Blog

The Archetype Of The Magician

The archetype of the King brings order and creativity. The Warrior brings action and clarity. The Magician also has a twofold role: The Magician is the knower and he is the master of technology. By knowing, it is meant that the Magician has an understanding of knowledge that requires special training. He initiates this knowledge through ritual processes, so, like a master and apprentice relationship where the apprentice learns from the master, who has the understanding which the apprentice requires and in doing so, he comes to follow certain patterns and adopt behaviors that will aid that apprentice in gaining special knowledge.

Also, the fact that the Magician has secret knowledge or understanding, he comes to play an important role in society. He can deflate the ego of the King by questioning his decisions and actions. Additionally, in doing so, he can awaken the King’s conscience.

This knowing aspect of the Magician’s energy is theoretical science. While the applied science is the technological mastery. Technological understanding being the practical knowledge that can be imparted onto another which would include how a certain thing works, what are it’s parts, how to fix it if it breaks and so on.

Understanding and applying the Magician’s energy has three main benefits. Firstly, by having knowledge, it can allow an individual to detach and reflect prior to making an important life decision. Secondly, by pursuing knowledge you also come to terms with what you don’t know and what you need to know and thus, this understanding can help you focus in order to improve. Lastly, the Magician energy can bring clarity of thinking which can be combined with the Warrior energy and one can act with clarity.

Like the previous archetypes, The Magician also has shadow forms. His shadow forms are the Manipulator and the Denying “Innocent” One. The Manipulator can withhold information and knowledge which can then allow the individual to maneuver others to his own benefit. For greed or status or other vices, such Manipulator’s can be anyone from teachers to doctors to psychiatrists. While the “Innocent” One is someone who does not take responsibility that comes with the Magician’s energy but wishes to have its rewards. This individual is often lifeless and envious of others for he does not wish to act but just wants the knowledge.

The Archetype Of The Warrior

The Warrior archetype relates to a total way of life. A Warrior is aggressive for it is an aggressive approach toward life that needs to be adopted in order to access the Warrior energy. A passive living will not do but rather one must take the offensive, face life frontally and pursue the things you want in life instead of waiting around for them to come to you. In this manner, a Warrior does not sleep through life, rather, he is someone who is aware and focused and this is aided by a sense of clarity. He is clear in his desires and wants and hence, knows how to act in order to get them. Clarity is also helped by the fact that life is short. The Warrior understands how fragile life can be and how quickly it can end and so, he is clear in his thought and action as he attempts to decisively achieve his aims.

However, with knowing what he wants, the Warrior must also know his own limitations which might act as barriers in his own life. In doing so, the Warrior is then prepared for the moments of weakness that might come and has planned for them. Plan of action for the worst possible outcome so the setbacks are not as troublesome.

Most importantly, a Warrior does not hesitate. He takes decisive action and hence, he comes to engage life. While at the same time, the Warrior does not overthink because overthinking leads to doubt which can lead to hesitation.

The Warrior is trained, he is disciplined and he is committed. Through training, the Warrior becomes all that he can be in his thoughts, actions, feelings, and speech. With discipline, he comes to control his mind and also learns to suffer in the present in order to gain in the future. The commitment is to something greater than oneself, some ideal that allows detachment from the ego and hence, avoiding the pettiness of everyday life. Such commitment can come in the form of religion, country or an ideal like freedom.

However, the Warrior, just like the King energy, also has a shadow form. The Warrior’s shadow is the Sadist and the Masochist. A Sadist being someone who doesn’t have his mind or feeling under control and uses physical violence and is unable to connect with others. The My Lai massacre is an example of this energy or someone who has a compulsive personality disorder.

While the Masochist is the passive role of the Warrior. He is someone who is a pushover, has cowardly tendencies, has a tough time keeping other’s opinion out of his thoughts and easily gives up.

Personally, archetypes can be a tricky concept to accept. It is not clear if such things are real or not or if they play a significant role in one’s life. However, by adopting certain principles or actions that are associated with these archetypes, one can bring improvement in their life. The Warrior archetype urges movement and decisive action, two things that I know I need to get better at. Far too many times I have been passive and unengaging with life. The existence of such archetypes may be questionable, however, by organizing certain qualities and traits in a manner of archetypes, it can be easier to understand and to apply these qualities and traits in everyday life. By actively thinking about the Warrior archetype and wanting to adopt its mannerisms, one is constantly reminded to engage life and not to hesitate. The Warrior seeks out his life and does not wait for it.

