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Henry Miller on Writing

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  804 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Some of the most rewarding pages in Henry Miller's books concern his self-education as a writer. He tells, as few great writers ever have, how he set his goals, how he discovered the excitement of using words, how the books he read influenced him, and how he learned to draw on his own experience.
Paperback, 217 pages
Published February 1st 1964 by New Directions Publishing (first published January 17th 1964)
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On Writing by Stephen KingBird by Bird by Anne LamottWriting Down the Bones by Natalie GoldbergThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Being a Better Writer
29th out of 72 books — 49 voters
How to Format Your Book by Dorothy May MercerOn Writing by Stephen KingThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Bird by Bird by Anne LamottSelf-Publishing In the Eye of the Storm by Karl Wiggins
Essential Books on Writing
79th out of 100 books — 37 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,220)
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David Lentz
Mar 20, 2014 David Lentz rated it it was amazing
Henry Miller is one intrepid soul. For me this reading entailed discerning the echoes of the interior of a soul of a brother, a kindred spirit. He articulates creative impulses forged from the smithy of his own rough experience through years of rejection in America and poverty in Paris. Like so many other genius writers Miller was willing to give up every material comfort and to suffer in dire poverty for the sake of his art. He left America to live and suffer in Paris in search of his own artis ...more
Quân Khuê
Mar 29, 2015 Quân Khuê rated it it was amazing
This is a book to read, to re-read, to re-read again, if you are interested in writing. I have read this book almost every day, for nearly two months, one or two pages or a few paragraphs at a time. Now I will put it away on a shelf, knowing that I will come back to it.
Lynda Felder
Mar 15, 2014 Lynda Felder rated it it was amazing
There’s no way to summarize the magnificent writings and incredible ideas in this book. Here are a few passages.

from “Why Don’t You Try to Write”

The little phrase — Why don’t you try to write? — involved me, as it had from the very beginning, in a hopeless bog of confusion. I wanted to enchant but not to enslave; I wanted a greater, richer life, but not at the expense of others; I wanted to free the imagination of all men at once because without the support of the whole world, without a world o
Tank Green
Jul 29, 2012 Tank Green rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, creativity
this man is the beginning and the end for me.

'Looking back on my career, I see myself as a person capable of undertaking almost any task, any vocation. It was the monotony and sterility of the other outlets which drove me to desperation. I demanded a realm in which I should be both master and slave at the same time: the world of art is the only such realm.' p. 114
Jan 14, 2015 Aziz rated it it was amazing
Cures vertigo.
May 06, 2007 Laura rated it it was amazing
I bought this book in an airport on my way to Arizona and read it in one day. Heavy stuff with the autobiographical tone of the book and emphasis on seemingly random pieces of his life, but I loved it. I was offended by his treatment of women, but I felt that finally someone wasn't walking on eggshells. i was young when I read it, but I still remember quotes and have dog eared pages. It's a book I've recommended highly, but have never been able to part with it long enough to loan it out. "He and ...more
Aug 26, 2014 Clifford rated it it was amazing
While reading the books that this collection was taken from is the best way to experience Mr. Miller, this collection is excellent for the beginner or for the Miller fan. It allows those inclined to write (who shouldn't be inclined to write!?) to find those words of advice and encouragement in one place. This book could have been twice as long, but remains short enough to catch Miller's burning intensity while catching a fire within one's self.
Aug 06, 2008 Elliott rated it it was amazing
Essential for not only the writer and artist, but also the reader in all of us. In one section he refers to his own creative life as, "hurtling toward the stellar flux." Passages that are filled with a density of groundbreaking diction as well as a mystic quality that is quintessentially Henry Miller. If you like his work, want to live a creative life or breathe air and can read then read this book.
Apr 27, 2014 Katie rated it liked it
"i was so in love with the idea of being a writer that i could scarcely write...i wore myself out in preparation. It was impossible for me to sit down quietly and just turn on the flow; I was dancing inside. I wanted to describe the world i knew and be in it at the same time. It never occurred to me that with just two or three hours of steady work a day i could write the thickest book imaginable. It was my brief that if a [person] day down to write [they] should remain glued to [their] seat for ...more
Rosa Ramôa
Apr 02, 2015 Rosa Ramôa rated it it was amazing
Henry Miller
Estados Unidos

"Ninguém avança pela vida em linha recta"...

"O Espírito do Homem é Como um Rio que Procura o Mar"...

"Parecemos estar hoje animados quase exclusivamente pelo medo. Receamos até aquilo que é bom, aquilo que é saudável, aquilo que é alegre. E o que é o herói? Antes de mais, alguém que venceu os seus medos"...

Jul 15, 2013 Jess rated it liked it
This was a little difficult for me to sink my teeth into. The thing about Miller's writing that I usually enjoy is the ebb and flow of it, the descriptive passages of life punctuated by the more philosophical and metaphysical musings, which stand out like gleaming heads-up newly-minted pennies on the sidewalk to be picked up and put in your pocket for your restless fingers to play with while you're walking or waiting for the subway. This book is a collection of all intense passages, and without ...more
Apr 03, 2007 Ben rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: failed writers
I carried a dog-eared copy of this collection of Henry Miller's writings on writing around with me for years. I had underlined big chunks of virtually every page. The man is eminently quotable and his prose is incredibly meaty.

