What I talk about when I talk about running - Haruki Marukami



by Haruki Murakami

In every interview Im asked what's the most important a quality a novelist has to have. It's pretty obvious: talent. No matter how much enthusiasm and effort you put into writing, if you totally lack literary talent you can forget about being a novelist. This is more of a pre-requisite than a necessary quality. If you don't have any fuel even the best car won't run.

The problem with talent, though, is that in mosst cases the person involved can't control its amount or quality... Talent had a mind of its own and well up when it wants to, and once it dries up, that's it. Of course cerain poets and rock singers whose genius went out in a blaze of glory - people like Shubert and Mozart, whose dramatic early deaths turned them into legends - have a certain appeal, but for the vast majority of u this isn't the model we follow.

If Im asked what the next most important quality is for a novelist, that's easy too: focus - the ability to concentrate all your limite talents on whatever's critical at the moment. Without that you can't accomplish anything of value, while, if you can focus effectively, youll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a shortage of it. I generally concentrate on my work for three or four hours every morning. I sit at my desk and focus totally on what I'm writing. I don't see anything else, I don't thing about anything else. ...

After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three or 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 who hopes to write a novel - is the energy to focus every day for half a ear, or a year, two years. ...

Fortunately, these two disciplines - focus and endurance - are different from talent, since they can be acquired and sharpened through training. You'll naturally learn both concentration and endurance when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point. This is a lot like the training of muscles ... gradually you'll expand the limits of what you're able to do. Almost impoerceptibly you'll make the bar rise. This involves the same process as jogging every day to strengthen your muscles and develop a runner's physique. ...Patience is a must in this process, but I guarantee the results will come. ...The great mysstery writer Raymond Chandler once confessed that even if he didn't write anything, he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated. ...

Most of what I know about writing I've learned through running every day. These are pratical, physical lessons. ...I know that if I hadn't become a long-distance runner when I became a novelist, my work would have been vastly different.