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.
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.