Note to Myself

In letters to Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller writes about the struggle of the writer:

“Expression seems such a natural, God-given thing – and yet it’s not either. It’s a lifelong struggle to find yourself.” (August 1936)

Just writing the truth: it can be so difficult. You have to sit down with a blank piece of paper and do something.

Action at any cost! that’s my motto.” (November 29th, 1935)

You learn techniques as you go, but you don’t write so that you can show them off. You’re trying to tell a truth about yourself, or the world as you see it, and methods you’ve learned will come to you as you need them.

“I don’t start out by trying to be Surrealistic. Sometimes it comes at the beginning and sometimes at the end – it’s always an effort to plough through, to say what can’t or won’t be said.” (August 1936)

Even what you can’t say: try, and something will come – if you’re lucky. Some form of expression. Maybe not what you meant to express, but something real.

“If you have the guts for it the thing to do is to go to the bitter end . . .” (August 1936)

You might not like what comes out at the end, but wasn’t that the idea? To find out what you were capable of? To learn from your mistakes? To find out who you are?

“Compromise is futile and unsatisfactory.” (August 1936)

It’s better to try and fail and feel foolish, and try again, and keep trying – than to be afraid, and give up,  never doing what you always wanted to do, which was to find out what was there at the bottom, in the depths of yourself.

“Of course, doing as you please also involves a certain kind of anguish, but it’s different, and more tolerable. The other eats you out and leaves you dry. Doing as you please either kills you or strengthens you.” (December 1936)

Do as you please: if you try, it won’t kill you.

(Quotations are taken from The Durrell-Miller Letters, 1935-80, Edited by Ian S. MacNiven, Faber and Faber, 1988)

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