Wie das Schreiben auf Englisch dich zu einem erfolgreichen Autor machen kann

By Paul Malone

Creative writing in English is rewarding and fun!

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels

As co-founder of Sunday Writers’ Club (SWC) in Vienna, the most common question creative writing participants like you ask me is this: “My English isn’t that good, does it matter?”

My answer: “Not at all! Just ask Haruki Murakami. With only basic English and no writing experience, he wrote his first novel Hear the Wind Sing. It won a major prize and launched his internationally acclaimed literary career.”

Before writing Hear the Wind Sing, Murakami was just a guy who ran a small jazz bar in Kokobunji, Tokyo. Since then he’s sold millions of books translated into fifty languages, and he’s been described as one of the greatest authors of our time. You can find out more about Haruki Murakami at his official website here.

So, how did Murakami do it and what can you learn from him?

1.      Embrace your adventurous spirit and discover your natural voice

In his essay “The Birth of My Kitchen-Table Fiction”[1] Murakami discusses the logic and process that led him to write Hear the Wind Sing. As a new writer, he realised that it was important to capture his thoughts and feelings in a simple way, stripped of the complexity commonly found in traditional Japanese literature. By writing in English, he was forced to write in an easy-to-understand and concise way. Even though it was a challenge–one that he embraced with an adventurous spirit–he came to realise that he did not need a large vocabulary; it was far more important to compose his text skillfully, making the best use of his limited word choice to write his novel.

You too can make a big leap in your writing development by avoiding complexity in both your language and ideas. Particularly as a new writer it’s a good idea to keep things simple.

Writing insight 1

Be adventurous and use your English vocabulary (no matter how large or small) to write in a simple yet thoughtful way focused on delivering a terrific story.

2.      Write in English and discover your unique rhythm

Murakami also discovered that by writing in English he created his own unique rhythm. This wasn’t the case for him when he wrote in Japanese: He found his native language was so entwined with his identity that the all-too-familiar language patterns became an obstacle. He was trying to be too sophisticated. By writing in English he was able to overcome this.

Writing insight 2

When you write in English, you free yourself from your familiar native-language patterns and allow your creativity to be expressed in fresh ways.

3.      Be daring and authentic

As a new novelist, Haruki Murakami wasn’t without his critics. Some believed his unique writing style somehow harmed the national language. But his critics didn’t sway him: He asserted that every writer has the right to experiment with language, and that an adventurous spirit lies at the heart of creativity.

Writing insight 3

Be bold and experimental when you write in English. Don’t allow your doubts (those inner critics!) to dampen your adventurous spirit. The world is crying out for spirited writers just like you!

4.      Translate your story back into your native language*

This is exactly what Murakami did once he’d finished writing Hear the Wind Sing.  He took his English text and translated it back into Japanese. In doing so, he felt he had created a new style of Japanese—one that was distinctly his own.

Writing insight 4

By translating your story back into your native language, you will develop your own distinct style.  And when you have this, you significantly increase your chances of getting your story published.  

* Murakami had very basic English when he wrote his novel. If you have very advanced English, you may decide to skip this step.


[1] Murakami, Wind Pinball, Penguin Random House, 2015: X – XVI


How to get started

A SWC creative writing session in Stadtpark

If you haven’t already, join a SWC creative writing session, held at any one of Vienna’s best cafes (and occasionally, parks). Not only are the sessions designed to get you writing, they’re also a fun way of meeting other like-minded people. Like you, many participants have English as their 2nd language. When you join a session, you’ll receive a special menu filled with inspiring prompts to get you writing. And at the end of the session, you’ll have the chance to share your writing with other participants in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. Naturally, you are free to share your writing or simply listen to what others have written.

Join our friendly and vibrant community and shape your writing future

Since starting SWC in 2018 together with Keith Gray, I have observed many participants making huge leaps with their writing. Like Haruki Murakami, they’ve learned to embrace their adventurous spirit and be daring with their writing. You can read some of their writing on this SWC blog.  These participants are also SWC trailblazers, paving the way for you to join our friendly and vibrant community on your writing journey.

If you’re inspired by Haruki Murakami’s story and are curious about writing in English, I strongly encourage you to join us at a Sunday creative writing session in Vienna. You’ll find our sessions here . Both Keith and I look forward to seeing you at a session soon.  And in the meantime, here are those writing insights summarised for you:

Writing insights summary

Writing insight 1: Be adventurous and use your English vocabulary (no matter how large or small) to write in a simple yet thoughtful way focused on delivering a terrific story.

Writing insight 2: When you write in English, you free yourself from your familiar native-language patterns and allow your creativity to be expressed in fresh ways.

Writing insight 3: Be bold and experimental when you write in English. Don’t allow your doubts (those inner critics!) to dampen your adventurous spirit. The world is crying out for spirited writers just like you!

Writing insight 4: By translating your story back into your native language, you will develop your own distinct style.  And when you have this, you significantly increase your chances of getting your story published. If you have very advanced English you may choose to skip this step.

We’d love to hear about your writing experience!

Have you already tried writing in English as your 2nd language and translated back into your native language? How did you go? Do you agree with the above writing insights? We’d love to hear from you! Please comment below.

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