So, when you to reflect on your past and you notice all the times when you could have used the Warrior energy to your benefit but failed, you are reminded then of the necessity of the archetype and through it, the necessity of action.

The Archetype Of The King

Archetypes are understood as universal patterns that are embedded in the unconscious of all individuals, hence, the collective unconscious of mankind. These archetypes are considered to be inherited potentials which can be actualized when we “discover” the archetype within us. When one speaks of the archetype of the King, it is the ideal King that is being discussed and not the individual on the throne. How an ideal King should act and think, how an ideal King behaves and how it is the King’s energy that is important for organizing and creating one’s life.

In the book, King, Warrior, Magician and Lover, authors Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette speak upon the different archetypes and the function of each archetype. Additionally, they mention the shadow form of the archetypes as well, the unfulfilled potential or misguided use of the archetypical energy and how such a thing can lead to immaturity in an individual.

Firstly, it is believed that the King has two main functions. The first is that the King energy is ordering, it brings balance, it is the lawmaking energy. The second function of the King energy is that it provides fertility.

Order starts with the King himself. In order for the society to be good, the King must be good. In order for the civilians to respect the law, the King must respect the law. There is a rippling effect from the King to his subjects. So, if the King lives properly, according to good principles then, his subjects will also feel the effect of this order. There is a sense of ownership with this function. The King must own up to his actions, behaviors, and habits and erase those which bring about negative events and consequences and by doing so, his subjects will follow his lead.

In a household, a father must live the way he wishes his children to live. If the father works hard, he is disciplined, he is able to sacrifice immediate pleasure for something greater in the future, then the children benefit as well. They see and they observe and in doing so, they come to view how to act in life through the proper example of the King energy that their father possessed.

Fertility, on the other hand, is associated with the creative ordering of things. The King energy being fertile means that it is positive, it is creative, it wishes for others to grow and become better. This energy nurtures the talents of others, it guides them and recognizes it. It is not destructive or envious or jealous of what others can accomplish.

With this fertile energy, the husband would support his wives decision if she chose to take a break from work and went back to school. The husband would willingly take on the increased burden of providing financially for the household for in the long term, his wife would be happier and the burden will be lifted. In the same way, if the father decides to take time off from work, the son should willingly take on more responsibility for this is what the King energy would have us do.

However, as mentioned before, each archetype is accompanied by a shadow form. A shadow King is one who sometimes possesses the King energy and acts as a proper King but other times he either acts as a Tyrant or the Weakling.

A tyrant is active while the weakling is passive. A tyrant is essentially a narcissist. He envies creative force for it can create new life which can threaten his position. He cares more about himself and his own accomplishments rather than what is good for the community. Think about the worker who only cares about his own paycheck instead of making the company better. These selfish interests create a selfish individual who cannot stand criticism. Even as a father he may envy his own son. He may not give proper praise to his son for his accomplishments or even take credit for what his son has done.

While on the other side of the spectrum, is the weakling. He is someone who is always overcompensating. The reason being that this individual is not secure within himself so he has a need to be noticed because he feels he is nothing. He needs to be adored and worshipped, always drawing attention to himself because he is not satisfied promoting others. Essentially, the weakling lacks centeredness, meaning there is no order or organization which the King energy is supposed to bring.

Perhaps the best way to access the King’s energy without falling into the Shadow King’s influence is by disidentifying the ego from the King. One has to see themselves as a servant to this energy. This can help deflate one’s own ego by associating one’s accomplishments with the King’s energy rather than your own actions. Also, similar to roleplay, before acting, one should perhaps think what would the King do? How would the King act? By doing so, you may come to a decision that doesn’t just benefit you. It may cause you to rethink and change certain behaviors or reshape aspects of your life where you have allowed laziness to seep in and have become undisciplined. The King’s energy may focus your sight onto the things that are in your control which you have not improved and once you take care of that it may have a positive effect on those around you. Also, by keeping the King’s energy in your mind, you can have a shift in how you view others. You may actively seek out ways to help nurture the talents of other people, hence making your life partially less about yourself and more about the wellness of others.

