"I read [Japanese novelist Haruki] Murakami's book on running [What I Talk About When I Talk about Running] while I was lying fully clothed on my bed on top of my covers one hot summer day, preparing to take a nap. But the book was too fascinating to allow me to sleep, and I underlined furiously. The book is indeed full of life lessons. One has to do with knowing when to end a day's work: In running and writing, Murakami realizes, there is a real benefit to stopping before, and not after, you find yourself depleted. 'Do that,' he writes, 'and the next day's work goes surprisingly smoothly. I think Ernest Hemingway did something like that. To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects.' I underlined the next sentence: 'Once you set the pace, the rest will follow.'
"A few pages later, I underscored the observation, 'I don't know why, but the older you get, the busier you become.' Later Murakami writes about the need, as you get older, to prioritize your life. When he was young, he had endless time for everyone – he and his wife owned and ran a small bar back then. Now, though, he needs to ration whom he sees and what he does.
"Still, he's careful to mention that even when he owned the bar, he never worried about pleasing everyone. If ten people came and nine of them didn't care for his bar, that didn't matter at all. He just needed one in ten to like it – well, to love it, to come back and be a regular. In order to make sure of that, he explains, 'I had to make my philosophy and stance clear-cut, and patiently maintain that stance no matter what. . . .
"While reading this book in bed, I found myself thinking about Murakami's 'life lessons,' but I kept returning to the bit about napping. It's ironic, I know, to read a whole book about running, and to come away thinking mostly about one paragraph on sleep. But the more time I spent lying in bed pondering Murakami's book, the more I came to see the parallels between the two.
"Murakami doesn't have a clue what he thinks about when he runs but instead describes the thoughts that go through his head when he is running as being like clouds: 'Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky as always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky. The sky both exists and doesn't exist. It has substance and at the same time doesn't. And we merely accept that vast expanse and drink it in.'
"When I nap I may dream, and may even remember some of those dreams vividly, but the balance of my sleeping thoughts are also like clouds, images that 'pass away and vanish.' "