In search of my Island – Part 1

Paulo Coelho

Looking around at the crowd gathered for my book-signing at a megastore in the Champs-Elysées, I thought: how many of these people will have had the same experiences that I have described in my books?

Very few. Perhaps one or two. Even so, most of them would identify with what was in them.

Writing is one of the most solitary activities in the world. Once every two years, I sit down in front of the computer, gaze out on the unknown sea of my soul, and see a few islands – ideas that have developed and which are ripe to be explored. Then I climb into my boat – called The Word – and set out for the nearest island. On the way, I meet strong currents, winds and storms, but I keep rowing, exhausted, knowing that I have drifted away from my chosen course and that the island I was trying to reach is no longer on my horizon.

I can’t turn back, though, I have to continue somehow or else I’ll be lost in the middle of the ocean; at that point, a series of terrifying scenarios flash through my mind, such as spending the rest of my life talking about past successes, or bitterly criticising new writers, simply because I no longer have the courage to publish new books. Wasn’t my dream to be a writer? Then I must continue creating sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and go on writing until I die, and not allow myself to get caught in such traps as success or failure. Otherwise, what meaning does my life have? Being able to buy an old mill in the south of France and tending my garden? Giving lectures instead, because it’s easier to talk than to write? Withdrawing from the world in a calculated, mysterious way, in order to create a legend that will deprive me of many pleasures?


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