On writing

photo by Paulo Coelho

By Paulo Coelho

All creative processes, be they in literature, engineering, computing – and even in love – always respect the same rules: the cycle of nature. Here is a list of the stages along this process:

a] ploughing the field: the moment the soil is turned, oxygen penetrates places it was unable to previously. The field gets a fresh look, the earth which was on top is now below, and that which was underneath has come to the surface. This process of interior revolution is very important – because, just as the field’s new look will see sunlight for the first time, and be dazzled by it, a new assessment of our values will allow us to see life innocently, without ingenuity. Thus we will be prepared for the miracle of inspiration. A good creator must know how to continually turn over his values, and never be content with that which he believes he understands.

b] sowing: all work is the fruit of contact with life. A creative man cannot lock himself in an ivory tower; he must be in contact with his fellow men, and share his human condition. He never knows, at the outset, which things will be important to him in the future, so the more intense his life is, the more possibilities he will create for an original language. Le Corbusier said that: as long as man tried to fly by imitating birds, he couldn’t succeed. The same applies to the artist: although he translates emotions, the language he is translating is not fully understood by him, and if he tries to imitate or control his inspiration, he will never obtain that which he desires. He must allow his life to sow the fertile soil of his unconscious.

c] growth: there is a time in which the work writes itself, freely, at the bottom of the author’s soul – before it dares show itself. In the case of literature, for example, the book influences the writer, and vice versa. It is this moment which the Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade refers to, when he states that we should never try to recover lost verses, for they never deserved to see the light of day. I know people who, during a growth period, spend their whole time furiously taking notes on everything which comes into their head, without respecting that which is being written in the unconscious. The result is that the notes, which are the fruit of memory, end up disturbing the fruit of inspiration. The creator must respect the time of gestation, although he knows – just like the farmer – that he is only partially in control of his field; it is subject to drought and floods. But if he knows how to wait, the stronger plants, which can resist bad weather, will come to light with great force.

d] the harvest: the moment when man manifests on a conscious plane that which he sowed and allowed to grow. If he harvests early, the fruit is green, if he harvests late, the fruit is rotten. Every artist recognizes the arrival of this moment; although some aspects may not have matured fully, some ideas not be crystal clear, they reorganize themselves as the work is produced. Without fear and with great discipline, he understands that he must work from dawn to dusk, until the work is finished.

And what to do with the results of the harvest? Again, we look to Mother Nature: she shares everything with everyone. An artist who wishes to keep his work to himself, is not being fair with that which he received from the present moment, nor with the inheritance and teachings of his forefathers. If we leave the grain stored in the granary, it will go bad, even though it was harvested at the right time. When the harvest is over, the time comes to share, without fear or shame, your own soul.

That is the artist’s mission, however painful or glorious.


  1. Jerry Hemmerle says:

    A master class, how pure and simple, you remind me of something said by Pablo Casals, “…play every note with feeling.” I’m inspired.

  2. Martabak telur and bawang says:

    Somebody has copied the articles. Look here http://www.bruneiclassified.com/newhys/2010/05/24/on-writing-ii/#comment-18620.

    1. Paulo Coelho says:

      Good. Contents are for free

    2. Dukeishness says:

      The Gutenberg printing press pulled humanity out of the dark ages and gave the world its Renaissance ……
      Could it be possible that the Internet with content like this can raise humanity exponentially from where we are today to the gleaming cities on the hilltops undimmed by humans fears…
      We are participating in the beginning of humanities next Renaissance ‘s
      Believe …………. Duke

      This is another wave for the Renaissance movement it will come in waves as more people believe, till humanity has an epiphany or reaches crescendo…..reaching the 100th monkey…mankind will turn on a dime with clarity……Duke…………………God bless

      Renaissances wave theory relating to the internet. .. If 20 million connect to the internet at 7pm and there are 24 time zones 15 degree’s apart, that’s a 480 million people checking at 7pm. Now expand that thought to 24 hours another 20 million check in each hour of the day….. 24 times 480 million = 1.1520 billion people a day can pass a thought at light speed………….These expressions of good thoughts growing exponentially by sharing with friends leads us to trillions of minds comparing many ideas trillions of ways….This brings me to 360 degree global awareness throughout the population of this our planet how’s that for global consciousness……….. Ever expanding all inclusive thoughts processing will travel out through time endlessly on the web…………

      Renaissances movement takes time while the waves keep building for humanity via consciousness with the help by God’s divine proportions, mankind’s Math, sciences, music and the arts. dedicated to a greater purpose for all…The tipping point when reach is self sustaining now because the believers out number the non……Humanity becomes embedded with a new purpose greater than itself or its parts…..Folded into a new uniting world view of Humanity devoid of hopelessness and fear………………

      All thats needed is some great notion outside of the linear thought process to spark a light thats shines through Mankind around the World……….God Bless………….

