What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been running for several years now. The frequency of my outings has gone up and down, but I’ve tried to never let go of this habit, never abandon this one activity that saves me from couch potato-, or rather, desk tomato-dom.

Nevertheless, despite the running theme (pun unintended), it is not what kept me with this autobiographical work; Mr. Murakami inspired me with his diligence, with his single-minded dedication and his authentic and honest story. As usual, it’s his way of looking at the world, his zen-like point of view and his way of putting it into words – humble, romantic and unpretentious – more so than the content of his writing that tuck me along the most. The man could be writing about his days cleaning glasses and wiping bars in his 20s and I would still find it interesting and inspiring, I’m sure. He’s a true stoic.

The main take-away I got from this one has obviously less to do with running, and more to do with writing, which according to Murakami-san requires a similar skill set. “Talent, focus and endurance” is what, according to him, makes a novelist. As someone who wishes to write more in my life, I feel as if this man and his suchness has a lot to teach me about trusting myself, my goals and who I really am and allowing it to shine through…

“As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve gradually come to the realization that this kind of pain and hurt [of being criticised] is a necessary part of life. If you think about it, it’s precisely because people are different from others that they’re able to create their own independent selves.

Take me as an example. It’s precisely my ability to detect some aspects of a scene that other people can’t, to feel differently than others and choose words that differ from theirs, that’s allowed me to write stories that are mine alone. And because of this we have the extraordinary situation in which quite a few people read what I’ve written.

So the fact that I’m me and no one else is one of my greatest assets. Emotional hurt is the price a person has to pay in order to be independent…”

What is this emotional hurt? Is it worth the price?

“I don’t think most people would like my personality. There might be a few–very few, I would imagine–who are impressed by it, but only rarely would anyone like it. Who in the world could possibly have warm feelings, or something like them, for a person who doesn’t compromise, who instead, whenever a problem crops up, locks himself away alone in a closet?

But is it ever possible for a professional writer to be liked by people? I have no idea. Maybe somewhere in the world it is. It’s hard to generalize. For me, at least, I’ve written novels over many years, I just can’t picture someone liking me on a personal level. Being disliked by someone, hated and despised, somehow seems more natural. Not that I’m relieved when that happens. Even I’m not happy when someone dislikes me.”

And here’s the solution – or one solution:

“Even when I ran my bar I followed the same policy. A lot of customers came to the bar. If one in ten enjoyed the place and said he’d come again, that was enough. If one out of ten was a repeat customer, then the business would survive. To put it another way, it didn’t matter if nine out of ten didn’t like my bar.

This realization lifted a weight off my shoulders. Still, I had to make sure that the one person who did like the place really liked it. In order to make sure he did, I had to make my philosophy and stance clear-cut, and patiently maintain that stance no matter what. This is what I learned through running a business.”

Thank you Mr. Murakami for motivating me to take the next step.

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