence – An A to Zzzzz by Orna Ross

Creative Intelligence A is for Aha, Ha ha and Ahh, three dimensions of creative intelligence.  The creativity theorist Arthur Koestler gave us these.
Aha is a sense of insight, when we move beyond what we formerly knew: the Yes! Eureka! I get it! moment.   Ha-ha is our sense of the absurd, the way we laugh when opposites combine, waking us out of our usual, singular way of seeing. Ahhh is the  peace and freedom we feel when we sense our interbeing with others, with something beyond ourselves.

B.   Begin with being – Be. Just. Where. You. Are.

C.   Can. “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford

D.   Dimensions of Mind. You have three: 1. Surface (Ego) Mind. 2. Deep (Emotional/Imaginative) Mind. 3. Beyond (Inspirational) Mind. Your creative intelligence encompasses all three dimensions.

E.   Enthusiasm. (Literal translation from ancient greek: “the creator within”) Find your enthusiasms so creativity can commence.

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Cat Stevens Creative Intelligence

Creative Intelligence

“I get the tune and then I just keep on singing the tune until the words come out from the tune.

It’s kind of a hypnotic state that you reach after a while when you keep on playing it where words just evolve from it. So you take those words and just let them go whichever way they want…

‘Moonshadow’? That was in Spain, I went there alone, completely alone, to get away from a few things. And I was dancin’ on the rocks there… right on the rocks where the waves were, like, blowin’ and splashin’. Really, it was so fantastic.

And the moon was bright, ya know, and I started dancin’ and singin’ and I sang that song and it stayed. It’s just the kind of moment that you want to find when you’re writin’ songs.

Everything I wrote while I was away was in a transitional period and reflects that. Like Patti. A year ago we split; I had been with her for two years. What I write about Patti and my family… when I sing the songs now, I learn strange things.

I learn the meanings of my songs late…”

We Are Not A-mused by Tom Evans

Drama and comedyOne thing I really  love about the English language is that its etymology and construction can tell us so much about the inner workings of our minds, however obscured.

For example, when Queen Victoria said “We are not amused”, although I wasn’t present, perhaps I can connect with her state of mind when she made her so often quoted comment.

The Queen was most probably temporarily disconnected from her Creative ‘Muse’.

This disrupted state is known as be-musement.

Being aligned with your Muse isn’t something just for writers, musicians and artists. Anyone who is interacting on Twitter, Facebook or social media sites needs access to their Muse nowadays.

So, it might sound obvious but, if you are not amused you are hardly going to be inspired about writing a blog, a chapter of your book or even a simple Tweet.

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