Haruki Murakami’s wisdom about self-discipline.

June 17th, 2008

Murakami‘s recent New Yorker essay offers a piece of wisdom that transcends watching one’s weight:

When I think about it, having the kind of body that easily puts on weight is perhaps a blessing in disguise. In other words, if I don’t want to gain weight I have to work out hard every day, watch what I eat, and cut down on indulgences. People who naturally keep the weight off don’t need to exercise or watch their diet. Which is why, in many cases, their physical strength deteriorates as they age. Those of us who have a tendency to gain weight should consider ourselves lucky that the red light is so clearly visible. Of course, it’s not always easy to see things this way.

I think this viewpoint applies as well to the job of the novelist. Writers who are blessed with inborn talent can write easily, no matter what they do — or don’t do. Like water from a natural spring, the sentences just well up, and with little or no effort these writers can complete a work. Unfortunately, I don’t fall into that category. I have to pound away at a rock with a chisel and dig out a deep hole before I can locate the source of my creativity. Every time I begin a new novel, I have to dredge out another hole. But, as I’ve sustained this kind of life over many years, I’ve become quite efficient, both technically and physically, at opening those holes in the rock and locating new water veins. As soon as I notice one source drying up, I move on to another. If people rely on a natural spring of talent suddenly find they’ve exhausted their source, they’re in trouble.

For me, the problem isn’t sources of creativity, and it isn’t (especially) the problem of putting on weight easily. It’s the problem of proliferating cruft easily.

If I want to achieve real progress in my work, I have to follow Murakami’s advice about working hard every day, watching my intake, and cutting down on my informational and obligational (?) indulgences.

5 Responses to “Haruki Murakami’s wisdom about self-discipline.”

  1. Austin Kleon Says:

    That essay should be required reading. Great stuff.

  2. ayse Says:

    Nice post! Missed that article in my mad crufty dash around the world/interwebs, but I’ll put it on the list. Discipline, focus, attention to good choices…makes lots of sense.

  3. What I’ve Learned So Far » Blog Archive » “Harrowing.” Says:

    […] One more New Yorker note as I clear off my desk: on the other side of the first page of Haruki Murakami’s essay on running and writing is a Tobias Wolff essay called “Winter Light.” The piece centers on the Ingmar Bergman film of the same name, which had a deep effect on Wolff when he first saw it as a twentysomething university student at Oxford. […]

  4. BRAIN RULES FOR STORYTELLERS by Austin Kleon Says:

    […] 1. EXERCISE boosts brain power. Moving around gets more blood and oxygen pumping to the brain, which gives you more ideas. (See Haruki Murakami’s essay on writing and running in the New Yorker.) […]

  5. Brain Rules « Ray-Anne Lutener Says:

    […] Moving around gets more blood and oxygen pumping to the brain, which gives you more ideas. (See Haruki Murakami’s essay on writing and running in the New Yorker.) 4. We don’t pay ATTENTION to boring things. […]

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