Derek Sivers

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - by Haruki Murakami

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - by Haruki Murakami

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

This novelist runs every day, including many marathons. This book is his thoughts about running and how it relates to other things in work and life.

my notes

I can’t grasp much of anything without putting down my thoughts in writing, so I had to actually get my hands working and write these words. Otherwise, I’d never know what running means to me.

When writing a novel. I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly.

To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed - and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.

I run in order to acquire a void.

Who in the world could possibly have warm feelings, or something like them, for a person who doesn’t compromise, who instead, whenever a problem crops up, locks himself away alone in a closet? But is it ever possible for a professional writer to be liked by people?

I’d been given a wonderful opportunity to be a novelist - a chance you just don’t get every day - and a natural desire sprang up to take it as far as I possibly could.

You can’t keep up that kind of life forever. Just as with school, you enter it, learn something, and then it’s time to leave.

You really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.

I placed the highest priority on the sort of life that lets me focus on writing, not associating with all the people around me. I felt that the indispensable relationship I should build in my life was not with a specific person, but with an unspecified number of readers. As long as I got my day-to-day life set so that each work was an improvement over the last, then many of my readers would welcome whatever life I chose for myself.

(That only 1 out of 10 people really love any business:) I had to make sure that the one person who did like the place really liked it. In order to make sure he did, I had to make my philosophy and stance clear-cut, and patiently maintain that stance no matter what. This is what I learned through running a business.

The most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school.

Muscles are hard to get and easy to lose. Fat is easy to get and hard to lose.

There are three reasons I failed. Not enough training. Not enough training. And not enough training. That’s it in a word. Not enough overall exercise, plus not getting my weight down.

Without knowing it, I’d developed a sort of arrogant attitude, convinced that just a fair-to-middling amount of training was enough for me to do a good job. It’s pretty thin, the wall separating healthy confidence and unhealthy pride.

You really do get only what you pay for.

One of my basic rules for training: I never take two days off in a row.

No matter what, though, I keep up my running. Running every day is a kind of lifeline for me, so I’m not going to lay off or quit just because I’m busy. If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I’d never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.

Focus - the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment. Without that you can’t accomplish anything of value, while, if you can focus effectively, you’ll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a shortage of it. I generally concentrate on 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 think about anything else.

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 year, or a year, two years.

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. I understand the purpose behind his doing this. This is the way Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower. This sort of daily training is indispensable.

Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons.
How much can I push myself?
How much rest is appropriate - and how much is too much?
How far can I take something and still keep it decent and consistent?
When does it become narrow-minded and inflexible?
How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world?
To what extent should I be confident in my abilities, and when should I start doubting myself?

To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible.

As an action that deviates from the ordinary yet doesn’t violate basic values, you’d expect it to afford you a special sort of self-awareness. It should add a few new elements to your inventory in understanding who you are. And as a result, your view of your life, its colors and shape, should be transformed.

No matter how slow I might run, I wasn’t about to walk. That was the rule. Break one of my rules once, and I’m bound to break many more.

Mantra to self when running: I’m not a human. I’m a piece of machinery. I don’t need to feel a thing. Just forge on ahead.

My knee has started to hurt. Like most of the troubles in life it came on all of a sudden, without any warning.