Truth & Storytelling In The Things They Carried

The importance of storytelling is explored throughout The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. In doing so, the author raises many questions about the aspect of storytelling. Can a story be truer than the happening true? Why do we tell stories? Does it matter how a story is told?

The storytelling technique the author, Tim O’Brien, uses blurs the line between what really happened and what is simply a story. This is achieved by naming the narrator of the story after himself. With this, the text can be read almost as a memoir instead of a fictional piece. For instance, the narrator, Tim O’Brien, considered his participation in the war to be cowardly because he did not want to be shamed by his parents and neighbors and other people in his town for avoiding the war. This notion is expressed in the story called “On the Rainy River”.

This raises the question if the author, Tim O’Brien, felt the same way and if not, then does that take away from the narrator’s feelings or does one simply accept the fact that similar notions of cowardice must have circulated the minds of other soldiers who ultimately accepted their enrollment in the army.

The narrator also goes through a transformation, from being an anti-war student with the hopes of going to Harvard, to wanting revenge on a medic who he felt wronged him in the story “The Ghost Soldiers”. When the narrator points out this transformation, one cannot help but think of how war changes the individual. No matter who you were prior to the war, you were going to be someone else afterward. To me, this transformation is made more real because of the author’s choice to blur the line between fact or fiction. Having read other war novels where the main character is changed due to the war, the effect does not seem as concrete as potentially having the author himself be changed. The novel does a good job at eliciting emotions that perhaps only a memoir can do.

However, what if all of it is just fictional? An exaggeration of what really happened. After all, the text is still a novel. The idea of truth is brought up in the novel and how the different ways of telling a story can have an impact on the truth. Can a story be truer than what really happened? If it didn’t really happen does that mean it isn’t true?

The feelings elicited by the stories seem to be real. When the narrator Tim O’Brien describes his first kill and the disfiguration of the Vietnamese soldier in the story “The Man I Killed”, one cannot help but feel sorry for not only the individual who has died but also O’Brien himself for by killing the soldier, he kills a part of himself. However, it is then revealed that the narrator never killed the man but rather he walks up to a corpse of the disfigured individual but to him, it was the same thing. He had played a role in the killing by participating in the war. However, by having described the scene as if he was the one who had killed the Vietnamese soldier, it adds an extra layer to the storytelling, a realistic coat and although we have two accounts of what happened, they both still feel real and both are believable. A soldier did kill that Vietnamese soldier and a soldier did wake up to find the disfigured body and have feelings of guilt and sadness.

The narrator suggests a true war story cannot be written, which calls into question the point of this war novel. Perhaps this is why certain passages are exaggerated, stories that come into the realm of fictional, that cannot be believed, maybe that is the only way to actually tell a true war story. One such story being the “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” where a soldier flies in his girlfriend from America and in the course of a few weeks, the girlfriend transforms from an innocent girl from the Midwest to a savage soldier who disappears in the Vietnamese forest. Such a thing may have never happened however, there were countless soldiers, innocent themselves, who fought and got lost in Vietnam. In that sense, the story about the girl is as true as anything else.

Or perhaps the only way to tell a war story is by shouldering the responsibility of the war and with it, the death of the soldiers. This can be seen with the death of Kiowa in the story “In the Field”. Several soldiers believe that it was their fault that Kiowa died. In the same way, the narrator believed that it was his fault that the disfigured Vietnamese soldier died. By assuming responsibility, one may be able to explain what happened, why it happened, how it happened, even though that individual was not at fault. In this way, the truth is different than the story however, the story could still be true.

Furthermore, the narrator explains why he is writing this story. To me, the narrator’s explanation seems to be the explanation of the author, Tim O’Brien for the reason behind the novel is that through storytelling, one is able to capture the soul of the individual who is not there anymore. In the story, that individual gets to live. This notion is expressed fully in the text “The Lives of the Dead”. The story keeps the soul alive. Which may be the reason why the author decided to name all the characters after people he knew. The soldiers that had passed away were still alive in this text. The girl that he loved when he was a kid is still alive in this text for in the story, she is dancing and laughing and the two of them can talk to each other. Perhaps the reason why the narrator is named Tim O’Brien is so that after the author has passed, his soul still lives on through this story.

