I’m not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat. - Michael Jordan
Talent is important but it is not the only element that forms a strong foundation when it comes to any work, whether creative or not (but really, all work is creative with open eyes). Athletes undergo grueling hours of practice and work outs that push their bodies to the limits in order to perform at the highest possibilities. The same applies to those artists we know, remember, and admire. They dedicated their time and efforts to produce what we now cherish—from Picasso to Kubrick.
In these excerpts from the memoirs What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami presents his ideas on what it takes to be an artist, ideas for the filmmaker and writer alike. Four words encompass what it takes: talent, focus, endurance, and patience. Yet, in the end, we can highlight the one concept behind these four: priority. To say yes to one thing means to say no to others. It is all about priority…It is all about what you love. Where you dedicate your time is where the seeds will break and bloom.
In every interview I’m asked what’s the most important quality a novelist has to have. It’s pretty obvious: talent. No matter how much enthusiasm and effort you put into writing, if you totally lack literary talent you can forget about being a novelist. This is more of a prerequisite than a necessary quality. If you don’t have any fuel, even the best car won’t run.
If I’m asked what the next most important quality is for a novelist, that’s easy too: focus—the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment. Without that you can’t accomplish anything of value, while, if you can focus effectively, you’ll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a shortage of it.
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.
Fortunately, these two disciplines—focus and endurance—are different from talent, since they can be acquired and sharpened through training. You’ll naturally learn both concentration and endurance when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point…You have to continually transmit the object of your focus to your entire body, and make sure it thoroughly assimilates the information necessary for you to write every single day and concentrate on the work at hand. And gradually you’ll expand the limits of what you’re able to do. Almost imperceptibly you’ll make the bar rise. This involves the same process as jogging every day to strengthen your muscles and develop a runner’s physique. Add a stimulus and keep it up. And repeat. Patience is a must in this process, but I guarantee results will come.
- Haruki Murakami