The Haruki Murakami Experiment

In the past month I moved into a new apartment by myself and quit my job, leaving me with a lot of unencumbered free time. Immediately I found myself in a bit of a dilemma: when I wanted to write, I felt like listening to music; when I wanted to listen to music, I felt like I should be doing something more productive (beside drinking); when I was reading, I felt like writing. My daily life became a constant struggle for the attention of all my interests. Sure I could mix a few—listen to a record while I write, and I do, but I can’t listen to the noisier ones—but I was still left wanting to do the thing I couldn’t do in that moment.

I had no solution until I remembered reading about one of my favorite authors and profound inspiration Haruki Murakami. The man gave up a nightlife owning a bar, friendships, late nights and smoking for a writer’s life.

Haruki Murakami & his Awesome Record Collection

For him that means waking between 4 & 5am to write. After about 5-hours in front of the keyboard (writing or no writing) he runs 10 km. And after that he spends a couple of hours in a record shop thumbing through the jazz section for rare vinyl. Next, he has some free time for hobbies. For him it might be swimming some laps. Then it’s back to his office for a few hours of translating his favorite American novels into Japanese or catching up on reading before turning in at 9pm.

Crazy right? Well, it’s obvious the man is a rare talent. But, even he admits this is difficult. It is a schedule he strictly maintains while writing novels. Six months of this routine for a first draft, then a couple months off. Then he’s back rewriting for a couple months. One more month off and he comes back for the final edits.

I will recognize that not all, or even a small portion of aspiring novelists, can undertake this kind of schedule. But, being out of work has made me realize that if you want to be a professional writer you HAVE TO, you MUST, NO IF ANDS OR BUTS, do things this way. OK, it’s not that extreme, but you have to find your own form of this. Some routine that is going to make you look forward to sitting in front of your keyboard.

As for me, I will not undertake Mr. Murakami’s schedule to the T, but instead adapted my own routine around it. Besides, a routine that harsh 1) doesn’t seem needed for writing short stories and 2) seems like something one, especially a young person (H.M. didn’t even put his first fictitious words onto paper until age 29) needs to gradually work into.

Over the past week I’ve attempted a diluted form of this schedule. Working out the kinks, the interruptions and distractions.

10am to 3, I sit in front of my typewriter and don’t move from that spot. This was always the hardest part for me, but now I put on an album about an hour in length (currently Tim Hecker’s Ravedeath, 1972) and don’t even get up to pee until it’s done.
3 to 5, I edit/revise a story. This is to ensure that I finish and polish stories instead of just writing first drafts.
5 to 7, is spent reading.
After 7 is slotted for what I call “Bullshit.” Reward your hard work. Watch a show, get a drink, take a walk, or, engage in a lost hobby from the 60’s, lay on the floor and listen to an entire record.

This is a tentative schedule that will most likely change when I get a job. All great writers say that making writing or staring at blank pages a part of your routine is one of the most important steps to becoming a writer.

Join in. Think of that pet project that you’ve been putting of and stick to the schedule. It will be hard but satisfying (that’s what she said). And no reason this experiment has to be limited to writers.

See ya in a few weeks.

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21 Responses to The Haruki Murakami Experiment

  1. This inspired me to start afresh. Thanks a lot. 🙂

    • bneyut says:

      Glad that We Put Words On Paper inspired you, Midnight Orgasm. We try. Pretty soon, we hope to put together a regular podcast for the site, in which we will discuss more inspiring and writerly things. Stay tuned for that and more. Subscribe, if you like, and keep us posted on your progress.

  2. Emily says:

    Haruki Murakami runs 10k every day. You cannot sit and write without some really vigorous exercise, because after a week or so you won’t be able to sit there for hours. The exercise has to balance the stillness or neither one will work.

    • bneyut says:

      You noticed that, too. Haha. Zakk didn’t really schedule in any exercise. I’ll be your man on the inside, Emily. I’ll motivate him to put in a few jumping jacks or something.

      Thanks for reading! We are working hard to bring more great content to the site.

  3. Yoon says:

    Don’t forget to eat..

  4. Anthony says:

    not much can be accomplished without discipline.

  5. Kim Davis says:

    This sounds like great motivation, but should just be motivation not emulation. Murakami wouldn’t want you to copy his lifestyle, he would want you to create your own. Your own beautiful writing lifestyle that fits who you are. What if you hate running?? 🙂
    Good luck! It’s going to be fun to discipline yourself to this routine for a while until you get your muse back.

