Why novel writing should be an Olympic sport

haruki murakami running

Today at the Olympics, Great Britain has won a gold medal in show jumping and later on has a good chance of another track cycling gold, too. It sounds like that old Australian joke about Team GB only winning medals in the sitting-down sports, but of course this year that has not been the case at all, with plenty of deliciously exciting track and field successes already.

I’m still enjoying Haruki Murakami’s excellent book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and in the light of that excellent book I have another sitting-down sport to propose: novel writing. I have blogged before on the importance of physical exercise to writers, but have never fully appreciated that novel writing in itself is like a form of manual labour! Over to Murakami:

Writing novels, to me, is basically a kind of manual labor. Writing itself is mental labor, but finishing an entire book is closer to manual labor. It doesn’t involve heavy lifting, running fast, or leaping high. Most people, though, only see the surface reality of writing and think of writers as involved in quiet, intellectual work done in their study. If you have the strength to lift a coffee cup, they figure, you can write a novel. But once you try your hand at it, you soon find that it isn’t as peaceful a job as it seems. The whole process – sitting at your desk, focusing your mind like a laser beam, imagining something out of a blank horizon, creating a story, selecting the right words, one by one, keeping the whole flow of the story on track – requires far more energy, over a long period, than most people ever imagine. You might not move your body around, but there’s gruelling, dynamic labor going on inside you. Everybody uses their mind when they think. But a writer puts on an outfit called narrative and thinks with his entire being; and for the novelist that process requires putting into play all your physical reserve, often to the point of overexertion.

(What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Vintage Books, 2009, p.81-82)

I can see it now. Individual novel writing. Team novel writing. Synchronized novel writing. Welterweight novel writing. Can we get the IAAF on board in time for Rio?

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Stephen Davies

Children's author: picture books, chapter books and YA novels

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