Run and write with Haruki Murakami

Novelist Haruki Murakami writes three to four hours a day. (Photo by Gal Oren.)

By Anthony O. Alcantara

I wish I could do that. But if I did, I would easily be left behind, and as for writing, I wouldn’t even know where to begin a novel.

I’ve never read any of Haruki Murakami’s novels. His popularity in bookstores, however, intrigued me, and I made a mental note to read some of his works this year. When I came upon his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, I said, “Hey, I used to run, too.”

I learned that he runs every day. Before I got married, I was doing exactly that — run every day, for about two months. And before that, I was running three times a week. I felt a connection. So I guess his book about running — a memoir, actually — would be a good place to start to experience his work. He talks about how he writes, too. Vicariously, then, I could run and write with Mr. Murakami by reading his short book.

It’s inspiring to read how Murakami nurtured and allowed running and writing to feed on each other, to provide the physical, mental, emotional, and creative fuel to keep the two things going.

Murakami has been running every day for more than 20 years. Is it because of his strong willpower? Natural runner’s physique? Superhuman leg muscles? Perhaps a childhood trauma that left ominous voices in his head shouting, “Run, Mr. Murakami! Run!”?

Nope. His reason? “It suits me.” That’s what he said in the book. I wish it were that simple for everybody. For him, no amount of persuasion will convince anyone to take up running if it doesn’t suit that person.

The problem is, getting up from the sofa to the fridge to get food suits many people. And they prefer doing that instead of running. We can’t do much about that. But if you find any suitable physical activity that suits you, then that would be a good start.

As for being a novelist, he said there should be three ingredients: talent, focus, and endurance. Talent, of course, can be developed, but there must be a modicum of talent to begin with. I like his take on focus. Indeed, without focus, your talent will go to waste. Murakami concentrates on writing three to four hours a day. Not many can do that.

And as for endurance, he says you need energy to keep your focus on writing. If you feel drained and exhausted after hours of writing instead of energized and motivated, then, obviously, you won’t last long in the craft.

What is interesting to me is that talent, focus, and endurance are the basic ingredients of being excellent at anything. It can be cooking, singing, or weight lifting, or whatever “suits you”, as Murakami would probably say.

He seems to be deliberately thoughtful, quietly passionate, and compassionately wise. You may want to read his short memoir. Who knows, it may suit you, too.

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