Haruki shared his formula of being a successful writer in What I talk about when I talk about running
Haruki Murakami is well- recognized as talent writer with an unique writing style. His successful novels such as Norwegian Wood, 1Q84, The wind-up bird chronicle, Kafka on the shore,… gained multiple awards and love from readers. Beside his legendary works, I personally impress with his ability to continuously create high standard works years after years. In his memoir “What I talk when I talk about running” , the author has revealed insightfully how he manage on keep up running and writing; and his coping with ageing. During his on going career , in many different occasions, Haruki had shared his advices on writing to new writer, but in this book alone, there is so much about writing I could learn from.
Haruki ‘s formula of being a successful writer is talent, focus and endurance
Writing a novel job, including “ sitting in your desk, focus your mind like a laser beam, imagine something out blank horizon, create a story, selecting the right words, one by one, keeping the whole flow of the story on track” is a hard job and requires a lot of time and effort. The author thinks talent is important to become a novelist yet talent is unpredictable and writers should not rely on it. The next two important factors are things that writers can control and can train themselves to be better at : Focus and endurance. Focus is “ the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment” and endurance ensure that you are able to do it every days without burn out .You can train yourself to better at these two disciplines by showing up repeatedly everyday at the same time do the same job and “gradually you’ll expand the limits of what you’re able to do”. To improve endurance , the author also suggests writer should work on improving their physical heath.
#1 Repetition is key
In many parts, when talking about running and training his muscles , Haruki highlighted the importance of consistency on keep practising daily. I found these advices on running useful to motivate myself to practice writing everyday. “I never take two days off in a row” he wrote . This remind me of the simple concept of self- discipline introduced to me by Matt D’Avella, “the two day rule”. The rule is simply that not to skip the thing you want to master more than two days in a row . I have applied the rule on growing good habits and sticking to them (so far). You can check out his vlog here to see he explain about this rules.
“I’m not going to lay off or quit just because I’m busy. If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I’d never run again” — Haruki Murakami, What I talk about when I talk about running.
#2 Set your goals and set your priorities.
To live the fullest life as a writer ( or whatever you are dream of), you have to set a clear goal. Goal setting is vital as it show you the direction to move forward to your dream. To Haruki, the valid goals are to beat him self. The external praises such as number of sold copies, award ,etc … is not really matter to him. What matters is whether or not he can attain the standards he has set for himself. When not seeking approval from outside but just from within, he knows what exactly that he need to do to get better than himself yesterday. Maybe, because of that, his works always come out with high quality.
Once you know your goal and who you want to be, you will know your priorities. Just like time, human’s energy and focus span are limited. You have to learn how to spend those three limited resources wisely. You have your goal as a map on your hand, you also have time, energy and concentration as fuel, your only job as a captain is not to go around the harbour but to move your ship toward the destination, that simple. He wrote in the book “ you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you will lack of focus and your life will be out of balance.”
#3 Often communicate with your conscious and subconscious
There was a small part in this book where the author wrote about the importance of communicating with your conscious and subconscious to deal with pain. But through the whole book, I can pick up many times that he communicate with himself with several methods. Haruki keeps journal and reread it to retract his memories and feelings. Writing a journal is the way to put his thought in order and that sometime becomes the foundation of his writing works. Beside that, journaling help him to “both admonish and encourage” himself.
“ I don’t necessarily write down what I’m thinking; it just that as I write I think about things. As I write, I arrange my thoughts. And rewriting and revising takes my thinking down even deeper paths.”
Another way that Haruki communicating with himself is prep talks. He often does that before , during and after running trainings and running competitions. Flip through the book , you can easily found many prep talks he gave himself in italic fond and using second person pronounce. Perhaps, that is the secret helping him live with the pain of running and the uneasy state of writing. The completion of sixty-two-mile ultramarathon in Lake Saroma — Hokkaido is an example of his overcoming an unbearable experience and prep talks help through the way. He talked to every parts of his body that started to disobey him to finish the challenge. “It’s just a little farther, guys. You can’t give up on me now”. Also, from this very experience of the sixty-two-mile ultramarathon, Haruki introduced to readers a definition of the state of pass thought. When feeling extreme painful in every part of his body, he acknowledged the pain but still forced himself to run forward while chanting the prep talk “ I’m not a human. I’m a piece of machinery. I don’t need to feel a thing. Just forge on ahead”. By keep doing that, he experienced the state of mind that he had never experienced before. This state happened when he passed through of the “unseen barrier” then his body suddenly stopped striking and worked well in order. He feel like some sort of power would naturally push him forward. This state of mind doesn’t seem to make any sense to many people. But I think that by chanting that unrealistic prep talk, he can forget about the logical conscious (that his body must feel pain) and running forward pain free . Just as he wrote:
“Nothing in the real world is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness.”
#4 Haruki’s writing routine.
Haruki shared in this book about his daily routine will be as follow: Wake up at 5 am and write for 5 -6 hours (which he call important work). After that he will do errands that don’t take much concentration. He run 10km in the afternoon. Later in the day, he will just relax with reading and listening to music. He go to bed early at 10pm.
As he explain, the act of repeatedly sitting at his desk and write every day at a certain for a certain hours is vital as it trains his brain and body accept and work accordingly the fact that he is a writer. Scientific talking, this routine allows him to keep up with the job that highly demand of creativity as exercise and relaxing activities was proven to enhance one’s creativity. Therefore, as a writers, it is important for us to pick a form of exercise and do it regularly a long aside with our writing job.
Every time I reread the book, I found a new part he share his thoughts on writing when solely talking about running. I was fascinated by that. I was fascinated by the way he use running as the metaphors to express his thoughts on writing. I enjoyed looking out for a writing advice in a book . Is there any writing tips from this book that I have not mentioned? Please let me know.