So I’ve been reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Now I came rather late to Murakami’s work, and have only read a few of his novels, but I find his distinct lyrical style easy to read, and highly engaging.
…About Running is, I feel, an absolute must read for aspiring writers. The book itself is a journey through Murakami’s training for the New York marathon, and as the title suggests, it’s partly about how you train yourself to run long distance. However, the parallel’s he draws between training to be a runner and training to be a writer are highly appropriate.
Because this is what I feel I need to do. Of course, some people just have the talent to write, and can do so easily. But as Murakami notes, there is a difference between natural talent and developing the skill. You need not have a vast amount of talent to write as long as you develop the necessary skills. You can train yourself to focus, to concentrate, and to build your endurance. In essence, it’s a lot about what this site is about. I myself feel I have some degree of talent when it comes to – not necessarily writing per se – but in generating interesting material. Of course, its fine being able to generate the material, but it’s pointless if I can’t get it down on paper (or more rather, in my hard drive)
This is where the training comes in. Dedicating a set period of time each day to writing, to focusing solely on the act of getting things written down is essential. Especially for longer works. Writing a longer fiction is a lot like running a marathon. It can take months, perhaps a year to get through a complete draft, and when you look at it in terms of that, it can be daunting, a lot like a runner standing at the starting line and looking to the finish 26 miles away. How can I do this?
It’s all about the training.
I won’t even pretend that I can explain it as well as this book does, but a few major points I took away from what I’ve read thus far concern techniques that Murakami utilises, that were also utilised by Hemmingway and Raymond Chandler.
Firstly is dedicating the time to writing, sitting down at your desk (or in your private writing space) and focusing. Even if you don’t write anything, just dedicating the time, building up your stamina and concentration for writing will serve you well, especially for those longer projects.
And secondly, once you’ve developed this focus and concentration, and you do write, and then always leave your writing at a place where you feel you can continue on. In other words, stop writing before you run out of steam. That way, the next day, when you set out to write, you’ll be itching to continue where you left off; you’ll develop a flow and a rhythm to your writing which will make it much easier.
As someone who used to train extensively at the gym, and get into a set routine which improved my fitness, built my energy and shed the surplus weight, I can’t believe that I never thought of writing in the same way before. I guess it was an unconscious thing, I just wrote, and did so daily, or if not daily, then at least once every few days, but I managed to get through it. But like my training at the gym, my writing regimen slipped, so it feels tough for me to get through a few pages, just like I can slide off a treadmill sweating and panting, because I’ve let it all slip.
Anyway, I highly recommend this book; I can honestly say it has inspired me to concentrate more on my writing…
If I can find the time…