Paulo Coelho: How I write. Reader: How Do You Write?

Paulo Coelho 2010

Less then a week ago I finished The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It was serendipitous when I checked Tim Ferriss’s blog and saw his post: Paulo Coelho: How I Write

I have since followed Paulo on Facebook and Twitter and am continually inspired and ignited with a worldly creative vibe. I thought, as writer to writer’s, I would re-blog Tim’s post and offer my own advice. In doing so, I hope to set a chain reaction off for other readers and writers that admire Paulo’s writing and style to give their input. I want to read the answers to the questions below from other people because I know that if they are followers of Paulo or Tim, then I know they are destined for some unnatural form of significance. Directly below is the recording of Paulo answering the questions that follow the recording.

If the recording does not show up for you, follow this link

From Tim Ferriss’s blog: I will answer the interview questions.

– When on deadline, what is the first thing you do in the morning? What does your daily schedule look like? Do you take any days off, and what determines if you’ve had a “successful” writing day?

Work is what I do months before a deadline and days right before it. Writing for entertainment is what occupies my time in between. In this sense, I am clearly stating that I love to have things accomplished far before a deadline. So the work I do months before the deadline is the collaboration of ideas, organization and understanding of my focus and goals for what I am writing. The work I do the few days before the deadline is when I blow the readers mind. I have always said that I work best under pressure and it still stands true. Stress for me, opens up this sector of imagination in my brain that nothing else will unlock. As for the time in between these fragments, this is when I write creatively for various segments of my overall project. To break it down,

A daily schedule months before the deadline: Waking up and eating a healthy breakfast at the computer as I do research before my writing. Then I go to my “I’d rather be writing” job where I brainstorm and take notes that pop into my mind. As soon as work is finished I am back at the computer working endlessly on planning, set up and having a lot of free writing sessions. I’ll typically exercise at least 6 days a week for a break from staring at the computer monitor and restarting the system.

A daily schedule in between the start and deadline: Waking up and eating healthy breakfast, light music, reading some blog posts and then some fiction. Going to my “I’d rather be writing job” and relaxing, not specifically focusing on the writing task. This is when I start to have more wonderful life experiences that I could incorporate into my writing and I write when the vibe is highest and the flow as unstoppable.

A daily schedule days before the deadline: Wake up and write, eat, write, work, write, eat, write, exercise, write, write, and write. Some of my strongest writing is written very late at night while I am flowing between the dream world and reality. I will have a post out on this particular topic within a few days.

To me, a successful day of writing occurs in two ways. The first is when I have written 5 or more segments, or chapters if you will. The second form of success is when I spend an hour and a half creating one of the greatest segments of the overall project and the rest of the day is left to churn new concepts and experience life to inspire new ideas for future segments.

I have to be half-corn-half-cheese and say that I do not take any days off. I am known for always carrying a book and a notebook around with me everywhere I go. I look for ideas to write about in everything I do.

– How do you capture ideas that might be helpful in your writing? These days, what software and tools do you use for writing?


On the go, I use a notepad on my phone.

At any events or meetings, I bring my journal to write in.

When I am at the computer, I have a word document always open to write in, I call it “Infinity Works”.

At work or any other place, I write on sticky notes or whatever it is I can find.

I have tried phone apps, and software help like Evernote but none of them seem to satisfy me. I like to keep it all simple and easily able to manipulate my writing.

– How much of your books do you visualize/outline upfront vs. writing organically piece-by-piece? In other words, how much of the story arc have you decided before you start writing?


As stated before, I visualize the organization and types of stories and points I want to incorporate into my work, but the segments themselves, I write organically based off the idea I set for it. The greatest part about writing this way is that it allows you to maintain an open mind for fresh ideas. Imagine writing something that has been completely thought out. How do you expect to create additional originality?

– What are the most common mistakes that you see first-time novelists making? Most common weaknesses?


Since I am a first-time novelist, I can only speak for myself. One of the most common mistakes I began making was that I would critique myself over and over in order to write what I know the audience would want to read instead of finding a balance between what it is the audience wants to read and what the audience could read and feel my passion inside each word.

