Paulo Coelho: How I Write

Paulo Coelho (Photo: Philip Volsem)

Paulo Coelho has long been one of my writing inspirations.

His work, of near universal appeal, spans from The Alchemist to the most recent Aleph and has been translated into more than 70 languages.

Few people know that The Alchemist, which has sold more than 65 million copies worldwide, was originally published by a small Brazilian publisher to the tune of… 900 copies. They declined to reprint it. It wasn’t until after his subsequent novel (Brida) that The Alchemist was revived and took off.

I, for one, have always been impressed with consistent writers. Paulo, who averages one book every two years, is staggeringly consistent. As I type this, I am under the pressure of book deadlines and often feel as Kurt Vonnegut did: “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”

My output is erratic at best, and I wondered: how does Paulo write? What is his process? How does he think about it?

I reached out to him, and he was kind enough to reply with the attached/linked audio. In it, he provides some gems and answers the following questions, which I posed to him (I provide my own abbreviated answers in brackets)…

– 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?

[TIM: 2-3 hours of fasted writing in the morning to Mozart and pu-ehr tea. Success is two shitty pages of drafts.]

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

[TIM: Evernote, Moleskine notebooks]

– 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? Let’s take two books as examples — The Alchemist and Aleph. Otherwise, how did your process differ for these two books?

[TIM: Though it changes as I write, I outline everything before starting. I suspect organic writing is more common in fiction.]

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


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


– 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?

[TIM: Rereading Bird by Bird when I doubt/loathe/chastise myself, deadlifting, and doing sprint workouts.]

Tim Ferriss – Paulo Coelho by Tim Ferriss

Paulo offered a few additional notes and resources further exploration:

As for the sentence in Alice in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

Three podcasts on his writing process:

1) On writing I

2) On writing II – the puzzle

3) Inspiration

For more musings, see Paulo’s Facebook fan page, with almost 8,000,000 fans (!)


If you write, what have you found most helpful for the first and last questions? Here they are, and I’d love your thoughts in the comments:

– 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?

– 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?


Odds and Ends: Shorty Awards

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The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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119 Replies to “Paulo Coelho: How I Write”

  1. First thing I do in the morning: whatever is on my mind that is not writing, I try to do it first so I can make it Go Away.

    Daily schedule: varies.

    Days off: none.

    “Successful” day defined as: day where I get to an end point and not hate every word I’ve written. Bonus: discover something about the project I Did Not Know.

    Helpful when stuck: give my characters the problems to mull over. After all, it’s their damn story, I expect a little help in telling it. It got me through the last bout of writer’s block I ever had when writing my first novel…haven’t had an issue since. Also, keep multiple projects percolating so that I can move sideways into another to give the problematic one time to get over itself.

  2. Is it weird that I listened to this while staring at a picture of Tony Montana and imagined him speaking directly to me? If this doesn’t make me a better writer, I don’t know what will? =D

  3. When on deadline, what is the first thing you do in the morning?

    I have to write, first thing. It’s so easy to distract yourself – “oh, I need my morning coffee” or “my head is still groggy, I’ll exercise first” – but as soon as I do something other than write it’s almost impossible to get back to.

    Get out of bed and start writing. Once you start, it’s quite easy to keep rolling, and your brain locks in right away.

    What are the 2-3 things you personally find most invigorating or helpful when you’re stuck or feel stagnated with writing/ideas?

    Ideas are not usually the problem, but motivation certainly is. I find switching up my process or what I’m working on provides the best results. If I can’t write any more I’ll swap to outlining, or searching for references. Something related to the project, but using a different faculty of the brain.

    I’ve also heard good things about working on simultaneous projects. Often a fiction and non-fiction piece of work. Swapping between the two when stuck seems valid, although I’ve yet to try it as I usually only deal in fiction. Maybe soon…

  4. What a delightful and sacred gift… to hear the vibrations of Paulo Coelho’s voice as he walks through his artistic process to link his muse to action. Thank you.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. It comforts me that he too goes through the “inner ritual” of procrastination and guilt…and then, eventually, achieves productivity. I’m glad you asked these questions as I am currently trying to hit my stride with a project and haven’t really reflected on my own successful process.

    1. While truly on deadline, I have some coffee and pretty much get straight to work. This is after days of taking on tasks that I would never undertake if I weren’t needing to write…cleaning the garage, reorganizing the vase cupboard, filing paperwork, cleaning baseboard with a q-tip, etc. If I hit a page number goal, I break for a workout, eat, and then get back to work. Yes, I take days off, but will push myself if I want to get through a tough section.