Short Story: Remeber To Run

I run a lot. A younger me would have never believed I would be a runner one day. It’s funny how things work out. When I was younger in P.E. class we had to run around the soccer field every Monday morning. I dreaded those Mondays because I hated the cold but even more, I hated to run. But now, a simple lap around a field doesn’t seem enough. I could go round and round till my legs begin to shake and still, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. It’s not until I am mindless that I find running was worth it. Although that can take a long time and some days I never reach that point where there is a void in my thinking. Those days are tough but I get through them. I know I’ll have another shot at it next morning.

A younger me would have never believed that I would kill a man one day either. Of course that me didn’t know anything about the world or how it worked. He had just seen war on movie screens and in his mind. The younger me loved killing in his mind. That me always imagined himself as a soldier, as he played with his toys, and when the toys fought, in his mind he was fighting too, he killed and the toy soldiers fell down until only he was left standing. Those were fun times, especially when my brothers and I played together. If only that younger self knew that one day his hands would know the grip of a real gun, the familiarity of the handles, the understanding of the trigger, the sight of men falling as their consciousness leaves them, the sound of men crying as they claw at the dirt trying to stay alive, stopping their dreams from leaving them, that younger me wouldn’t know anything of that and it never will know. That younger me still lives a peaceful life, playing with his toys.

What I am now, I am a runner. I wake up early, before the sun most of the time. I make sure not to disturb my wife as I get changed into my running clothes that I had laid out the previous day. A pair of black shorts that I had worn for years now which my wife got for me for my birthday when we first started dating. She had got me a shirt to go with it but that had been used and discarded by now, yet, the shirt I did wear looked years old. Along with that, I had my socks, my gloves, my cap and my cd player with the cd already inside it. I changed quickly and went downstairs to the lobby where my running shoes were, waiting for me at the front door.

Most days I put them on without a thought and I then I’m gone, out running on the side of the road. Somedays I stare at the shoes thinking why I am not in my bed with my wife, hearing her snore peacefully as the warmth takes me back to some dream that I once had. Those days are rare but they do come and every time they come I stare at my shoes, counting the vertical strikes I had made on the shoes with a black permanent marker. Each strike was meant to symbolize one day, after four strikes, the fifth one was horizontal and it cut through the four previous vertical strikes. It was easier to count this way. I had worn these particular pairs of shoes for sixty-two days and the threading had started to come undone in the front and the shoelace was beginning to lose its tightness. I was seeing which shoes are the best in the long-term. The ones I had previous to this pair had lasted me eighty-two days before the sole of the shoes broke. Such distracted thinking allows me to calm my thoughts, to overcome that initial weakness I feel to give in, after which, I put on those shoes and leave my house.

I know the exact day when I became a runner. I had come home from work and my wife sat me down. I knew it was something serious by the way she spoke. She usually spoke in a soft, loving manner, something the doctors had told her to do but that time, she could not hide the anxiousness she was feeling, she wasn’t able to cover up the possible effect her words could have on me. She told me my mother had passed away. A letter came in that morning while I was away and it said that she had died peacefully in her sleep and the funeral will be held in three days time. I thought how could they decide when to bury my mother?

My wife was pregnant at the time and she could not travel so I went alone. She wanted to come with me but I told her it’s alright, I could manage. She kept on asking me how I was feeling and I found that to be odd. My mother had just passed away and I felt nothing, nothing good, nothing bad and the more my wife brought it, the worse I felt about my nothingness.

At the time I used to go running every now and then, whenever I felt like it, which was not often. The doctors had told me that strenuous exercise might trigger bad memories. So that was a comfortable excuse to stay in my bed or on my couch. But, for some reason, I brought along a pair of running shoes when I went to go see my mother. They were old, just a random pair that I had bought from the store one day, I couldn’t even recall how old they were.

Mother spent her last few years living in a home with her friends and others like her. My wife and I had tried to accommodate her with us but it was difficult when you took into consideration her condition. She had never been the same since my brothers passed away. After that, she would often look at me and call me by my brother’s name. First my older brother and then my younger brother and then a blend of both of them and finally she’ll remember who I was. She’d smile and say how much I looked like them and how I reminded her of them. At the time father was around and he could take care of mother but then he passed too and his name got added to the mix of names. Soon she started to forget more things than just my name. One time we found her walking down the side of the road near our home, still in her morning robe and slippers. She said she was just going to go see my brother off at his school. It was after that we decided to put her in a home where she could get proper care.

