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Biography

Haruki Murakami: The Story of a Maverick Writer

There are always some people, whom either you adore a lot or you hate them.

There is no in-between. You can’t say he or she is an average person. The average word just doesn’t suit. I always admire such people for their exclusitivity. Whether they are really good or worse but the thing about them is they are original.

They don’t try to copy others, some might not like them but they never try to quench other’s satisfaction by losing their originality.

In the last 3-4 years, I have read different genre of books written by various authors. And I just love some of the writers. I am in awe of them.

Even in this amazing world of books, just like people in real life, there are some writers about whom people have mixed opinions. But there are some exceptional writers whom people either obsessively love or they hate him (because they can’t make any sense of their work).

Haruki Murakami is one such exceptional author. I have seen people who don’t like his works at all. And some people who just adore his works.

Where am I standing?

Well, I have read just 3 of his books and although there are many to be read, I am definitely in the category who just loves his books.

His books are not based on any fairy tale story neither any extraordinary people’s story and yet they transcend you to a different world. The stories are so relatable that for some moment you might forget you are reading fiction.

He will take you to the journey of a familiar yet adventurous world and then pull you down to the real life, make you grounded. It’s exactly a rollercoaster. In fact, he beautifully said in one of his books-

“Whatever you are seeking won’t come in the form you are expecting”

Every time I read his writings, it feels like I am diving deeper into the depth of my soul. He makes me feel more of a human being. He shows magic through his writings and he admitted so when he said-

“In part, the work of a novelist is similar to being an illusionist.”

Haruki Murakami

What surprised me most is his way of writing stories. He never plans his books. Just like a reader he doesn’t know the end when he starts writing a book. If there is a murder in the story, he doesn’t know the murderer until he finishes the story.

His writing is free flowing not mechanically planned. I believe that’s what helps him create such alluring works. I think-

“You can design creativity but you cannot plan creativity”

His story about how he became a writer is even more fascinating.

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto, Japan, in 1949. Later he moved to Kobe and then to Tokyo, where he attended Waseda University to study drama. There he met his wife Yoko.

Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened a coffee house and jazz bar in Tokyo, which he ran along with his wife Yoko. Murakami got married just at the age of 23.

In 1978 Murakami was in the bleachers of Jingu Stadium watching a baseball game. When Dave Hilton, an American came to bat.

According to an oft-repeated story, in the instant that he hit a double, Murakami suddenly realized that he could write a novel. He went home and began writing that night. Before that, he didn’t write anything.  He described the feeling a like a “warm sensation” he could still feel in his heart

Wow! It sounds like a fairy tale right. But it’s true. Inspiration can strike anywhere, anytime.

He published his first noble ‘Hear The Wind Sing’ in 1980 at the age of 31 and won the best fiction written by a new writer.

Murakami’s initial success with Hear the Wind Sing encouraged him to continue writing. Later he wrote ‘Pinball’, ‘A wild Sheep’ etc.

His fame escalated widely after he wrote ‘Norwegian Wood‘ in 1987. This spreads his work worldwide. Later a movie was also made on this book by the same name in 2012.

Some of his best books include The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Sputnik Sweetheart, Kafka on the Shore, 1Q84, etc.

Writing about Haruki Murakami is a really challenging job. He is notorious for shying away from the media and he rarely does any interviews. You won’t get any information about him on the internet.

He lives in his own beautiful world. It’s very understandable why he does so. You need to be away from all kinds of distractions to create what he creates.

Another interesting fact about him is his passion for running. To date, he has run more than 30 marathons.

In fact, he has written an entire book on this named What I talk When I Talk about Running.

Murakami is turned 70 years old. Even at this age he always wakes up at around 4 a.m, writes for 3-4 hours, then go for a long run. His evenings are quiet usually.

Exercise is crucial for Murakami. He started writing is like endurance sports. You need an extremely focused and resilient mind for a long time. He said once-

” When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. 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. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity. “

–in a 2004 interview with John Wray for The Paris Review

In his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running he said-

” After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you’re not going to be able to write a long work. What’s needed for a writer of fiction—at least one who hopes to write a novel—is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, or two years. You can compare it to breathing. “

All of Murakami’s admirers agree with me on the fact that all his works are so close to life. It’s his amazing ability to voyage his readers through his books to a roller coaster journey. And after each journey, the reader feels like living another life. A life filled with adventurous, failures, successes, and a lot of beautiful memories.