    2. Getting into the habit of writing consistently is a struggle, but I know that once I create the habit, it will become easy all over again. So I try to recreate the setting that worked for me the time before. It usually involves early morning, a favorite beanie or pair of socks or shoes, good coffee, a cold room, and loud music on my headphones with great, lively beats (Deadmau5 and Miike Snow have worked in the past). Until I get into a rhythm, I force myself to swim in the information that is relevant to the book’s topic knowing that it will stimulate my brain and eventually enrich the content. Reading great fiction also helps when feeling stagnant.

    Good luck hitting your deadline!

  6. When on deadline, I really try to get as much as possible as soon as possible done. Because that means that I will have a lot of time left to review my work and also to realize even more cool ideas that I pick up along the way.

    I take days off when I notice that I’m stressed out/unbalanced or when I’m just not having enough fun.

  7. Have you tried counting how many words you write in week (with the book)? It was really tiring to produce 25000 words/week. Hoping to benchmark.

  8. When on deadline, what is the first thing you do in the morning?

    My mornings are usually low key and meditative as I do most of my writing in the evenings.

    What does your daily schedule look like?

    I HATE schedules which is why I haven’t had a 9-5 job in years. Variety is the spice of life 🙂

    Do you take any days off, and what determines if you’ve had a “successful” writing day?

    It’s not like you can start and stop your imagination! I spend a lot of time walking and driving around the province so I have a lot of time to think about what my characters will think, say and do.

    – What are the 2-3 things you personally find most invigorating or helpful when you’re stuck or feel stagnated with writing/ideas?

    Going for a walk always helps.

    Do you have a team of any type (researchers, etc.) who help you?

    While I don’t have a formal team, people who read my work always spark ideas.


  9. The best time to write is in the morning, and when on deadline, this is when the most is accomplished as long as you can procrastinate your procrastination. This is when your brain is fresh and the worries of the previous day are wiped clean. I have my most powerful brainstorming sessions in the mornings, write down some really original ideas, and am much more likely to create something quickly and in an incredibly focused manner. When I get in one of these moods I skip breakfast and any other distractions and keep focused until about lunch time when I start to get hungry. (I feel really energized on an empty stomach in the morning, as if it were a kind of fast that you aren’t breaking…)

    Sleep is a very helpful thing to me that helps when I feel stuck. I just think about my subject while falling asleep and my creative subconscious does the rest while I sleep. This is another reason for why mornings are the best time to create/write. Among other activities, reading Tim’s blog is also very intellectually stimulating and motivational when I am feeling stagnant in my entrepreneurial and creative productivity. As far as a team goes, I have several friends whom I ask for advice on my projects, I listen to their harsh criticism and become very defensive of my work, then when that wears off I apply their suggestions and my work becomes all the better for it.

    1. I wish you posted this in the morning Tim/Paulo, as my quick reply appears to have some nonsensical phrases and the quality of a burlap sack :/

  10. Hello, TIm!

    I am so happy for your post here because I’ve been wanting to become a writer ever since preschool! I was always the kid sitting in the back of the playground with notebook in hand, writing fantasy stories to imitate the latest Firewall book I had read.

    The most valuable thing I’ve taken from these two questions are:

    That “Success is two shitty pages of drafts.” Not only is giving up the serious pressure of making it “SUPER PERFECT” the first time allow the serious creative juices to flow, but it when you combine it with the state changes suggested by Tony Robbins in his Personal Power II series, you can make some amazing and wonderful content (right now I’m working on a scholarly journal for your muses for my Senior Seminar class…my aim = $1,000,000 by the end of this school semester with $100,000 contributed to your causes such as LitLiberation and various “Cancer Warrior” organization such as the American Cancer Society)

    And I can appreciate his method of overcoming personal doubt through reading (refocusing) and anaerobic workouts. The anaerobic workouts can definitely make a serious difference in one’s ability to focus with power and intensity simply because of the way we move our body!

    I really appreciate this almost more than everything else you’ve posted because, again, I’ve been wanting to become a writer all my life…an excellent writer. I can’t wait to devote what I’ve been working on to you and your cause.

    I’m so using my muse (there’s a way to test a muse for free on Google Adwords, I’ve found) to help your cause out. Can’t wait to see your process come to life!

    Talk to you soon, Tim. Have a good one!


  11. Hi Tim. I have a unique system of writing, that I was forced to develop due to health constraints. 8 years ago I suffered a negative reaction to a prescription drug. It left me with severely drained and intermittent energy and focus.

    Recently I figured out a diet that allowed me to restore my health. But before that, I faced tremendous challenges in work, life and writing. I therefore experimented heavily with computerized personal information management systems and productivity algorithms. Even now that I am healthy, I continue to use the system that I developed during that time.

    In my view, writing a book is like building a nation in the Civilization video game (or Age of Empires or whatever game from that genre). One cannot simply start at the desired end state. Instead, one must proceed through a huge number of tiny incremental steps organized by a mostly automatic algorithmic process. To conserve cognitive effort, one develops rules that facilitate a fractal growth pattern.

