This is Idea Crib’s first post under its Fit and Fascinating Authors series. In this series, I feature celebrity authors whose literary powers are matched only by their commitment to health and fitness. I’m starting off with one of my favorite authors, Japanese icon and marathoner Haruki Murakami.
Fit and Fascinating Authors: Haruki Murakami
Initially, I thought of writing a short and sweet listicle about fit and famous authors. I can only think of two (Haruki Murakami and Charles Dickens) off the top of my head, however, so then I thought of creating a series of posts around the same topic. As soon as I gather around 5 or 10 of these posts, I’ll collate them in a booklet exclusively for my subscribers.
Anyway, I’m starting off my series with Haruki Murakami, cited by Britannica as “the most widely translated Japanese novelist of his generation.” No specific person introduced me to him. I read a lot of news, articles, and books, and somehow his name got imprinted in my consciousness. The first book of his that I read was “After the Quake.” Reading the book made me realize that I could love a genre apart from classic literature, haha! Truth to tell, he’s the reason why I started calling myself a fan of contemporary fiction. 😉
Haruki Murakami, the author
Haruki Murakami, who celebrated his 66th birthday last January 12, is from Kyoto, Japan. He started gaining acclaim soon after the 1979 release of his first novel, Kaze no uta o kike (or “Hear the Wind Sing”), which won a best fiction by a new writer prize. People say that his popularity stems from the ambiguous and strange plots and images he conjures in his novels, a departure from the self-confessions of mainstream contemporary Japanese literature (“Haruki Murakami,” 2015).
This awesome author is also very prolific. In the 80’s, he wrote five books: 1973-nen no pinbōru (or “Pinball, 1973”) in 1980; Hitsuji o meguru bōken (or “A Wild Sheep Chase”) in 1982; Sekai no owari to hādoboirudo wandārando (or “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World”) in 1985; Noruwei no mori (or “Norwegian Wood”) in 1987; and Dansu Dansu Dansu (or “Dance Dance Dance”) in 1988. Britannica also says it was the sales of “Norwegian Wood” that established him as a literary celebrity (2015).
His latest book is 2013’s Shikisai o motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to, kare no junrei no toshi (or “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”) and it dwells on the existential predicaments of a young man. It is his 2007 memoir, Hashiru koto ni tsuite kataru toki ni boku no kataru koto (or “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”), however, that holds the most interest, at least for the purposes of this post.
Intrigued by Murakami but not ready to delve full throttle in his world yet? Here, try his short story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning” for starters.
Why he started running
According to an October 3, 2005 article in Runner’s World, he started running daily after becoming a writer. He said that he did that after figuring that sitting at a desk for hours on end as a writer without exercise would result in weight gain. (Hear, hear!) He also took it as a chance to quit smoking. Murakami’s been running since 1983.
His daily routine includes getting up at 5 in the morning, doing some work – generally three to four hours – and then going off running. The thing about Murakami, as it is with most runners, is that he really does love running. If you love doing something, it’s not going to be a pain to follow through day in and day out. According to him also, “…I found the sport perfectly fits me as a person who tends to be independent and individualistic” (Yishane Lee, 2005). This quote fits with some of the articles I read about him being notoriously shy.
Haruki Murakami, the ultra-marathoner
A September 3, 2014 article by Open Culture quotes an Economist review that describes Murakami as “if not a madman […] a very focused man.” The reason for the description? At least 27 marathons, including a 62-mile killer in Hokkaido, and several triathlons.
As per the aforementioned Runner’s World article, he’s already run the Boston Marathon at least 6 times and considers it the most appealing marathon. He appreciates the beautiful scenery along the route and the warmth of the people’s support. The New York Marathon, on the other hand, is something that he also finds exciting but in a different way. Even after having run it 3 times, he still finds it tricky pacing himself in the many downhill slopes (Lee, 2005). Ironically enough, despite his troubles and the “frigid breeze” at the starting line, it’s in the New York City Marathon where he hit his best time.
All this running experience has naturally given him fodder for his essay collection “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.” So what does he think about whenever he runs? Nothing. Or at least, nothing special. “I usually run with my mind empty,” he says. “However, when I run empty-minded, something naturally and abruptly crawls in sometime. That might become an idea that can help me with my writing” (Lee, 2005).
Fitness as a metaphor for writing
His discipline as a runner serves him well as a writer. Firstly, it gives him focus, which he defines as “the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment. Without that you can’t accomplish anything of value” (Josh Jones, 2014). Focus is the ability and discipline to just do what it is you need to do when you need to do it. Murakami says further that focus and endurance can be acquired through training. He likens the act of acquiring these two traits with the process of “jogging every day to strengthen your muscles and develop a runner’s physique” (Jones, 2014).
Secondly, maintaining his physical strength has enabled him to crank out quality output on a regular basis. Lee quotes Murakami as saying that the most important qualities of a fiction writer are imaginative ability, intelligence, and focus. The respected Japanese author emphasizes the importance of a solid base of physical strength, though. Sans that, “…you can’t accomplish anything very intricate or demanding. That’s my belief. If I did not keep up running, I think my writing would be very different from what it is now” (Lee, 2005).
I love reading about how he works and how running has given him fuel for his novels, especially since his way of writing is different from anything I’ve ever been used to reading (Austen, Bronte, Grisham, etc.). It’s cool to hear about how keeping fit and taking care of yourself helps keep the creative juices flowing.
What do you think of Murakami’s sentiments? 🙂 Have you read any of his works? Who else can I write about for this series?
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