Henry Miller was an American writer and painter, famous for pushing the boundaries of literature and creating several seminal and controversial works. In his book 'Henry Miller on Writing' he speaks about his 'Commandments' and 'Daily Program'.

Henry Miller's 11 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.

Henry Miller's Daily Program:

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.

Great writers and thinkers are often found to have had such 'programs' and commandments that helped give structure to the work that they did. Given that I am now operating my own software consultancy and product development studio, a regimen like this could be beneficial since the life of a writer and a programmer share certain parallels in the type of structured creativity that must be applied. I think that Miller's ability to do great work is somewhat related to his ability to maintain an ordered structure to his day and to his work. He shipped. Relentlessly. And this probably makes him a better programmer than you are.

Here's my first interpretation of Miller's commandments and program:

My 11 Commandments:

  • Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  • Start with no more new frameworks or libraries until the current work is done.
  • Work with a good test suite, and keep a clear and consistent dialog with your clients.
  • Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  • When you can’t create you can work. Fix bugs or perform code gardening and weeding.
  • Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers. Invest time in your tools and get better at them -don't supriously add new ones.
  • Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it. Twitter is not a substitiute.
  • 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 programs you want to write. Think only of the program you are writing.
  • Code first and always. Design, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

My Daily Program:

MORNINGS:

  • List commitments for the day.
  • If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.
  • Exercise
  • If in fine fettle, program.

AFTERNOONS:

  • Work on story in hand, following plan of story scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one story at a time, for good and all.

EVENINGS:

  • See friends. Read in cafés.
  • Explore unfamiliar sections — on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry.
  • Program, if in mood, but only on Personal projects.
  • Sketch products if empty or tired.
  • Make Notes. Make Charts, Plans. Fix minor bugs in current Stories.
  • 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.

Do you think you could benefit from your own Commandments and Daily Program? How would you interpret Miller's ideas for your own situation?