    From the material I’ve seen, you have an excellent grasp of the mechanics involved in maximizing daily production, and a very poor understanding of how to minimize cognitive effort. Therefore, writing is extremely stressful for you.

    For me, it isn’t. And with good reason – due to my health condition, I couldn’t afford additional stress of any kind.

    With that introduction out of the way, I’ll just briefly list the major principles of my writing system.

    The first one you already know – immediate full capture whenever inspiration strikes. I assume you always carry a notebook and use Evernote to effect this. I capture inspiration even if – especially if – it is partially or fully redundant. Info redundancy is not a problem for my system.

    This practice does three things:

    1. It helps the brain move forward more rapidly in conceptual evolution

    2. It continuously improves expositional clarity

    3. It provides a huge reservoir of raw material upon which to draw

    From there, it is all a matter of rewriting, recombining and restructuring. As long as this is broken down into manageable chunks, the cognitive load never exceeds comfortable limits.

    I use several tools to assist with chunking, restructuring, and rewriting. They are WordPress, BrainStorm (the outliner at, and Emacs Org-Mode.

    The advantage of this system is that one never experiences stress from cognitive overload. The disadvantage is the huge amounts of material one must handle and store in an organized fashion. Fortunately, WordPress and Emacs have virtually unlimited plain text storage capacity, and BrainStorm scales well enough for any practical purpose, although its performance degrades after several megabytes of text.

    I’ll stop there. Obviously there is quite a lot more that I don’t have room to share. I have a work-in-progress explanation of my method at

    So, to answer your questions –

    1. I don’t believe in deadlines. I think one should let the material organically grow until it is ready. Successful writing days often see 5-10k words produced, or more. If I want to finish a project, I simply devote more time to restructuring and rewriting.

    2. I don’t get stuck or feel stagnated. If I’m wrong, I seek more info or do more experiments. If my brain is fried because I already wrote 10k+ words, I sleep on it. If complexity overwhelms, I modularize drafts into an outline structure via WordPress pages hierarchy, or write a new stream of consciousness draft describing the problems, or use BrainStorm to break down the concepts into a detailed outline. Generally speaking, I just slash the size of the cognitive hurdle until it becomes trivial. Procedural “busywork” steps are excellent for getting the mind moving forward again in these situations.

  12. I just started writing. The goal is to post an article that’s valuable for at least 10 years from publishing. I’m new to this (still working the 9-5), but this is how I find balance.

    In the morning I wake up before my family (I have a wife and two kids) gets up, brew a pot of coffee, and go outside. I grab a laptop/notepad and just make a list of things I want to talk about. I’ll put everything out there, you might not see a period for a page, just get everything out on paper. And I’ll let that marinate for the day (have to work), taking notes. At night, I try to make a sub-list of the list I did earlier and sleep on it. Always sleep on it. The next morning I know exactly what and how to do it.

    Being able to smile while you close your laptop at the end of the day defines success in my book.

    Best things to get me motivated/inspired:

    – Walk away and run, the longer the better

    – Get an opinion from a close friend/spouse

    – Watch the sunset or sunrise, quite reinvigorating

    My time is short so I have to make the best of it.

  13. Great that you reached out to him, and that he answered. Not often we get an insight into such prolific experienced authors (although you’re becoming one of those now!)

    I write best in the morning, too: I need to do it before I get distracted with other things, and I try and chunk it into distinct pieces of work. 1 blog post, 1 chapter, or whatever it may be.

    Just voted for the shorty awards. Good luck!

  14. When I feel stuck, I like to go for a walk. Observing the environment I’m in always gives me ideas. Just in case, bring a notepad and pen to jot down your epiphany.

  15. Listening to Paulo’s podcast made me laugh, and I wanted to add a couple of things:

    I was surprised to hear the first thing he said was “I don’t use deadlines!” I thought that would be the line that everyone dismissed me for.

    I also enjoy morning procrastination, except I don’t think of it as such. There’s no guilt associated. I’ll scan my email and RSS – not to actually DO anything, but just to generate actionables and take notes on things of interest. This gets me writing immediately – small driblets of typing. It gradually transitions into full blown composition. In fact, that’s exactly what happened this morning (I’m in a different time zone) and led to the writing of the above essay.

    My favorite breakfast is either nothing or cold lean meat leftover from the night before.

    I smoke heavily while writing, handrolled cigarettes. Tea or other stimulants are unnecessary. I listen to Pandora electronica.

    “It’s a decision from the book rather than from the writer” – I agree. There’s a perfect form waiting to be uncovered. Like Howard Roark did his architecture. Or at least an algorithmic local maxima.