I took a bus which left the city at midnight. My wife came to see me off. I figured it’d be easy to just sleep the night and wake up in a different town but that wasn’t the case. The cool air that leaked in from the windows kept me awake. It was as if a fan was blowing cold wind right above my head. Instead, I tried to remember the last time I went to go see her and nothing came to my mind. I remembered riding the bus down another time but I couldn’t remember meeting my mother or talking to her. I remembered the small field outside of the home where the rose petals were and I could see the gardener watering the plants in his green overalls but I couldn’t see her there, nor hear her, I couldn’t even remember her.

There was a man waiting for me at the bus stop. He worked at the home and he tried to carry my one small suitcase for me but I told him I could manage it and I placed it in the trunk of his old Volvo. The brown leather seats were cracked and the air conditioning didn’t work. We rolled down the windows. The man offered his condolences and that was kind of him. He asked me if my brothers were coming too. I couldn’t blame my mother for wishing they were still here. I just shook my head and told the man that they won’t be able to join us.

At the home, they settled me into a nice little room. I could tell it had been cleaned that morning. The bedsheets were perfectly laid out and the pillows arranged in order, I felt as if I would be doing a disservice by sleeping here, by ruining their image. A man came up and ushered me down to the hall where my mother was. Everyone was dressed in white, those were the mourning colors here, not black but white because they believed death to be pure, a part of a process, something one shouldn’t be sad about. For them, death was cleanliness and order because it completed one’s life, without death life would be incomplete, a singular wrinkle on a bedsheet that is otherwise perfect, that single wrinkle drawing everyone’s attention to the incompletion of the task, or something like that I guess. I suppose that is the attitude you have to have when all your residents are waiting for completion.

My mother lay on a white bed at one end of the room. White cloth covered the floor and the metal chairs, there was a narrow path in between the set of chairs so one could walk directly up to my mother. Few people sat on the chairs silently and I thought that to be odd. Couple of the women sat at the front row, crying without making a sound. I took a seat at the back and watched the side of my mothers face. The bed bent due to her weight in a manner that I could only see the tip of her nose and her forehead which was partially covered with her greying hair. I figured her hair would be greying, my own was but for some reason, I felt as if that was wrong. She shouldn’t be this old. I was but she should be younger like she was when she was waving us goodbye at the train station.

One of the women from the front turned around and saw me. She was old too. She came and sat down beside me.

“You look just like your mother.” She said.

I just smiled for I didn’t know what the best response to being compared to someone who was dead now.

“I’m sorry for you and your family. She really was a great woman, always making us laugh. You can see how loved she was with all these people here. Not everyone gets the same attention.”

“That’s nice.”

“Would you like to go see her?” She asked.

“No, thank you.”

I could tell my answer surprised her.

“In a little bit,” I added.

She seemed to understand but she really didn’t, “okay, take your time honey.”

She went and joined the other women at the front.

I waited for a while and a few more people poured in, all wearing white. They said their condolences to me, some asked where my wife was and I told that she couldn’t travel, many asked where my brothers were and I told them they couldn’t travel either. After some time I decided to go for a run. People didn’t notice me leave and I went to my room and put on my shoes. The home was a gated lot but the watchman at the gate let me out for I didn’t look like I belonged there just yet.

The run was simple and easy. I kept the pace light, there was no need to rush, I had nowhere to be and the path was simple as well. Flat and straight with the occasional little dip or small incline, nothing that I couldn’t handle. It takes me a little while to get my legs loosened up and once that happens I can lengthen my strides and the run feels even better. I tried to think of nothing when I was running but I didn’t know how to do that at the time. Now I had a better hold at getting to the void. Whenever a thought came to my head I let it pass through like one of the cars on the road that seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere. There were no lights or stop signs for thoughts in my mind, it was an open highway for them to keep on going. It was the void that I was trying to reach but at the time I didn’t know that. Now, when I run I don’t think of anything and with it, I don’t remember anything either.

