Haruki Murakami

Curious about his work I recently started reading some books by the famous Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Impressed by his writing I wanted to know more about the man. That is how I discovered that he is a talented marathon runner. And that he is also very skilled in training his focus muscle. How does he do that?

Since I finished my first book ‘Norwegian Wood’ I have been hooked by the surreal worlds Murakami creates. Haruki Murakami is the kind of writer that never stops surprising you with strange storylines, bizarre characters, history, sex, violence, fantasy and detailed descriptions of Japanese culture. Trust me: you will just keep reading until the book is finished. After ‘Norwegian Wood’ I read ‘After The Quake’ and I just finished ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’. Luckily Murakami wrote many more books for me to read. Looking forward to that!

Haruki Murakami and focus

Because I wanted to know more about Murakami and his writing I recently read a story from his book ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ on the internet. In this book (memoir) he writes about running marathons and he also shares some of his experiences and as a writer. What specifically inspired me is the way he focuses on his work.

In the book he explains that he makes a habit of concentrating on his work for three or four hours each morning. This is how he explains it:

“I sit at my desk and focus totally on what I’m writing. I don’t see anything else, I don’t think about anything else.”

“This is a lot like the training of muscles I wrote a moment ago. You have to continually transmit the object of your focus to your entire body, and make sure it thoroughly assimilates the information necessary for you to write every single day and concentrate on the work at hand. And gradually you’ll expand the limits of what you’re able to do. Almost imperceptibly you’ll make the bar rise.”

Success is talent plus focus and endurance

According to Haruki Murakami: to generate great results, focus needs to be complemented with endurance. Success = talent + focus + endurance

Murakami writes:

“After focus, the next important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three of four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you’re not going to be able to write a long work. What’s needed for a writer of fiction – at least one that hopes to write a novel – is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, two years.”

Compare it to breathing

He continues:

“You can compare it to breathing. If concentration is the process of just holding your breath, endurance is the art of slowly, quietly breathing at the same time you are storing air in your lungs. Unless you can find a balance between both, it’ll be difficult to write novels professionally over a long time. Continuing to breathe while you hold on to your breath.”

According to Haruki Murakami, when it comes to writing there is only one way: just sit down and do it.

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