  16. My 2 Cents – I love the Alchemist! I thought it demonstrated the most profound spiritual insights ever. Paulo Coelho found a way to empty himself from the many distractions of the world, and sharpened the tools (Insert the medium of your choice here) that allowed him to express himself in all his glory. We should all strive to empty ourselves, and sharpen the tools we have with laser focus, daily, so we can all be the best we can be, and hopefully inspire and help others along the way. Just like Paulo and Tim! Yes, i’m throwing my XBOX controller in the garbage as soon as this is posted. =) ps. did anyone else find that Paolo sounds just like Tony Montana? lol

  17. Talk about weird timing… I’ve just started my first novel. (Although I don’t like to call it that yet! I’m only a few pages in.)

    I’m actually having an inner debate on whether to write organically or create an outline. So far, I’ve been writing organically and have had wonderful, wonderful results. I never fully understood when writers said that symbolism isn’t consciously integrated and that it’s much more subconscious. Now I get it! And what a feeling…

    I think fear is what is driving me to consider an outline. I constantly have the fear of not having the next part to write, of not feeling creative and being stuck. So far I haven’t gotten there, but I feel like it waits on every next step! An outline would be an escape from that fear. But the question is: would it be as beneficial/as quality producing as organic writing? Obviously I’m trying to write the best novel I can. I think it might be valid that it would be better for me to confront that fear, deal with the gaps of writers-block, and create the environment (which, so far, is writing organically) that allows me to produce the best work.

    I think I would make an outline for non-fiction, but personally I don’t want to make an outline for this novel because I don’t think it would be creatively healthy for me to give in to this fear.

    Also, side note: “A great book can change a person’s life. A mediocre book is just commerce.” – David Shenk

  18. I am most invigorated by a general consensus that is wrong. I love being a contrarian, because I feel I am making a meaningful contribution to the marketplace of ideas. But it’s really deeper than that. When you see a popular consensus forming that you feel is misguided, it keeps bugging you, and even if you don’t really want to write about it, you feel pulled back to the topic until you have published.

  19. Hey Tim,

    I’m currently taking a (required) course that involves writing and was wondering: do you have any tips to turn off the pseudo-OCD switch that causes constant editing and re-editing? Do you have such a switch, or am I just going insane?

    It’s killing productivity and output!


  20. First thing: protein shake (thanks for that idea, Tim!)

    Days off: none (when in writing phase)

    “Successful” writing day: either 3,000 new words if I’m drafting or a breakthrough in understanding if I’m editing. I like John Robinson said – when I realise something that I did not know before about the book. Those breakthroughs are important and invigorating.

    2-3 things you personally find most invigorating or helpful when you’re stuck or feel stagnated with writing/ideas?

    – Walks

    – going back to the big picture and looking for structure: what is the writing trying to tell me? I use a huge white board for this – but paper works just as well.

    Do you have a team of any type (researchers, etc.) who help you?

    Hahahaha! No. The only people who help me are my readers, my friends and the people who go “Wow, that must be really interesting!” when I tell them what I do at parties.

  21. I tend to be a really late working when cranking stuff out like writing or blog posts. I think I want to switch to early but it’s tough because I have to work with friends from the US while I’m in Germany. I think I’ll be coming back to this post a bunch though. Great stuff.

    Anyone know good books for writing specifically for blogging? Something that helps with getting conversations started? Tim have you ever tracked which blogposts you made attracted the most people who hadn’t heard of your books (might be hard to measure I guess haha) and kept them back?

  22. Good suggestion to read bird by bird. Have been wanting to read The Alchemist for some time now, heard its one of those perspective changer books. Good advice and things to think about

  23. Everyday I am inspired by the words of Paulo Coelho and more recently by the strategies of Tim Ferris… together that make powerful sense.

  24. – 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?

    Directly after writing a dissertation, I co-wrote a book for Oxford Press, called Engineering the Next Revolution in Neuroscience (due out this year). The first thing that I do in the morning when writing, always, is make coffee. I only drink coffee when I do intellectual work, so it remains a distinctive reward. I make my own, so that I can transition quickly from sleep to work. Then, I start writing (no food until after the first burst of writing). Generally, I have a morning phase for writing. Then, I eat lunch at a restaurant with my wife and chat her up. After that, I take research material to some place outside of home. It’s very important for me to get out of my home for the rest of the day, so that the work doesn’t feel stale. I like to work in a public place, because it’s nice to see people (but not in a place where I am familiar with the people I see, otherwise no work will get done).

    For about two hours after lunch, I read and take notes concerning a particular question that needs to be answered for the book. Then, I do a second writing session. I may stop when I’ve hit a goal for the day, or continue if I feel like I have momentum. If I’m feeling strong, I’ll continue to write after dinner.

    When there’s a deadline, I do not take days off. It’s very important to me to get to the state where I can ‘hold the whole manuscript in my head’. Taking days off can disrupt that memory state… I tend to think of the process of writing as answering questions. The resulting manuscript is my answer to the questions that motivated the writing process in the first place. A day of writing is successful when I’ve answered a question clearly, on the page.