Like Bean, I don’t remember him either. Bean, that boy who I fought with, who was still a boy. He would tell me stories about his mother all the time. He would tell me how she had him young, too young and how she didn’t know anything about raising kids and she would slap him when he did something wrong and then she would give him sweets to make up for it. Bean would tell me how his mother shouldn’t have been a mother yet, she couldn’t handle the responsibility, she was a kid herself. Bean would tell me how his mother was his best friend. How the two of them would tell each other everything. They would watch movies together, they would go on walks together, she would do his homework for him, he would do the dishes for her and the two of them were one. Bean talked about his mother until he was killed. Then, I remembered his mother. I remembered his mother when I saw my own. When I saw my own mother, I remembered Bean’s mother and when I remembered Bean’s mother, I remembered Bean and when I remembered Bean, I remembered that look of surprise he had on his face when the grenade landed at his feet. What I remembered afterward doesn’t let me dream anymore.

I kept running that day. Easy, comfortable pace and soon all I thought about was the sky or the tree that I passed by or the crack on the pavement. After my mother’s burial, I became a runner, running every day. 

Haruki Murakami On Writing

There are many articles written on the do’s and don’t’s of writing. I don’t know if such a thing exists for each person who wishes to write must write their own way. Through the act of writing, they will come to discover what they like and what they don’t like and in doing so, create their own do’s and don’t’s which may be contradictory to the public consensus. If that is the case then so be it. Contorting your writing in order to fit into how someone else thinks, takes away from the uniqueness of your own thought and style. So, one has to be comfortable with their own writing and write for the purpose of writing and not to become popular or to sell a bunch of books. At least that is how I view it. Writing for the sake of writing.

In his memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami expresses similar notions. The book is a combined effort on his views on running and on writing and how the action of running has influenced his writing.

What’s crucial is whether your writing attains the standards you’ve set for yourself. Failure to reach that bar is not something you can easily explain away. When it comes to other people, you can always come up with a reasonable explanation, but you can’t fool yourself. In this sense, writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike. Basically a writer has a quiet, inner motivation, and doesn’t seek validation in the outwardly visible.

It is an inner standard that one must aim for and not some external validation. In running, you are trying to beat your previous time even if it is only by one minute or trying to go further than you have gone before. Similarly, with writing, you are trying to create something that is approved by your own standards and limitations. Text that pushes you slightly further than your comfort zone and it doesn’t matter if one person reads that or a million, the inner validation is all one needs.

Specifically, when it comes to writing itself, Murakami believes that there are three important factors. The most important being talent and below it are focus and endurance. Talent being innate, it is something you have or you don’t have. Focus and endurance are what one can build and increase with time and effort. These two factors are in your control.

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. I generally concentrate on work for three or four hours every morning.

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, two years.

Naturally, in order to increase one’s focus and endurance, you have to be patient. It takes time and effort to develop these two qualities. Murakami relates these factors to running throughout his text. The idea is that just how one works his or her way up from being able to run 1 mile and then 2 miles and then 3 miles as their muscles adjust and grow and their cardio improves and their running technique gets better and so on. Similarly, one has to slowly work the focus and endurance muscles for writing. Perhaps you may have to start with 30 minutes of pure focus where all you think about is writing and then after a week of that, you increase that to 45 minutes and once your body adjusts to that speed, you increase your focus time to an hour. Endurance works the same way. Three days out of the week for writing and then four days and then five days and you may keep the five days for a few months until your body and mind have adjusted to this new level and then you increase it to six days.

It is in the practice of your routine that you get better as a writer and also as a runner. Murakami shares a funny story about the writer Raymond Chandler who seemed to share Murakami’s belief in endurance and focus.

In private correspondence the great mystery writer Raymond Chandler once confessed that even if he didn’t write anything, he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated. I understand the purpose behind his doing this. This is the way Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower. This sort of daily training was indispensable to him.

In doing so, writing then becomes a form of manual labor and not some creative output that seeps out of your pores and that one just needs to write it all down and that’s it. Furthermore, it may be through the grueling task of focusing every single day for weeks on end that one may discover that they have some talent. Your talent may not be known to you until you start your work. Murakami himself is an example of this. It was not until he was in his late 20s that he even got the idea to write and it would not be for a few more years until he discovered his own writing style and understood what kind of novels he wished to write.