– Do you base your characters on real people? Why or why not? If not, how do you develop those characters?


Whether we realize it or not, what we write is based off our experiences. So either our characters are based off of real people directly, or they are based off parts of real people that we have come in contact with in our lives. Personally, I air on the non-fictional side of people because I want people to make connections to my fictional characters and think to themselves how similar the character is to someone they know.

– What are the 2-3 things you personally find most invigorating or helpful when you’re stuck or feel stagnated with writing/ideas? Do you have a team of any type (researchers, etc.) who help you?


There are three tactics I take until I stop for the day and wait for the next to continue writing. The first is to have music on. Currently it is “And Then There Were None” that I can listen to and for some reason, it increases my energy, doubles my positive aura and triples my creative thinking process. I think it’s a great idea to find some music that can get you motivated and that will create a barrier by preventing any distracting thoughts to come in. By having music on, your mind is taking up only the music you are listening to and the focus you have on your writing. Without the music you are subject to random thoughts, any noise distractions and you are no longer forced to focus harder on your writing.  The second tactic is exercise, for some this could be confused with cleaning, which may or may not be a good thing. Regardless, there is nothing like burning your physical energy to leave the majority of your mind to focus. After a workout, you are too tired to want to do anything else but sit down, so you might as well write! Tim, I am sure would second that. The third tactic is to read some fiction that relates to the topic you are stuck on. Get an idea of what others think, even if it does not help with your particular writers block, it will create ideas for future segments, thus preventing future stagnation.

Re-Blog This

and post your own answers. Make sure to add credit to the source where you read this below in the “Credit” section with a link. If everything goes as I hope and will continue to push for, we will have twitter interactions in no time discussing the different ways we write that beginners can view and connect with writers that sync the best with them. This is as much about Tim, Paulo, Me, You and the millions of other writers in the world.

Stay Positive and Share For The Other Writers Seeking Advice

Garth E. Beyer


Credit for the interview and basis of this post goes to Tim Ferriss. After reading one post, you will without a doubt be checking Tim’s website daily waiting for the next.

Thank you to Paulo for sharing his personal expertise and enlightening us with fascinating posts at Paulo Coelho’s Blog

Stomp The Prompts And Eggshells! Out-Of-The-Box Writing Prompts and Lessons –

It’s winter time in Madison, Wisconsin. It is actually snowing right now and we are supposed to get up to 5 inches. I figured this would be a perfect time to post my writing prompts I created just for you. Regardless if you are living where its snowing, I hope you have some time to do some free writing. Below you will find 15 writing prompts and one bonus prompt that I will respond to. Following the prompts I will give you suggestions on how to successfully write prompts. As much as it is a free writing technique, there are requirements and lessons to learn. It took me a lot of cruddy free writing stories to learn and I am more than happy to share them with you. Without further ado,

15 writing prompts, just for you by Garth E. Beyer: Because getting prompts elsewhere just is not good enough!

  • The tornado sirens are blaring and you are waiting by the window patiently to see if there is actually a tornado nearby. You see a woman screaming and pointing behind her as she runs toward your house. Why do you think she is screaming? What do you?
  • You felt adventurous this morning so you are at the local park which is basically like being in the woods. Not realizing how far off the trail you have gotten, you become stuck between a wolf and the edge of the cliff with raging waters steadily streaming down below. What are your thoughts and actions?
  • A large burly man has you thrown over his shoulder. Since you are not in view of the direction he is heading, all you see is desert land behind him. What do you think is ahead of him? Where is he taking you?
  • You are a bird for a day. What do you do? Where do you go?
  • You have just won the $1000 a week for life lottery. How do you celebrate? What are your plans for the money?
  • Your school field trip leaves you stuck in the hot air balloon with the prissiest girl in your class. How do you survive the 2 hour hot air balloon ride while the fuel slowly runs out?
  • Write a detailed description of where you believe wind comes from.
  • You must use a color in every sentence while describing the beginning, growth, and end of the life of your favorite fruit.
  • Free write with the sole focus of stars. It may be stars on a flag, or the sky, as long as the subject remains on stars.
  • Write in detail of your dream vacation. Where is it? What do you do? How would you describe it to a family member upon return?
  • List different types of hugs a person can give and the significance or subconscious meaning behind each.
  • You are on a roof of a building with your friends and they are pressuring you to jump across to the roof of the adjacent building. What is running through your mind? Do you jump?
  • You have just been in a terrible biking accident down a hill. You are telling your friend the narrative starting from the beginning of your day to how you ended up in the hospital bed.
  • The city has dubbed you head of college applications “Admissions Officer”. Revise and Rewrite the acceptance letter to your liking to be given to all accepted college applicants.
  • You have an assignment for Garth. You need to come up with fifteen writing prompts. Do you obey and write the writing prompts? If so, what are they? If not, why not? (Post them in comments section for me and others)

