Fellow writers know how much discipline it takes to complete an entire novel. I love the idea of creating COMMANDMENTS for the current work in progress. This example is from Henry Miller (courtesy of the blog, A Lovely Being):
There are a few items about staying on task and trying to finish the current book. I think a lot of writers today can relate. We just had a discussion in our writing group the other night about what we’re thinking of doing next. It’s only natural; you can get bogged down in a novel and sometimes you need a break. And when a writer is taking a break, a writer has to write, so sometimes you start the next big thing. Personally, I try to fill my breaks with short fiction writing: nice, bite-sized chunks. Great for getting that sense of writing accomplishment and then moving on and going back to the Damn Novel.
Of course, a few of these commandments are out of my realm of possibility. I’d love to have a rigid work schedule, but with a day job that doesn’t always start exactly at 9am and end at 5pm, it’s not easy. Even so, I can’t overstress how important it is for me to at least try to touch the work in some way every day. I aim to hit it briefly in the morning before work and then again in the evening. By planning for two writing appointments, I usually hit at least one of them.
Looking at the time that these work program commandments were written (1932-1933), I wonder if Miller was trying to finish Tropic of Cancer (published in 1934), and having already started Black Spring (which was published in 1936) he was trying to avoid working on that or anything else. According to his autobiographical timeline, in 1933 he “Began book on Lawrence which was never finished.” Nonetheless, commandments can be helpful even if they’re occasionally broken!
In any case, it’s obvious that Miller’s list was written for himself and not meant to be advice for everyone. I’m thinking about making my own list of commandments as I try to finalize my second novel (tentatively called Crossfade).
Has anyone else handed themselves down an edict from on high?