This discovery was simply aided by writing. The more effort he put into his work the better he understood it and clearer his vision became. He had an understanding that his talent was not enough and that he needed to supplement the talent he did have by building up his focus and endurance. Murakami gives credit to running for building these two qualities that could then aid the talent he did have.

Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate—and how much is too much? How far can I take something and still keep it decent and consistent? When does it become narrow-minded and inflexible? How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world? To what extent should I be confident in my abilities, and when should I start doubting myself? I know that if I hadn’t become a long-distance runner when I became a novelist, my work would have been vastly different. How different? Hard to say. But something would have definitely been different.

Talent may be out of your control but focus and endurance are not. You can set yourself up for success if you build up those two qualities. Furthermore, the action that aids in this growth will help your understanding of writing, what you wish to say, what you wish not to say, your own do’s and don’t’s and perhaps even discover that talent that is within. In fact, such an action will benefit you in all aspects of life and not just writing.

For me it is hard to say if I have a talent for writing or not, I just simply know that I enjoy it and that it brings a sense of fulfillment and achievement into my life. It is a freeing notion, knowing that focus and endurance are under my control. If I am able to improve these qualities perhaps then my writing will continue to live up to my own standards.

Reflections on Resolutions

With the coming of the new year, many people, myself included, make promises and goals which they hope to achieve in the near future. Goal setting exercises are not only useful but they are needed as well. At least for myself, I do better when I know what my target is. It’s hard to navigate through the day or week or month without a plan and a strict schedule. Without such things, I find that I have wasted the day.

Which is why for the next year, I’ve made resolutions as I have done previously. However, in the previous years, I have failed to stay true to my word because in those years, I had simply just made a list of things that I hoped I would be able to do but I did not make a detailed plan on how I meant to achieve my goals.

Furthermore, even the goals were vague. They were as simple as getting stronger or read more books or to write consistently. Such vague goals are hard to track and without consistent feedback of whether I am improving or if I’m plateauing and failing to keep going in the proper direction, I find myself giving up, giving into a list of excuses and ultimately being content with failure.

In order to counter such a possible future for myself, I need detailed goals and a plan to achieve them. Instead of simply saying “get stronger”, I have to list exactly how much weight I plan on lifting in a particular exercise by the end of the year. Instead of saying “read more books”, I need to make a list of 50 books or so that I plan on finishing next year. Instead of saying “write consistently”, I need to dial in either a number of words per day or number of pages per day and so on, applying more specific goals at whatever I wish to improve. Careers, relationships, hobbies, etc, all can be broken down into specific targets or marks that you wish to hit.

Detailed goals are the first step, the second step is the plan. With planning, one needs to answer how and visualize possible failures or obstacles. How do you plan on achieving this goal? Would you have to wake up earlier in the morning? Would you have to make better use of your lunch break? How should your works be split? Does it mean cutting back on distractions that take up your time? Would you need constant reminders to stay on track? What daily practices do you have to do? Weekly? What takes priority? Can you split your time efficiently or is it best to tackle each goal one at a time?

Answer each question may raise more questions but through this exercise, you get to narrow down how you need to act in order to get to where you wish to go.

The biggest obstacle when it comes to such an exercise is yourself. Your own habits and actions. In a way, your self sabotaging manners cause you to fail. At least, I have found this to be true for myself. Hence, why you must visualize. You have to see yourself doing the task that you have set for yourself and then see all the ways that you may prevent yourself from fulfilling the tasks. This may be as simple as understanding your desire to hit the snooze button and then scroll through social media before getting up in the morning, however, by the time you get up, you may have wasted the early start that you had planned in order to get one of your tasks done. Or, visualization may tackle more important issues, such as negative self-talk. Perhaps you have to see yourself attempting and failing a task and then know your negative self-talk will cause you to either not try again and give up on the task or try with a lousy effort, fail faster and then give up. Through visualizing you can at least know that certain obstacles will be there and so, you can plan for those obstacles rather than blindly running.

Resolutions, goals, promises are important, in many ways, this is how people find meaning in their lives, it gives people a sense of direction which is why that feeling of not achieving your goals hurts so much and feels so horrible because it really did mean something to you. Having specific goals and a plan of action can help, however, even such things are bulletproof. Failure is part of life and you may fail to keep up with all your resolutions, however, if you can improve even one aspect of your life through resolutions and goal setting, then its worth the effort.