Toastmasters Bonus Prompt

My bonus prompt is not one I made up like those above. I got it from attending Toastmasters the other night during Table Topics. I was the first to volunteer (always am) to go up and pick a folded piece of paper with the prompt. “Theme: your personal best, real or imagined… Making dinner for a picky eater”. The Table Topics Master focused on positivity and the point of the Topic was to focus on the best parts of an experience, no matter how disastrous it may have been.

When I read my prompt I quickly thought of a cursed friend when she was vegetarian. It was her birthday and I tricked her by telling her that I had to stop back at my house to get my money. How could I purchase her sweet things at the mall if I had no money? To her surprise I had the house pitch black…except for the candles. I had the dining room set up with a table cloth, candles, silverware and wine glasses. After pulling the chair out for her, I came back from the kitchen and surprised her with a huge dish of vegetarian lasagna. She had been begging me to make a dinner for her. I am not the best cook, but beg and you shall receive. I found a lasagna recipe online, but really ended up grabbing whatever ingredients I thought would go good in it. While it turned out to look a bit more like goulash, she loved it. As much as she has begged me to make it for her again, I refuse. I consider that day to be my personal best at making a dinner for a picky eater. I would not want to ruin it.

Yes this was impromptu speaking and I edited it a bit for posting it here. But I didn’t want you to be the only one writing prompts! It’s like having a personal fitness trainer that doesn’t lift weights with you. It just cannot be.

I Prompt You To Learn These Lessons About Writing Prompts Promptly

1. Writing from a prompt is supposed to break you away from your normal writing techniques. I suggest practicing writing with your left hand before you start a prompt, flipping open a dictionary and taking some random words out to use in your writing, and doing your best to not use your memories – use your imagination.

2. I broke up with my prompt and got the better half. Writing from prompts are not meant to flow. You are not writing an essay (unless stated otherwise in the prompt hehe). Be brief and concise in each idea you come up with for the prompt, break them up and find a way to connect them later. The greatest stories from prompts happen when miraculous ideas are dubstepped on paper and get the reader using all parts of their brain to connect them.

3. If you decide to crumple up your paper, you know you are in the right direction – as long as you uncrumple it and keep writing. You have to let yourself fail when writing from a prompt, only then can you figure out the message you really want to get across in the prompt.

4. Having writers block when trying to write a prompt? Others will tell you to force it and push through. They are wrong, never do this when writing from a prompt. What they are asking you to do is break your barrier and find the flow. As stated in number 2, that is not what you want. Grab another prompt that you can actually start and be creative.

5. Really do have fun with it. So many freewriters focus on making their story really important and try to send a message or lesson in their writing from a prompt. Yet again, they are trying to shape what they write, do not do this. If a lesson or theme is supposed to be shared from the prompt, then it will be. The main focus should be to make your writing quirky, unique, and out-of-the-box.

6. Lastly, I want to provide you with one great resource that I found on Squidoo (Created by Seth Godin, one of my heroes). Check out this Writing Prompt Lens

Stay Positive and Egg-on Those Prompts

Garth E. Beyer