  6. Jenn says:

    Yep. Trying to write a short novel now. Lotta sitting about, lotta thinking but doing nothing, lotta scraps of paper everywhere….. but i just got out of uni, so cramming without editing comes as second nature to me right now. And I will be cramming. No routine, pure cramming. I have one month to write this novel. ONE MONTH. A short novel though….. only 25 000 words to go 😐

    • bneyut says:

      Jenn, let us know when you make your deadline. We’ll all jump for joy for you at the next We Put Words On Paper meeting. : )

      • Jenn says:

        Haha…. I’ll try my darndest. Murakami is my favourite writer, but I think my style is a little more like Kerouac. Think, scribble, think, scribble…… COMPILE. There’s no reason for my deadline, I just need some form of boundary otherwise this think/scribble process could go on forever. My father is exactly the same, all he has is piles of little notepads filled with words but he’s never “ready” to do anything with them.

  7. Georgia says:

    HUGE Murakami fan, here, so this was appreciated to an insane degree. =]

    I’ll be sending positive energy your way as you do this! I have my own schedule (6 AM to 8 AM, then 10 AM to 12 PM, then 4 PM to 6 PM spent in front of my keyboard) modeled around my college courses, and some days it takes all I’ve got to get up in the morning–but you and I both know it’s worth it. =]

    • jdkenji says:

      Wow, I think that is a more strenuous schedule than mine.
      I’ve already finished two stories doing this schedule so it has been a success so far, especially since I’m not usually the type to schedule my day.
      Good luck and thanks for reading.

  8. Vik says:

    Thanks for this post. It inspired me a lot, just like the writings of Haruki Murakami.
    My story: I left my job the day before my 30th anniversary. I started writing in a few days. It was like air to me. I spent 8 months only writing and reading. Now I have got two jobs and I work on my PHD dissertation. But all I do is what I really love and though sometimes I lack time for writing, but I stepped on the way I wanna live the rest of my life.
    I have a family and a little son who needs to be taken care of, but I do have my time from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening to try and do all the other things I am interested in. It is hard sometimes, but you just need a proper planning.
    You DID inspire me!!!!

    • jdkenji says:

      Thank you for reading. It’s great to hear that I inspired someone.
      Like I said, I recently quit my job and I am out of college. In school I always said I wanted to be a writer, but this last month has really made me realize that you can’t just say it. You have to sit in front of the computer and write. But, this has also made me realize that it should ALWAYS be fun.

  9. geminata says:

    as above written…
    that kind of routine is not just applied to writing…
    it can be adopted any field
    so i should apply this to my studying plan…
    because i am so lazy and retard…..
    i should change myself somewhat 😦

    • jdkenji says:

      Thank you for noticing that small line.
      I think Haruki Murakami has a one of a kind schedule and it could work for anyone–artists, writers, students, etc. While other writers struggle to work 14 hour days, he has managed to strike a balance between work and hobbies. But it’s all fun.

  10. Jonas says:

    1) If you have to find excuses and justify that routine, it sounds to me like you’re not ready. How are you keeping it up?

    2) “The irresistible proliferation of graphomania among politicians, taxi drivers, childbearers, lovers, murderers, thieves, prostitutes, officials, doctors, and patients shows me that everyone without exception bears a potential writer within him, so that the entire human species has good reason to go down the streets and shout: ‘We are all writers!'”

    —Milan Kundera , The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

    Think about it. I might have remembered this for a reason.

    • jdkenji says:

      I made this routine after Haruki Murakami because I found it fascinating that, while other authors write all day, he has found a balance between his work and the things he loves to do. And, not having a job for the first time since I was 16, I thought this would be the perfect time to see how this schedule could rein in the various interests that are each pulling at me for attention. I’m not quite sure what you mean by not being ready, but writing every day and actually finishing multiple drafts of my work has not only made me feel like I’m accomplishing something, but makes me feel like a writer.
      While I do agree that everyone has a story, I don’t believe everyone has the ability to write it. There are a ton of people walking around telling people they are writers but to actually produce work on a daily, weekly, monthly basis is what qualifies a person as a writer.
      Thank you for reading and thanks for getting involved.

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