His books bring the readers closer to life by unveiling life’s layers.

In a prize ceremony, he said-

” I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on The System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist’s job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories—stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness. “

If you are someone who likes to read books and haven’t yet read Haruki Murakami’s books, then you should try out his books. Either you won’t like them or you will fall in love with them madly.

Haruki Murakami has been awarded with many awards, recognitions throughout the world. In 2018, when he was nominated for an alternative to the Nobel Prize in Literature, he withdrew his name by saying that he wanted to concentrate on his writings. Obviously he is not interested in awards, all he wants is to create mesmerizing stories that move people.

But as an admirer of Murakami, I definitely want the Nobel prize to be given to Haruki Murakami. Hopefully, he will get it soon.

I remember some beautiful lines about struggles in life from his book Kafka on the Shore

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

I love his books and who knows you might too. Give them a try.

Thank you Haruki Murakami for writing such spellbinding stories.

Have a meaningful week. Until next time.

Joy

Source:

  1. Life beyond numbers
  2. Writing advice frm Haruki Murakami
  3. Scroll.in-Haruki Murakami
  4. Wikipedia

Categories
Personal Growth

Why Reading is Essential for Unleashing Your Potential?

Have you ever wondered why we need to read books in our childhood and then write in the examinations to get a grade or whatever?

Why reading and writing is the preferable medium for gaining knowledge?

Why can’t it be just watching videos and then answer everything orally during exams?

For most people, watching videos is much more fun than reading books. And it’s obvious as reading takes a huge amount of your mental energy while watching videos doesn’t.

But honestly, I am not writing this article to convince you to accept that one is better than the other. I will share some of my own experiences and recent scientific studies regarding reading and watching.

I mean, whether you read more and watch less or vice versa, it proves nothing. If you read more it doesn’t make your intellect sharp. Similarly, if you watch ore videos or television, it doesn’t make you a complete dumb.

Ultimately it’s your mindset which determines everything. If you read trashy books or watch worse videos, you will be dull. On the contrary, if you read great books or watch good videos, you will be benefitted.

But even then a question often comes to my mind. OK, both are great ways to gain knowledge or to have some entertainment, but which one is superior and why?

One of my friends used to ask me, ‘hey, do you think I.Q of people are decreasing as every generation is passing?

And I said to him ‘why do you think so?’

He used to say ‘we have heard about a lot of great scientists, philosophers, artists in the earlier times (before 21st century), but today numbers have decreased drastically. Why do we no longer have more of such intellectual people? Are we becoming dumb day by day?’

Although he was somehow correct, I didn’t have any proper answer for his queries.

Today I see many people around me who spend night after night watching movies or television or web series on the internet. But most of them rarely have read any book after their college/university. Once they got the degrees from academic institutions, their journey with books finished there.

According to a survey, more than 24% of Americans haven’t touched a single book last year. And if you talk about regular reading than more than than 90% of Americans don’t read regularly. On the other hand, most of them spend 3-5 hours watching T.V regularly.

There is no such survey in India. But I am sure the situation is even worse here.

As I said, I am not trying to judge anybody whether they read more or watch more. But I definitely want to share some interesting studies.

In 2013, a study was performed at Tohoku University in Japan. A team of researchers examined the effects of watching televisions on the brains of 276 children and its long term effects.

It was found that the more TV the kids watched, parts of their brain associated with higher arousal and aggression levels became thicker. The frontal lobe also thickened, which is known to lower verbal reasoning ability. It affected the intellectual abilities of the children later in life. Below a screenshot is taken from the research paper-

These negative effects in the brain happened regardless of the child’s age, gender, and economic background.

In the same year, another study showed the effect of reading on our brain. Gregory Burns and his colleagues at Emory University wanted to see the before and after effects of reading based on fMRI readings.

After reading, people had increased connectivity in parts of the brain that were related to language. There was also increased activity in the sensory motor region of the brain, suggesting that readers experienced similar sensations to the characters in the book.

Researchers also found long term of effects of reading. Reading keeps your mind alert and delays cognitive decline in elders. Research even found that Alzheimer’s is 2.5 times less likely to appear in elderly people who read regularly, while TV was presented as a risk factor.

In short, reading not only slow down the aging of the brain but also protect it from many brain diseases.

