"I didn't want to be a writer, but I became one. And now I have many readers, in many countries. I think that's a miracle. So I think I have to be humble regarding this ability. I'm proud of it and I enjoy it, and it is strange to say it this way, but I respect it." Haruki Murakami
Every writer is utterly fascinated by writing routines, the creative process, and where writers find their inspiration. Haruki Murakami is no stranger to these questions and finally gives ambitious novelists what they’ve been waiting for: Haruki Murakami’s writing advice.
After writing his first book, he recalls two epiphanic moments that propelled him toward becoming a professional novelist.
As a result of this occupational change, he traded his jazz bar for a sheaf of writing paper and a fountain pen and his smoking habit for running shoes.
He now runs one marathon a year and averages six miles a day, never taking more than two days off in a row – a habit he discusses in his writing and running memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
Haruki Murakami’s writing advice is not what you might expect. He is not the kind of writer to go on a bender and write from a place of chaos. His method is extremely disciplined so that he can descend into the dark recesses of his mind – that is where he discovers the unbridled chaos of the unconscious and communicates it through story.
Joseph Campbell, the leading 20th century thinker on mythology and a profound influence on Murakami, spent a five year period reading for nine hours a day. Campbell’s discipline was likely a model for Murakami. Murakami combines healthy life choices with a routine that creates a kind of mesmerism in his writing process. There are no drug-induced fugue states here. Haruki Murakami’s writing advice is healthy and definitely worth considering.
“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”
While completely admirable, this is not the kind of writing routine that characterizes novice writers. To that end, Murakami has very different advice. Murakami’s advises novice writers to read, observe, reflect, focus, and of course, throw in some magic.
You can read about how he elaborates on each of these points in the excerpts below from his essay, “So What Should I Write About?” For even more Murakami, I have collected a list of free Haruki Murakami short stories available online and a chronological reading order for his novels.