Daily Routines is a series by Balance the Grind, profiling successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists and business executives to explore their routines, habits and rituals.
While author Haruki Murakami is internationally renowned for works such as A Wild Sheep Chase (1982) and Norwegian Wood (1987), he is also well-known for one other thing, being a “running novelist” as dubbed by The New Yorker in a 2008 profile piece.
From the Japanese writer’s point of view, “writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity,” spending his days running and swimming to build up his endurance, as well as competing in marathons and triathlons.
Similar to how Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey automates and structures his daily routine to free up his energy, Murakami is a big believer in discipline and routine as the pathway to creativity.
At the start of his writing career, Murakami also ran a small jazz club in Tokyo, where he worked until the early hours of the morning, before going home to write.
For three years I ran my jazz club—keeping the accounts, checking the inventory, scheduling my staff, standing behind the counter mixing cocktails and cooking, closing up in the wee hours of the morning, and only then being able to write, at home, at the kitchen table, until I got sleepy. I felt as if I were living two people’s lives. And, gradually, I found myself wanting to write a more substantial kind of novel.The Running Novelist | The New Yorker
After he decided to commit his life entirely to writing, Murakami and his wife, Yoko, closed the bar and moved out to Narashino, a more rural area in the Chiba prefecture of Tokyo.
From there, the writer overhauled his lifestyle and daily routine completely, “once I was sitting at a desk writing all day I started putting on the pounds. I was also smoking too much—sixty cigarettes a day. My fingers were yellow, and my body reeked of smoke. This couldn’t be good for me, I decided. If I wanted to have a long life as a novelist, I needed to find a way to stay in shape.”
In Murakami’s new daily routine, if he’s in novel mode, he’ll wake up at 4am and immediately start writing, working for five to six hours. If he’s not in novel mode, Murakami and his wife will still wake up early, “once I began my life as a novelist, my wife and I decided that we’d go to bed soon after it got dark and wake up with the sun,” typically waking up before 5am and going to bed at 10pm.
While some people may imagine the life of a writer as balancing long stretches of idleness with flash in pan inspiration moments, the reality is that writing, and creativity, is more of a steady grind. Murakmai says, “I have to pound away at a rock with a chisel and dig out a deep hole before I can locate the source of my creativity” — a sentiment which reflects his structured routine and lifestyle.
Murakami will typically finish up his day’s writing at 10am or 11am. From there, he’ll proceed to his physical training. As he explains to the Paris Review:
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. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength.Haruki Murakami, The Art of Fiction No. 182 | Paris Review
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