    – 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?

    When I’m stuck, I break the routine above and I change environments. Being stuck usually is the result of reduced motivation. I want to want to write, but I don’t want to write. To get my first-order wants aligned with my second-order wants, I have to make some sub-cortical concession. For example, I wrote two chapters of my book by hand in Joshua Tree while camping solo. I had a stack of about 20 big books and a huge bundle of papers piled on a picnic table. The campsites, at least at Jumbo Rocks, have boulders all around them, so you can climb up to a perch and sit and write for a while, then come down and read for a while.

    Camping got me outside, put me in a novel context, and freed me from electronic distractions (you can’t get a wireless signal from inside the park). I felt like I was doing something different, though I was really doing the same thing in a different way… I had co-authors, which built in a bit of research support. I was in charge of all new draft writing. When I completed a draft, I would pass the manuscript over to a co-author who would inject his expertise into the draft.

  25. For informative pieces of writing where I try to teach something and therefore have to research: I try to move that kind of writing to a level where it is not a decision anymore, but simply a thing I do. Like the five daily prayers, you don’t make a decision 5 times a day … you don’t give yourself that choice, you decide once and then get on with it.

    So, my way for now is to get to open the page at any time in the day, read a few sentences already written and change if necessary (which is always) and to add a few sentences. A sentence a day is still progress.

    For fun and opinionated pieces of writing: The ideas usually form over time and so does the piece. While watching a video or reading a book, I stop and reflect on the thought and take notes or just highlight that part. Later, I combine the notes and structure them. There is no time pressure with these.

    When stuck, I like to re-read the stuff I’ve already written and delete as much as possible. Deleting stuff gives me a lot of pleasure and teaches me things !!

    I also like to read random well written stuff, mostly short articles, to get me motivated. Zinsser’s writings are usually a treat.

  26. I break down the task into the smallest possible amount and then set myself that amount to do per day.

    E.g If I have to write a 5000 word piece, I decide to write 100 words a day.

    Now you might think that means it would take 50 days to finish that task. But actually because the daily amount required is so small, it takes the pressure off me. I end up writing much more than the minimum, and finish writing tasks quicker than I had originally planned.

  27. Really cool to have something more in-depth about Paulo.

    I remember you mentioning him and his approach to writing when you talked appeared on I Love Marketing and Steve Harrison’s podcast.

    Though I tend to stick to marketing books, I strongly recommend that everyone check the Alchemist.

  28. Tim:

    The most effective thing I know of is a simple tomato timer. My tweaked version of the pomodoro technique is to repeatedly set the timer for 1 hour periods. My rule is that when the timer is set, I’m “in the zone” and I will not allow in any distractions. So far, the highest number of consecutive hours I’ve done is 5.

    I keep track of how many zone hours I spend each day (I note it on my calendar each day). It’s a valuable metric that shows me how hard I’m really working.

    As some note, “there’s an app for that.” Yes, I know. But as Derek Sivers points out, the faint ticking noise of the timer enhances focus. I’ve found that to be absolutely true. So if you’re going to try this, go tomato!

    Great post.


  29. First thing I do in the morning when I have a deadline is the most important thing I have to do for the entire day.

    Don’t turn on my email, don’t get onto twitter, etc. Do that task until it is done.

    Then I will check my email once…and close it back out and go do number two on that task list!

    Refresh and re do until the deadline tasks are all complete!

  30. The most beautiful part of this is whe Paulo talk about writing as ‘sitting and facing himself’. Maybe that’s why so many people who can write don’t. It take a huge amount of courage to sit and face yourself, to really look deep into yourself and open yourself up to the world.

    Thanks for sharing Tim.


  31. The deadline diet:

    1. I go up at 5am, have an espresso, do half primary ashtanga, have breakfast.

    2. Read what I wrote the day before, make edit notes, write new material, do this for 2 hours and take a break.

    3. Break will be for snack and a walk or an inspiration hit or all three!

    4. Print out, edit and continue writing for another two hours.

    5. Have lunch, if I have made enough progress and the quality is good that’ll be me for the day, if not I will go for a long walking meditation in nature for clearing my cortex.

    6. I dont socialize during deadlines, and I don’t get distracted by emails etc until the writing is done for the day.

    7. I will make good food for the next day and retire at 9pm.

    8. I take one day off a week to decompress, usually a Saturday.

    Stuck and uninspired?

    1. Take a hot bath, or go for a swim.

    2. Go for a walk in nature and do Shinzen Young’s Focus Out meditation, or do some intervals and hills on my road bike (basically a serious ‘state’ change, either one).

    3. Sing and play guitar, something like ‘High and Dry’… 🙂


  32. If at all possible, I avoid deadlines. Small deadlines and perceived time limits is one of the largest sources of stress we experience. I believe it was in a documentary with Robert Sapolski where they talked about the impact that the perceived lack of time has on health.

