What I Talk About When I Talk About Being Murakami.
“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm.”
— Haruki Murakami
That Sounds pretty tiring, lets give it a go.
My first exposure of Murakami was his book titled ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’. I’d been thinking for a number of years that maybe I should start running, I‘m aware that’s something that happens when you are about 33 years old. I’ve always been pretty skinny — and still am — but post 30 years old my belly has started to “stick out” as my daughter describes it. I am both Thin & Fat. I am late 90’s big beat supremo Fat Boy Slim. So, I begin to think that maybe I should do some running. If something is worth doing it is also worth thinking about first for three years and so that is what I do, before finally giving it a go in the summer of 2014.
Giving it a go goes something like this: I get ‘proper’ running shoes, which have to look awful by definition but will be better for you. I get them in a ‘proper’ running shoe shop where they put you on a treadmill and make you sweat in civilian clothing. You learn about ankles and over pronating (and not ‘over prolapsing’ I joke with the shopkeeper, its the funniest thing he has ever heard and he has definitely never heard it before). Shoes + shorts + running top and I’m good to go. I read Murakami’s book so I can better understand the psyche of a runner (I’m fascinated by process and am keen to see how running affects his creativity). I download a running app to document my incredible running times. I do five bits of running over a three week period. 3k x 3 & 5k twice. It is very hard and I am very slow. I lack the dedication to make this a habit and that is that… I am a massive cliché.
Deciding to ‘walk a mile in the shoes’ of Murakami is stepping out of my comfort zone in many ways. I have always enjoyed writing (I have to write briefs for my work) but I find it hard work & I am very slow at it. I have never written any creative fiction and the thought of doing so is quite scary. But equally daunting is the 4am start and the 10km run.
It can’t be that hard. I’ll follow his daily routine, write a novel for 5 hours in the morning, get published by lunch and by bedtime win the nobel prize for literature. Perhaps I’ll set off on a private jet to the Maldives with the advance from the publisher. Great! Lets get this done.
Alarm goes off and somewhat remarkably I just ‘Get up’. No fuss. I think I’ve only ever been up at this time if I’m going to an airport. My first thought is ‘this is very early’. It is very windy outside, the local weather system doesn’t agree with me being up at this hour. Toilet. A few stretches while the kettle boils then I make a cup of coffee.
I sit down at the dining room table (as per Murakami) and get out my newly purchased fountain pen. ‘I like to write with this fountain pen’ I write in my notepad. I write a quick Murakami checklist.
Do a quick tweet.
The clock strikes 6, 3 pages are done.
Sounds from above. Someone has woken up and is weeing. Who? I don’t know, they hurry back to bed. I note that writing with pen frustrates me, as I want to edit it as soon as I see it written.
I feel like I want to go back to bed. Am a little hungry so I eat a fruit tube (which are supposed to be exclusively for the kids packed lunch).
Another visitor to the toilet is heard (son) but he is quickly back to his bed.
My hand hurts. 5 pages down. Surely I should have written more than that in this time… but my hand has barely paused since I started some 2 ½ hours ago.
Hungry. Biscuits For Breakfast (Choco Leibniz) and I cannot imagine running 10km outside later.
Son awakes from his slumber, he pokes his head into the room and smiles at me and my ridiculous endeavors.
I struggle to spell the word flailed — a real writer would never use a crap word like that, I imagine. Daughter is up now. She seems disappointed with my page count, she suggests that she could have written much more in that time. ‘Yeah? well you didn’t!’
I didn’t notice it happen, but it is light now, when did the sun rise?
5 hours of writing. Sore head. Hungry. I feel like I’ve done quite a bit, I have definitely been in the zone, or a zone at least, not sure if it was the right one. I reach a natural endpoint and ponder whether to continue or not.
9:30 to 10:00
I chat it through with my wife — who seems disproportionately proud of me — she makes me a drink and we wonder what Murakami drinks in the morning.
A little disappointed to have only written about 4000 words of the novel, I get myself together and do a few of the days errands and chores. I pop to the local bookshop to get something for the evenings read a bit and listen to some music section. Having only read his non-fiction book I decided to pick up one of his novels and acquit myself with his style of writing. I buy “Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End Of The World.”
After lunch I dress in running attire. I feel like a tit (is that irrational or is it because I look like a tit?) and say my farewells to the family. ‘If I’m not back in etc etc send search party etc etc.’ Dad joke. I walk to the bottom of the hill. It is cold and windy and I’m wearing shorts. A casual acquaintance passes by and comments on my choice of weather unsuitable clothing ‘you’re making me cold just looking at you!’ she says. I splutter back something half-baked and incoherent like ‘Well… I AM cold’ and spend the next 5 minutes trying to think up a wittier line in reply. Nothing comes that improves it dramatically, but I practice the delivery and eventually settle on the best way I could have said it.
I arrive at my pre determined starting line and begin my run. I’m to head along the flat coastal path from PZ to Marazion and turn back when I hit 5km. No dramas to start with, but I feel pretty tired and am breathing heavily by 3km. My chest hurts. The wind is at my back and I’m already thinking about the return leg into the wind. I pass people at 4km and speed up for some reason. At 5 Km I have to catch my breath so I walk slowly for 100metres, this is only the second time I’ve run this distance without stopping and that was five months ago. My breathing settles down and I’m off running again. The second 5km is totally different, I am running into a strong headwind and it is freezing cold, yet I stop thinking about running and just talk internally to myself as my mind allows itself to wonder. For the second time today I am in some kind of ZONE, man. I pass another runner and I attempt a ‘I’m also a runner’ smile at him, he’s not looking at me. I catch a glimpse of his shoes — ‘Hey, those look pretty cool — that’s cheating!’
I‘m getting closer and closer to the end without really noticing it as I run lines of copy through my head and edit some passages that I can recall from my mornings writing. I am also jumping ahead to writing up this experience (and I find it flows out of me much more easily than it is doing so now — as I actually write this up). I’ll say this and I’ll quote that etc. I am about 50 meters from the 10km point now and decide to have a little dash to the line, a small white Linford Christie, a little dip of the chest with outstretched arms and I’m done. Even with the little walk in the middle I had managed to do it in under an hour, whilst not going to get me a call up to London 2012 Olympic team, I’m pretty pleased about it.
Later, after dinner and some family hi-fives, I settle down to the last section of my day. I’d prepared a number of Murakami playlists i’d found online (like this one) Which I listen to as I start Hard Boiled Wonderland.
After a few chapters, I have a little read through of my own forthcoming international bestseller and discover an incoherent muddle of a thing that has far more spelling mistakes than I was expecting. I can barely read my own writing. Murakami is much better at this than I am; I’d better cancel that Jet to the Maldives.
At 9pm on Saturday night I’m off to bed and yet it doesn’t feel weird at all. However pathetic, I feel that my work for the day is done and that means my head is clear and I get to sleep easily.
The next day my legs hurt and I can hardly walk down the stairs. In the evening my sense of achievement is low and sleep is harder to achieve. I haven’t written a novel or even run 10km, perhaps I don’t even deserve to go to sleep. Maybe I need to ‘walk a mile in the shoes’ of Murakami everyday?