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Any fan of contemporary literature has surely heard of Haruki Murakami, considered one of the most acclaimed contemporary writers in Japan. He’s won numerous awards, the latest of which is The Jerusalem Prize, and some of his most famous works include Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore,and 1Q84. These and more have been translated into more than 50 languages and are well-loved around the globe.
What sets Murakami apart from other writers of his genre is his unique style of storytelling. Blending elements of Western and traditional Japanese culture, his works have a surreal, dreamlike narrative that captivates readers around the world—and even more so with everlasting themes relevant to our humanity: alienation, loss, and the search for identity.
But how does he do it? What kind of routine does Murakami have to produce best-selling novels that resonate so deeply with many readers? In today’s article, we take a closer look at his daily ritual to see what we can learn and emulate from it to improve our own creative practices!
Just like Stephen King, the first creative we featured on this series (you can find the post about him here), Murakami follows a rigid schedule himself.
“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. 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.”(From theDaily Routine website.)
This is very similar to the concept of “flow”—or the optimal experience as it’s so called—a state where people are “completely absorbed in an activity, especially an activity which involves their creative abilities.” Getting ourselves in such a state that we begin to do things effortlessly involves the same repetition in the form of habits. Arranged in a specific way or pattern, it eases us into a certain activity or headspace which allows us to work with seemingly minimal exertion.
In Murakami’s case, doing the activities he mentioned above without changing anything day by day is how he gets into a flow state that works for him and allows him to write his novel. That said, the way we mesmerizeourselves can be very different; it’s important to look at our own activities and habits to figure out what gets us into our own flow.
If you’re feeling stuck and don’t quite know how to get into your flow state, here are a few things you can try. Having a habit tracker will also help: repetition is key in mesmerism or the flow state and it’s an effective way to build good habits.
Murakami values both mental and physical strength, evident in how his schedule is arranged. His writing routine involves running and swimming not just to fill his days with activity or to help with mesmerism.
“But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”(From theDaily Routine website.)
How often do you see the advice exercise whenever reading about creativity and productivity? We’re going to bet it’s all the time. This is because the discipline to create and keep creating relies on us recognizing that to sustain said discipline, we need to be capable of doing so. And the only way to be capable is by taking care of our mental and physical health.
According to a US study, exercising can reduce the amount of days we experience poor mental health in a month by 43%. With Murakami’s routine, he’s got all the bases covered: he’s physically fit and this makes him mentally strong and capable of enduring many months of repetition. No wonder he has many amazing books!
It’s never too late to begin your fitness journey. With our Field Journal, you can start a fitness tracker that can help you monitor your progress. Set up trackers like calories, weight, water intake, or number of steps with the Dot Grid, and mark important milestones in the Planner Refill. Gone are the days of carrying around multiple notebooks. With our waxed canvas case, you can keep up to six refills in one place for easy access.
One of the things we always emphasize is the importance of taking breaks. Every hard worker, not just creatives, need time to rest and recharge. Murakami is no different. Part of his writing routine is reading and listening to music—he’s known for his love of jazz and classical music in particular. In fact, he and his wife used to run a small jazz bar.
Of course, music or reading may not be considered as taking a break for you. That’s fine. Look for something else: take a walk, go out with friends, play a video game… the point is to step away from what you’re creating for a moment so that you can come back later refreshed.
There’s a saying that goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. This couldn’t be more true. Working ourselves to creative burnout won’t help us in our pursuit to create so, before we ever reach such a point, it’s important that we schedule breaks as part of our creative routines.
Already in the beginnings of a slump? We’ve got you! Head on over here and try these six things to get your creative juices flowing again.
Haruki Murakami’s routine is meant to mesmerize him into a state of mind that helps him write. If we want to get into a similar flow, it’s important that we find what activities help us enter the same state so we can keep creating.
What kind of routine do you have each day that helps you stay productive? Are there any specific activities you do to inspire creativity and help you come up with new, fresh ideas? Share it with us in the comments—we’d love to hear from you!