The Act of Writing – the Text

By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times

In the two previous columns I commented on reading, pens and words. Below are some final remarks on the topic.

First of all, let me repeat what I said before: everybody has a good story to tell, and it is part of the human condition to share a little of our experience with others. You might ask me: and what about the publishers? How do they publish these experiences?

The truth is that nowadays there are many platforms for this (such as the internet or the local newspaper, for example) and there will always be someone interested in what you write. So even if that someone did not exist, write for the pleasure of writing.

As the pen traces out words on the paper, your anguish disappears and your happiness remains. For this to happen, it is necessary to have the courage to look deep inside yourself, disclose this to the outside world and be even more courageous to know that one day whatever you write could (and should) be read by somebody.

And what if it’s something very intimate?

Don’t worry. Thousands of years ago, Solomon wrote the following words: “Whatever has been is that which will be; And whatsoever has been done is that which will be done; And there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

In other words: if thousands of years ago there was nothing new, just imagine now! Our feelings of happiness and anguish are still the same, and we should not hide them. And even though there is nothing new under the sun, there still remains the need to translate all this for ourselves and for our generation.

Jorge Luis Borges once said that there are only four stories to be told:

A] a love story involving two people

B] a love story involving three people

C] the struggle for power

D] a journey.

Even so, throughout the centuries men and women have continued to retell these stories, and it’s time you did the same. Through the art of writing you will come into contact with your unknown universe and eventually you will feel like a far more capable human being than you thought you were.

The same word can be read in different ways. For instance, write down the word “love” a thousand times and each time the sentiment will be different.

Since letters, words and sentences are traced out on paper, there is no reason to feel tense. The hand that writes eventually comes to rest, and the heart of the person who dared to share his or her feelings smiles.

If you pass by a writer who has just finished a text, you will feel that he has an empty expression on his face and that he seems distracted.

But he – only he – knows that he has risked a lot, managed to develop his instinct, maintained his elegance and concentration during the whole process, and can now afford to feel the presence of the universe and see that his action was just and deserved. His closest friends know that his thought has changed dimensions. Now it is in touch with the entire universe: he goes on working, learning all the positive things that his text has yielded, correcting any mistakes and acknowledging its qualities.

Writing is an act of courage. But it’s worth taking the risk.

© Translated by James Mulholland

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Paulo Coelho

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