By Laura Marshall and Helen Marshall

New Year’s Eve has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still make your New Year’s resolution.

Frequently, this is a time when our Facebook newsfeeds get cluttered up with new writing goals ranging from finishing off that novel you’ve done that first eight chapters on to sitting down for an hour every day to making your first professional sale. We know this well because we have made exactly those resolutions.

But the thing we have also found is that as good as these goals are, sometimes the pressure of meeting deadlines or trying to meet challenges that rely solely on the whims of the Gods that Be (or the Editors-that-Be) can kill the spirit. We know.[1] We have been there.[2]

So rather than setting goals[3] for things to accomplish, we’re going to borrow Henry Miller’s eleven commandments for writing. Helen has these posted above her desk (annoyingly blocked, now, by her giant new monitor) but they saw her through a rather intense year of dissertation writing, publishing her first collection, and attending the Clarion West writing workshop.

Here are eleven rules to live by…


1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2. Start no more new books, add no more new material.
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.

What are your writing New Year’s resolutions for 2013? Have you already broken them?

[1] Cf. 1995-2011 – these were the years of the, “please, God, won’t somebody accept one of my short stories?”

[2] Also the years of “I shall lose ten pounds, I shall lose ten pounds.” Damn you, Christmas dinner!

[3] Followed by “I will drink no alcohol for six weeks.”

Like what you've read? Share it with your friends! (Or enemies. We aren't picky.)