“There are two types of writers: those who make you think and those who make you dream” says Brian Aldiss, who made me dream for such a long time with his science-fiction books. In principle I believe that every human being on this planet has at least one good story to tell his neighbor. What follows are my reflections on some important items in the process of creating a text:
Above all else, the writer has to be a good reader. The kind that sticks to academic texts and does not read what others write (and here I’m not just talking about books but also blogs, newspaper columns and so on) will never know his own qualities and defects.
So, before starting anything, look for people who are interested in sharing their experience through words. I’m not saying: “look for other writers.” What I say is: find people with different skills, because writing is no different from any other activity that is done with enthusiasm.
Your allies will not necessarily be those that everyone looks on with admiration and says: “there’s nobody better.” It’s very much the opposite: it’s people who are not afraid of making mistakes, and yet they do make mistakes. That is why their work is not always recognized. But that’s the type of people who change the world, and after many mistakes they manage to get something right that will make all the difference in their community.
These are people who cannot sit around waiting for things to happen before they decide on the best way to narrate them: they decide as they act, even knowing that this can be very risky.
Living close to these people is important for writers, because they need to understand that before putting anything down on paper, they should be free enough to change direction as their imagination wanders. When a sentence comes to an end, the writer should tell himself: “While I was writing I traveled a long road. Now I can finish this paragraph in the full awareness that I have risked enough and given the best of myself.”
The best allies are those who don’t think like the others. That’s why, while you are looking for your companions, trust your intuition and don’t pay any attention to others’ remarks. People always judge others using the model of their own limitations — and at times the opinion of the community is full of prejudices and fears.
Join those who have never said: “It’s finished, I have to stop here.” Because just as winter is followed by spring, nothing comes to an end: after reaching your objective, you have to start again, always using all that you have learnt on the way.
Join those who sing, tell stories, enjoy life and have happiness in their eyes. Because happiness is contagious and always manages to keep people from being paralyzed by depression, loneliness and troubles.
And tell your story, even if it’s only for your family to read.
Paulo Coelho’s writing tips:
On confidence: You cannot sell your next book by underrating your book that was just published. Be proud of what you have.
On trust: Trust your reader, don’t try to describe things. Give a hint and they will fulfill this hint with their own imagination.
On expertise: You cannot take something out of nothing. When you write a book, use your experience.
On critics: Some writers want to please their peers, they want to be “recognized.” This shows insecurity and nothing else, please forget about this. You should care to share your soul and not to please other writers.
On note-taking: If you want to capture ideas, you are lost. You are going to be detached from emotions and forget to live your life. You will be an observer and not a human being living his or her life. Forget taking notes. What is important remains, what is not important goes away.
On research: If you overload your book with a lot of research, you are going to be very boring to yourself and to your reader. Books are not there to show how intelligent you are. Books are there to show your soul.
On writing: I write the book that wants to be written. Behind the first sentence is a thread that takes you to the last.
Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist.
- What a Photographer Saw in the West Bank
- Accenture’s Chief AI Officer on Why This Is a Defining Moment
- Inside COP28's Big 'Experiment'
- U.S. Doctors Can't Be Silent About Gaza: Column
- The Movie Wives Would Like a Word
- The 100 Must-Read Books of 2023
- The Top 100 Photos of 2023
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time