My ex-girlfriend's cat peed on my first copy and I immediately went out to buy another one.

I left the second copy on the counter at a Korean grocery in Portland. I had taken it out of my bag to make room for a 6-pack of PBR tallboys and forgot to put it back in. I went b
Jun 07, 2014 Brendan rated it it was amazing
Considering that the bulk of Miller's best writing deals with the story of how he set out to become a writer, a collection of his work dealing with writing can do little wrong, in my book. There are truly few other writers who could discuss the act of writing who I'd really want to read.
Jun 11, 2013 Cari rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing, 2013
I'm standing basically alone here, judging from other reviewers, but Henry Miller on Writing did very little for me. No spark for me, no engagement. Maybe my experience comes from having read many of his other works, thus meaning I've already read many of the pieces contained in this one.
Sasha Reinoso
May 28, 2013 Sasha Reinoso rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All creative types and thinkers
Recommended to Sasha by: Abdias Garcia
Shelves: favorites
Though it appears a short book, this is NOT a quick read. With every turn of the page, I found myself pausing to think, re-read, make notes. The excellent insight and incredible interpretations of the everyday were not to be read, but rather digested. A favorite for sure.
Scott Gibson
Mar 02, 2014 Scott Gibson rated it it was amazing
An excellent collection of excerpts corroborating the fact that Henry Miller will always be one of the most influential writers I'll ever read.
Philip Bellew
Jul 08, 2011 Philip Bellew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
If you're an aspiring writer, this is the one to read. Miller's command of language is awe-inspiring.
Jaymi Boswell
Apr 15, 2008 Jaymi Boswell rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Tawny and Jennifer.
Recommended to Jaymi by: The guy at the used bookstore.
Shelves: non-fiction
Besides Stephen King's 'on writing' this is my favorite. I love Henry Miller. He's the perfect fit.
Tim Weakley
A little tough to get through near the end. Miller can be a little heavy in spots.
Paloma Etienne
Jun 24, 2013 Paloma Etienne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: creativity
He is wonderful, although I sometimes had to get him used to me ;-)
Feb 20, 2014 Peetza rated it it was amazing
A great book for aspiring writers.
Ed Teja
Sep 04, 2012 Ed Teja rated it it was amazing
Wonderful insights.
May 26, 2015 Dave rated it did not like it
It reads like a piece of literature rather than a how-to on writing. There's a nice writing schedule towards the back, though.
Oct 28, 2015 Tom rated it really liked it
Few writing lives were more fascinating, and rarely does one write so openly, with such an earnest pursuit of truth.
David Absalom
Feb 02, 2016 David Absalom rated it it was amazing
Loved it. Recommend it for anyone. Should be titled The Essential Henry Miller.
Sep 06, 2015 Kate marked it as to-buy
Recommended in Brain Pickings biog
Feb 19, 2016 Shashi rated it it was amazing
An engaging and though provoking book, a kind of must read for those who have something to say. This might put you on the right track or take you out of the hole of uncreativity you have walked into...
ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
S.D. Curran
Jun 25, 2015 S.D. Curran rated it really liked it
Not bad. It is a good book on writing, but at times it bogs down with the rhetoric.
Oct 04, 2015 eden marked it as on-hold
On hold until I've actually read some of Miller's fiction since this is so specifically tied to it.
Ivan Wu
Jun 29, 2016 Ivan Wu rated it it was ok
A textbook narcissist. Miller seems to have built an entire career on talking about himself, and always in the most glowing terms. Even his flaws are poetic -- the stuff of Greek tragedy. I've stuck with him for this long mainly because he's admired by some of my favorite writers. This book was the last straw. Miller's "genius" just isn't very interesting.
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Henry Miller sought to reestablish the freedom to live without the conventional restraints of civilization. His books are potpourris of sexual description, quasi-philosophical speculation, reflection on literature and society, surrealistic imaginings, and autobiographical incident.

After living in Paris in the 1930s, he returned to the United States and settled in Big Sur, Calif. Miller's first tw
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“Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one: it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order eventually to become that path himself.

”I began in absolute chaos and darkness, in a bog or swamp of ideas and emotions and experiences. Even now I do not consider myself a writer, in the ordinary sense of the word. I am a man telling the story of his life, a process which appears more and more inexhaustible as I go on. Like the world-evolution, it is endless. It is a turning inside out, a voyaging through X dimensions, with the result that somewhere along the way one discovers that what one has to tell is not nearly so important as the telling itself. It is this quality about all art which gives it a metaphysical hue, which lifts it out of time and space and centers or integrates it to the whole cosmic process. It is this about art which is ‘therapeutic’: significance, purposefulness, infinitude.

”From the very beginning almost I was deeply aware that there is no goal. I never hope to embrace the whole, but merely to give in each separate fragment, each work, the feeling of the whole as I go on, because I am digging deeper and deeper into life, digging deeper and deeper into past and future. With the endless burrowing a certitude develops which is greater than faith or belief. I become more and more indifferent to my fate, as writer, and more and more certain of my destiny as a man.”
“Like every man I am my own worst enemy, but unlike most men I know too that I am my own saviour.” 12 likes
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