    This follows closely with rank in an organization. They found a pretty tight correlation between organizational rank and stress. Essentially the more people you command, the healthier you are. Those at the bottom have high numbers of small deadlines, which are often perceived as more critical than they are. Those at the top have more broad goals often without hard deadlines.

    The deadline itself can force you to get things done, but it often leads to procrastination as well. You use procrastination to temporarily alleviate the stress, only to make it worse.

    Most days I work on one thing and I quit by 2:00. Any more than that and quality drops.

  33. Tim

    Thanks for this. Paulo is one of my favorite writers. It is reassuring to hear that others have the same conversations with them selves at I do. We are all human and sometimes I look to writers such as Paulo and think that its just easy for them. But as he said in the audio he suffers with himself just as I do.

    Someone mentioned Bird by Bird. Which I think is a must read for anybody that is trying to achieve something. Weather its athletics or writing or painting.

    I love the analogy of going into the tank. I wonder if this is one of the secrets that many of us forget. Going in and leaving the tank are great lessons too.

    Thanks very much for sharing Tim

  34. 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?

    I e-pub a new 40-50K word romance novel every 2 months or so. I’m always on deadline and I have a full-time job besides. I bang out 1500 -2000 words a day and worry what it reads like later. I write when ever and where ever I can. I never take days off. Weekends I shoot for 3000 words a day. By July, I will be making enough on Amazon that I can quit the day job, that is all the motivation I need right now. A successful day is when the words and the images in my head make it full blown on to the screen.

    – 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?

    This goes one of two ways, I either get on the treadmill and race walk to Green Day or similar or I take a nap. I do dearly love a good power nap! A team of researchers -LOL!!! isn’t that what the Google is for?

  35. Biggest unblocking technique: An “Artist’s Date” a la Julia Cameron.

    I don’t measure how many words/day, simply that I worked on writing for at least 4 hours in the first half of the day.

    When I’m really stuck, I take my Artist on a date to something she hasn’t seen/experienced before. Last week I went to a little Natural History museum I’d overlooked for many years. There I communed with African sculptures and weavings, Maori carvings, 18th c. architecture and an exhibit all about the rings of Saturn. Terrific and refreshing.

    Yes, I have had publishing deadlines and much of everything else got put aside to meet them. However, it is temporary and the rest of life is there for you to reaccess afterward.

  36. Great insight Tim in to how writers make the magic happen.

    Anyone who has to put out a blog post can learn a ton from both of you and hopefully side step the pitfalls. Love these type of post please keep doing them.



  37. This post couldn’t have arrived in my inbox at a better time. Thank you so much for sending it out today of all days. As I am agonizing over the writing of my next book on parenting strategies of genius, I am relieved to hear that best-selling authors are tortured a good amount of the time too. Tim – I particularly relate to the “success is two pages of shitty drafts” comment. I think there is a ratio to writing: 20% writing and 80% editing. I’m always wondering what it would take to invert that ratio.

    When I finally get done with a book project, it’s like turning in a term paper: I never want to look at it again. The only thing that makes the hard work worthwhile is getting feedback from readers that the book changed their life in some meaningful way. That’s what gets me to sit down to write at all. It’s my main motivation strategy and I think about that when writing is the LAST thing I feel like doing.

    I really enjoy the other comments from writers on their writing strategies. Maybe that should be the subject of my next book on genius….. Thanks again!

  38. Paulo (and you) are amazing! 8 million fans is incredible and I’m certain he will be much closer after this post goes viral!

  39. paulo rocks. thanks for sharing. 🙂

    “It’s very easy to decide something, ya know? But to put into practice is quite complicated. However, this always happens to me– When a book is ready to be written, the book there, I only have to type it out.”

  40. Tim, thanks for sharing. You definitively deserved The Shorty Award! 🙂

    Paulo, thanks for your insights. I found them very very inspiring…

    Tim and Paulo, my mother tongue is Italian and I am writing a book in English.

    If you think writing a book is hard, think again. Writing a book in a foreign language is excruciating HARD.

    I was wondering if ether one of you would have any advice on challenge of writing in a language different than your own.



    Grazie mille!


    P.S. Paulo, I did not know you were UNESCO special counsellor for “Intercultural Dialogues and Spiritual Convergences”. My book is on the topic of Intercultural Intelligence. I’ll make sure you receive a copy. Tim, yours is already booked! 🙂

    1. Interesting.

      Most of my writing is done mainly in English. Partly because I lived abroad for a good part of my life. I also believe it helps me to take some distance from my past and it is easier to deal with it that way. Being more objective may be or trying :).

      Thank you.


  41. Paulo say something at the end to the effect of, writing is to express your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and soul; it’s to show your heart and soul and to tell your friends and readers that they’re not alone.This is exactly how I first started writing; it was an outlet for myself.

