Discipline is a human value and also a constant; an element that is found both in religious precepts and in warrior codes, in fields as dissimilar as politics and art. Maybe its reputation is not the best, but if we understand discipline as a form of conviction in the things one believes in, a manifestation of love for what we are and do, then it seems reasonable that its practice be recommended by a sculptor, an entrepreneur, or the leader of a secret sect.

At the beginning of the 1930s, when Henry Miller was working on what would be his first published novel, the emblematic Tropic of Cancer, the writer came up with a series of rules and a program he followed strictly to achieve what he set out to do: complete a book that is still known as one of the great books of American and world literature.

COMMANDMENTS

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.

Under a part titled Daily Program, his routine also featured the following wonderful blueprint for productivity, inspiration, and mental health:

MORNINGS:

If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.

If in fine fettle, write.

AFTERNOONS:

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.

EVENINGS:

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.

Note: 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.

This plan has a lot in common, especially in terms of its severity, with a much more recent one made itself known in recent years. It is part of Haruki Murakami’s autobiographic book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, in which the Japanese writer describes two of his parallel lives: a runner and a writer, and the moments in which the two seem to cross paths and even nurture each other. Here is a brief fragment outlining his routine when writing a novel:

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

Perhaps, underneath it all, the writer is the heir of that ample lineage of warriors whose source of power laid in discipline.

Discipline is a human value and also a constant; an element that is found both in religious precepts and in warrior codes, in fields as dissimilar as politics and art. Maybe its reputation is not the best, but if we understand discipline as a form of conviction in the things one believes in, a manifestation of love for what we are and do, then it seems reasonable that its practice be recommended by a sculptor, an entrepreneur, or the leader of a secret sect.

At the beginning of the 1930s, when Henry Miller was working on what would be his first published novel, the emblematic Tropic of Cancer, the writer came up with a series of rules and a program he followed strictly to achieve what he set out to do: complete a book that is still known as one of the great books of American and world literature.

COMMANDMENTS

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.

Under a part titled Daily Program, his routine also featured the following wonderful blueprint for productivity, inspiration, and mental health:

MORNINGS:

If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.

If in fine fettle, write.

AFTERNOONS:

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.

EVENINGS:

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.

Note: 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.

This plan has a lot in common, especially in terms of its severity, with a much more recent one made itself known in recent years. It is part of Haruki Murakami’s autobiographic book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, in which the Japanese writer describes two of his parallel lives: a runner and a writer, and the moments in which the two seem to cross paths and even nurture each other. Here is a brief fragment outlining his routine when writing a novel:

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

Perhaps, underneath it all, the writer is the heir of that ample lineage of warriors whose source of power laid in discipline.

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