Brain on reading
A habit of reading protects brain

But one might think ‘I don’t like to read, what can I do?’

Sometimes, I really find it surprising. To keep your body fit and prevent diseases, you do some sort of physical activity right. You might not like to go to the gym regularly, maybe a few times a week you go. If you don’t like the gym, you go out and run. And if you don’t run, at least you walk.

Anyhow you move your body because you know it’s importance. But don’t you think your brain deserves the same or even more attention. Ultimately your brain controls your body.

Reading perhaps is the best exercise for the body. If you don’t like to read those fat novels, that’s ok. Read something related to your interest. Maybe related to science, history, productivity, economy, money, personal growth, psychology, science fiction, etc.

There are books written on every topic that you can think of. Choose some of them. I don’t believe that you don’t find reading interesting. Maybe you haven’t just found the right kind of books for you.

What separates us from other creatures on this earth?

It’s our brain. Specifically the neocortex part present in our brain. This allows us to think and imagine things that no other creature can do.

Imagination is a superpower given to us. You cannot create anything new if you don’t imagine first. That’s how we have reached to a digital age from the stone age.

Albert Einstein said- imagination is more important than knowledge.

Einstein on imagination
Einstein on imagination

Had Einstein never imagined about curved space-time, we would have never known how exactly gravity works.

How do you feel if something badly affects your imaginative power?

You don’t want to lose the superpower for sure. But knowingly or unknowingly, watching more television, videos, etc. doing exactly the same thing.

A TV show or movie provides the full visual image for us and eliminates any background information or musings by the characters.  We turn off our imagination and receive the story as imagined by the director. Basically, we see the imagination of someone else’s not ours. Sometimes it’s ok but frequently it affects us badly.

Whereas, When you read (or just listen) you have to create a vision of everything in our mind.  We use our imagination to craft the world and events described in the book.  This exercise stimulates many functions of the brain.

When you read, you are free to imagine anything. If a character in a book is written as ‘ a tall man with brown mustache’, you can imagine that character the way you like. Everyone will imagine the same character differently. You are free to create your own world.

I have really experienced whatever is written above. ’13 Reasons Why’ is a very famous web series on Netflix. It’s based on a book ’13 Reasons Why’ written by Jay Asher.

I have read the book and have watched the whole series on Netflix. Although sometimes reading the book might seem little boring but if you continue reading, eventually you will find it more engaging and joyful.

Not just that, studies have shown that reading has tons of other benefits. It can reduce stress, make you more empathetic, develop focus and concentration.

Now, I am not telling to abandon watching videos completely. That wouldn’t be a smart thing to do. Videos allow us learn something quickly.

The human brain likes to visualize things and videos are the visualizations ready for you. Watch videos for introductions to difficult topics, especially something unfamiliar. When it would take a lot of time to understand the topic, videos are really useful.

As I have said, ultimately it’s our mindset which determines the effect of everything, be it watching videos or reading books. Be very choosy while watching videos.

Don’t just watch anything mindlessly Ask yourself first, is this video going to be useful by any means? Watch good content.

If you have to watch TV, watch channels which provide useful information like Nat Geo, Discovery, History Channel, Travel XP, etc.

Similarly, read well written books, not just any book. Even if you read an article on the internet, read only articles with sound content.

Don’t ignore your brain and just workout for your body. If you love watching videos or movies, that’s ok but don’t exclude books from your life. Keep a balanced approach towards both reading and watching.

I remember a great line from one of my favorite books ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

“Many people give up on learning after they leave school/college because thirteen or twenty years of extrinsically motivated education is still a source of unpleasant memories.

But a person who forgoes the use of symbolic skills (reading, writing) is never really free. His thinking will be directed by the opinions of his neighbors, by the editorials in the papers, and by the appeals of television.”

From the book ‘Flow’

No wonder, the most successful or impactful people in the world like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Ratan Tata, Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg etc. have made reading a ritual in their life.

If you want to give reading a try and thinking where to start, I am posting some of my favorite books below. I have a page in the website named ‘Books’. You can visit the page if you want to know a few details about the books.

Keep learning. Keep growing.

Have a meaningful week. Until next time.

Joy

Source:

  1. Jumpstart Your Dream Life
  2. Why to Read
  3. Study performed at Tohoku University in Japan
  4. Study at Emory University
  5. Reading lowers stress
  6. Reading Changes the brain