    I’ve spent the last month traveling, writing and reflecting on life. I haven’t had many deadlines, other than the personal commitment to write every 1-3 days during my travels. Typically, I’d write when ever feelings or thought began to boil to the surface. Sometimes it would begin with one thought or idea and then turn into several pages.

    As for inspiration, I tend to rely on my adventures, thoughts, and problems in life that I find challenging. I write only for myself, but I publish it, or post it in the hopes that someone else, too, can relate.

    – Jason

  42. I write daily for my own website.

    I wake up and open up a notepad file that is saved on my desktop. In it, there are ten headlines for new articles that I want to publish that day. This is around 8:30 AM.

    By 9AM I have published an article. By noon I have published all ten of them.

    After that I take a break, then get my ten headlines ready for the next day.

    This formula took me to over $2,000/month in income, after which I promptly sold out for $200,000 to an unsolicited buyer.

    I am now repeating the process. It’s not exactly a four hour work week but it beats a day job. Writing for 3 hours each day while sipping coffee is easy. Cranking out the words can be tough. If you have a daily quota and force yourself to abide by it then it becomes a habit very quickly. After a while it becomes fun, the writing is more inventive, fresh ideas are flowing, and you realize that you can, in fact, create at will. But, you have to force yourself to get to that point. It is a muscle that is built over time. Don’t complain that you cannot be creative on demand. That is a worthless excuse. Make your fingers tap the keys, NOW. That is the secret to successful writing. Produce something, then improve on it. Learn as you go. Build as you go. Writing is a process.

    My total writing hours per week is 20. Total words published is over 2 million per year. I no longer play games or waste time with distractions while doing this work. I bust it out in 3 hours flat and then get on with my day.

    The ritual has power, and is a gift. Have a daily quota and meet it without fail. Your work will evolve as you master this.

    It’s fun!

  43. Thanks for this post. Wow! Paulo Coelho! The Alchemist is one of the books that gets re-read every year. He’s amazing.

    First thing every morning is writing and coffee. I set a minimum 250 word limit or one hour of sitting there. Whichever comes first. Why such a small word count? Because it’s EASY to reach and once I get to 250 words, the ideas are flowing and the writing comes out. (2,000 word goals can be intimidating. Give yourself a sprint.) Once in the flow, the writing can come for hours. Long walks, stretches, and crunches during a mid-day break releases the mind and gets blood flowing.

    Success equals one draft of new material. Or, if working on a larger project, a draft of the next chapter.

    When stagnant, I paint. With acrylics on canvas. I’m not a painter…not good at it, but I like to do it. Because I don’t think of myself as a painter, I have no expectations of what the outcome of painting will be (no “perfectionist” thoughts). But playing with colors, shapes, and the feeling of painting always stirs up new writing ideas. And always…rereading The Artists Way.

  44. Loved the story on Alchemist’s 900-copy run in Brazil. Gives hope to writers like me that have published 15 books (just sent the 16th to my publisher) that haven’t sold millions–YET!!!

  45. I’ve chosen the second question block…

    Yes, I have one researcher. They are crucial for bubbling new thoughts to the surface. When combined with my own research this gives me enough material to be creative with. Not enough raw material? I go into a writers block / no self motivation death spiral.

    tl;dr… Have enough raw material before writing.

    What do I do when stuck / stagnated? This is going to sound stupid, but I literally sit at my computer. Reddit is my mistress and within half an hour I will feel so guilty (i.e. my self-motivation will be back) / will have seen and read so much weird shit (the creative fog of war will have lifted slightly) that I will finally start banging some words out again.

    tl;dr… Reddit is my bitch.

    Oh and marijuana. Let’s just be honest here. A toke helps illuminate new paths to send the creative energy. A fantastic way to end the writers block. NOTE: I never write high. I get WAY to self critical for some reason. High time is meant for exploring the mind to unlock the writers block, not for actually writing.

    tl;dr… Smoke a bowl.

  46. Ive gotten in the habit of setting my own deadlines since I realized that I can double or triple my output and usually increase quality at the same time by forcing myself to complete a task everyday or every other day. I like to start every morning with intense exercise or by walking outside. I will usually walk until I feel like I have so many good ideas running through my head that I have to get home and start writing. Walking also helps to get me going after I hit the midday writers block. I personally like to write on an empty stomach or after fasting for some time and drinking lots of water or green tea helps as well. If I am really struggling, I will revisit my goals to help me get in the right mindset. Times like these make it necessary to outline the writing project I am working on or I will get easily distracted and go off on tangents that don’t reflect my normal writing style. A day becomes successful once I get at least one idea clearly expressed on paper. Many more typically follow after.

