We have been taught by our dogs, random street cats, even from a somewhat indecent amount of time spent toying with children’s playthings, but nothing has been, nay could be, as life affirming as Haruki Murakami’s lexicon. So, for the sake of love and a not-so-secret hope that he’ll read this and want to be my BFF, here’s what I’ve learnt about freelancing from Haruki Murakami.

Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that

The freelancing waltz can be tough. Despite the giddy call that 2014 is set to be our year, the competition is steep and it’s never been more important to be on top of your game in order to stand out from the crowd.

Murakami is a marathon man, he has developed extraordinary willpower and run distances that, in my humble opinion, can only be described as insane. Freelancing is more of a relay than a marathon, however. It is not as much of a lone ranger profession as some may think because you rely on clients and advisors to be your team mates. Keep focussed – when you drop the baton, which you will because you’re human, pick it back up gracefully, no matter how frustrating it may be. And try not to complain too loudly, you never know who might be listening.

Life is not like water. Things in life don’t necessarily flow over the shortest possible route

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So did you know that up until he was solidly established in his 30s, Murakami owned a bar, smoked 20-plus cigarettes a day and basically lived a ‘just like you and me’ kind of lifestyle. Then one day he decided to be a writer. And, incidentally, a long distance runner. This basically proves the theory that you can smoke and drink to your heart’s content in your  twenties and emerge a superstar.  Hazaaa!

This also shows that everything is a process and even when you feel like you have exhausted every avenue, peer round one more corner and you could find that you have been the ultimate success in waiting. The difficulty experienced by freelancers over those in stable employment is the lack of someone to guide you (and, you know, financial security, pensions blah blah). Remember, those people we hold to such high esteem, they got there eventually and did so through hard work and a helping of savvy.

The world is full of ways and means to waste time

Haruki Murakami is now solidly in his sixties yet when he trains for a marathon, he trains every day – serious kiss arse disclaimer: he does a mega two-three marathons a YEAR. He describes in his book, ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’, the feeling of his body gradually getting stronger and he pushes himself harder and harder each day. Sometimes we need to waste time, relax, procrastinate over other people’s baby picture monotony. But in order to be a successful freelancer, you have to stay focused and ensure that you are consistently progressing your skills. Be better, get more work, have money.

If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation

This applies mainly to freelance writers. Make your stories succinct and your ideas obvious. When sending a pitch, don’t make it difficult to understand because it’s likely the recipient just won’t bother, despite the undoubtedly hidden genius within the waffle. Anyone who’s read Murakami’s novels, which traverse the line between the every day and the bizarre, will have seen first hand the power of a cleverly worded sentence.

 The most important thing we learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school

“I like to re-write”, Murakami told an audience at Kyoto University last May.

Freelancing is all about the metaphorical re-write – establish what worked, do it again with a unique angle, perhaps also with a change in customer focus. Find out what didn’t work and learn from and change it. But always go back to what has come before in order to fully progress in the future.

Photos by fogindex