Writing Advice: You don’t have to write

So how do you discover if you have what it takes to be a novelist? There is only one answer: you have to jump in the water and see if you sink or swim. I know this sounds blunt, but when you get right down to it, I guess that’s the way life is. You can live wisely and well without writing a novel—in fact, it may be easier that way.

Haruki Murakami – Novelist as a Vocation

I have never been able to finish a Murakami novel, but I have always enjoyed his non-fiction. He’s pragmatic, unpretentious, blunt. He talks a lot about running long distances. I don’t think he would care that I haven’t been able to get through his novels. Or, at least he wouldn’t care too much.

One of the ongoing themes in this collection of essays is that you should probably only write a novel if you really want to do it. Why, Murakami asks, would you bother if you didn’t actually want to? And I mean really, why? (Arms raised to the sky, screaming in a field: “Why!?”) You either enjoy the way the world dissolves when you’re typing away like a lunatic at your keyboard, or you don’t. Of course, if you want to, then, you want to, and so why not try and do it? In a later essay: “People normally don’t concern themselves with self-expression—they just live their lives. Yet, despite that, you want to say something” (emphasis mine).