Haruki Murakami has Never Experienced Writer’s Block

…and 4 More Facts You Probably Didn’t Know about Him

1.He was the owner of a Jazz bar called “Peter-Cat”

Original Peter-Cat

This is the Peter-Cat jazz bar that Murakami opened in 1974 in Kokubunji. The main records that he played in the bar were Jazz from the 50’s, and live bands played on the weekends. His favorite Jazz players are Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. Shortly after graduation in 1977, Murakami and Yoko moved the bar to Sendagaya in the center of Tokyo after the building owner kicked them out.

New Peter-Cat in Sendagaya

The new Peter-Cat was more spacious and fit in a grand piano. But of course, this put them in even deeper debt. In a nutshell, his memory of his twenties was working his ass off to pay his bills. However, he enjoyed listening to Jazz and whenever he had time, he read books. He knew Ryu Murakami (another author-to-be, you may know the movie Audition which is based on his book) as he happened to be a frequent customer. He kept the bar until he decided to write his first novel, “A Wild Sheep Chase” in 1981.

 

2. He suddenly decided to write a novel while watching baseball.

He called it an “epiphany”, and it felt like “something fell slowly from the sky and he caught it”. He still clearly remembers that moment.

On the way back home he bought papers and a pen, and started writing every night after the bar closed.

Meiji Jingu Stadium

 

3. He wrote in English, then translated into Japanese for the first book.

In an effort to find a more out of the box and unique writing style, he grabbed his old English typewriter from the closet and started typing away in English. He was relatively fluent in English but nowhere near a native-level, so he had to work his way through with limited vocabulary. By doing it that way, he had to naturally express his writing in short sentences, limited vocabulary, and a relatively simple structure. This is how he started developing his rhythm and style. He used simple words and short sentences, and Murakami would add, didn’t try to impress anyone.

Same model of typewriter that Murakami used

After finishing writing a chapter in English, he translated it into Japanese. Not quite a literal translation, but more like rewriting it in Japanese. This is how he got out from the mindset of “how writing a book in Japanese should be”. This is perhaps what makes his writing so popular!

Interestingly, many Murakami critics call his writing “translation style”, which means it looks like it’s translated from English. However, Murakami says he doesn’t get what all the fuss is about — after all, language is just a tool to express stories, and there’s more than one way to go about it!

 

4. He’s never experienced “Writer’s Block”.

Murakami never takes on writing jobs. He only writes when he has a story to tell. It feels like “snowmelt flowing into a dam” and like the overflowing water, he can’t resist writing it out. In those times of creative fluidity, he tends to go abroad to get away from distraction. He wakes up early and writes 10 pages everyday. No less, no more. He never struggles to write because he feels like the story is something that flows naturally, not something you struggle to create. Because he doesn’t see writing as a job, there’s no due date or contract, so he doesn’t need to write when he doesn’t have anything to write. Thus no writer’s block.

 

5. He translates when he doesn’t write.

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