      The Renaissance’s movement tipping point is when a civilization moves at break neck speed towards a better understanding of itself and God through math, science, music and the arts. This clarity is to better reflect God on earth or in its collective Soul……
      Live, Learn, Laugh, Love…………………..Duke

      Now that you have read this you are the next link in the tipping point for the Renaissance movement all it takes is for you to believe in the possibilities……Well do you? pass it on…….Duke

    3. Virginia Reese says:

      This is the third time I am writing this. I am not used to this laptop and either keep erasing or posting this message. I apologize if there are a few of these post.

      I was thinking yesterday that I am naturally good at many things. I have never focused on these natural abilities. I am good at problem solving. I have always been able to tell when someone is lying. I am good at decorating and/or the placement of things. I am a good cook. I am funny. I am a good mom. When I was younger I was a great dancer, this is the only one of my abilities that I spent time trying to enhance. That was before I started thinking I needed to be expert before I could be taken seriously. I think most people think this way. Society determines what we should be used for. Society needs me to be serious about servicing the machine not my own soul. You can’t be this unless you take these classes or follow the rules we created.
      I could have brought people together to watch dance or arranged a home that feels right. Both of these things help humans relax. This is so important. Doing what comes natural for me has to a priority if I want to be present. I can no longer focus on more more more more stuff. This is the root of my evil for me. I am not going to run out and be a dancer but I am going to stop living my life unnaturally.

  3. Miss Cholet says:

    Like all great writers you understand how the creative process and everything we experience in life are intertwinned and have explained this so well that your words are like illustrations. Thus readers’ imaginations conjure up similar author’s descriptions yet different pictures in their mind’s eye. Your words are always wonderful visual stimuli.

  4. marie-christine says:

    “Si tu eprouves le desir d’ecrire, et nul autre que l’Esprit
    n’en detient le secret, tu dois maitriser connaissance, art et magie : la connaissance des mots et leur melodie, l’art d’etre sans fard, et la magie d’aimer ceux qui te liront.”
    Khalil Gibran

  5. jeeva says:

    Thank you Paulo.

  6. Dave Rowley says:

    I enjoyed reading this post,. I especially liked what you said about the ‘interior revolution’ and how you related that to plowing the field. What a beautiful metaphor.

    Thank you.

  7. Lou_the_One says:

    That’swhat I needed to read to go on in my writing process! Thank you, again!!

  8. Jonathan Guerzon says:

    I am a creative individual and I very much agree with everything you write about in regards to the ‘nature of creativity.’ Like in a harvest I loved how you explain the timing of things as an artist. As an artist it is important to be patient to allow the natural state of yourself to evolve and develop. But at the same time to hone in on your talents and take advantage of the moment. If you ‘Love’ what you do, it is the natural way of doing things.

  9. Jim Paredes says:

    This is gloriously delicious writing. And I thank you. I have always lived life as a creator. I am constantly at wonder with life.

    What strikes me here is your mention of the subconscious. You are right Paolo. The deep subconscious is the well where the best of what has so far remained unsaid, unwritten or unexpressed resides. Our job as artists is to bring down the bucket into this well and get as much as we can, for there lies some of our deepest truths. These truths are not what we already know but what is still unknown to us—about us! In short, they are aspects of ourselves that we still have to meet and engage.

  10. Haroon Riaz says:

    Thank you for this wonderful insight.

  11. Ana Lucia says:

    Sobre seus livros: ní£o me lembro de ter visto em sebos, nem em formato pocket (bom e barato), a ní£o ser em edií§íµes estrangeiras, nas estantes parece tudo muito antigo, gosto mais das capas da Rocco, um abraí§o.