  47. I use different styles of music as inspiration. If I’m writing something dark, I prefer Evanescense, maybe Metallica. Something historical, I’m listening to Chopin, Bach, maybe Beethoven. Oddly, I will awaken in the middle of the night with an idea, perhaps a dream, of how to solve a half-baked story arc, and then I write it. Morning routines vary too widely for me to live predictably.

  48. I have right now, unfortunately, a very scheduled day job that lasts into the evenings. As a result, I do most of my writing on the weekends, especially really late at night on Fridays. However, I also love working out side. I live in the Midwest so in the summer/fall months I spend a lot of time out doors. There are two restaurants that I love to go to, sit on their outdoor patio with my laptop and work. I usually have a chai tea or a glass of red wine. Here is my ever so slightly embarrassing secret… I love to listen to an album (Back to Basics) by Christina Aguilera, on repeat. I don’t know what it is, but I get SO much work done!

    Thanks for your post Tim, this was really interesting stuff. I don’t have much creative power at my current job so the little blog I have is my way of keeping my writing muscles worked out =) This was great advice!

  49. Just read both “The Alchemist” and “Aleph,” so now I know Paulo Coelho intimately. (Joking!) I do, however, know where J.K. Rowling got her idea for the first Harry Potter story, The Sorcerer’s Stone, which, according to the Internet, was first published as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” Rowling must have read “The Alchemist,” and also borrowed Coelho’s Elixer of Life (which keeps the alchemist from growing old, and kept Nicholas Flemel in Harry Potter from growing old.) Just wondered if anyone else noticed that.

    I also watched Paulo Coelho’s videos on his website before they appeared here. Thank you for including them. It gives we beginners or writer-wanna-bes such hope. It’s comforting to know that successful writers have their own eccentricities.

    Tim’s Q:

    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?

    First thing: meditate, eat and read some great writing for inspiration, then write as many pages as I can.

    Schedule: Work until I loose focus and my back, neck and hands cramp up. Then go to gym and do a class or swim, steam, cold plunge. Eat. Return to desk or sofa with laptop and continue writing until my brain freezes.Thaw it out with Cabernet. Make supper. Watch movie. Socialize. Go back and re-read and edit and maybe write alittle more. Go to bed and awaken in the middle of the night with story ideas. Take notes.

    No days off.

    Getting anything on the page is a success, even if I dump it all later, because it usually leads to something that works better.

    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?

    Invigorating: Get physical!! I gotta move my bod. Must leave the “writing space” and get outside, change focus, forget about the project, walk around, interact with people. Ideas germinate when left alone. Ideas expand when exiting your comfort zone, and learning something new, or reading something you never read before.

    I am a team of one and enlist my beloved and a friend to read my stuff and offer feedback, which they are not very good at, even when I tell them to be brutal.

  50. When I wake up and have a big deadline, I tend to make a list on paper of what I need to get done by what time. Give yourself short milestones.

    I usually don’t take days off as I’ve found it MUCH better to front-load everything necessary and due, then have the time after to either:

    a.) Work harder and get ahead on things down the road


    b.) Take some time to work on personal goals without a lingering deadline in the back of my mind.

    Thanks for this post, I’ve been looking forward to it. Great insight.


  51. This is so helpful. Even Paolo Coelho procrastinates. Thanks for the initiative and for sharing. I loved Don Murray’s and Steven King’s books on the craft of writing. “A writer is a producer of words”.

  52. For the second question: two of the best pieces of writing advice that actually stick with me, and help me on the daily are from one Tim Ferriss, and one Natasha.

    Tim: “Write two shitty pages, every day, no exceptions.”

    Natasha: “Draw a detailed picture of your dream [book]. Unicorns are acceptable.”

    In combination, these two pieces of advice are pretty killer.

    A stoic Do the Work attitude + the permission to roll around in your right-brained, CareBear dreamscape has gotten me pretty far.

    But it could just be the yerba mate.

    That’s also the answer to question #1.

  53. Great post Tim, it couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I have been struggling to write lately. I think this post will motivate me for at least a few weeks hahaha. 🙂

  54. Awesome, this article was published at the perfect time for me. I’ve been wanting to enhance my writing and dig up some new resources.

    Thanks for this!

  55. I’m a slow starter in the morning. I get to the office between noon and 4pm, settle in, and break out the tea I brewed before leaving the office the night before (type varies). Then I cue up my inital-get-in-the-headspace song, Moby’s “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters” and get to work. There’s no internet at the office, and the only books or movies there are books on writing or research for a current project. That room is for doing one thing and one thing only: writing!

    What determines “success” depends on what I’m working on and just how dead the deadline is:

    -Comics are my main bread-and-butter. I consider script for 10 comic pages on a full office day and 5 on a partial one “success,” though deadlines can sometimes be very abrupt (I had 1 day to write my first DC story), so I sometimes have to push all the way to 22 pages (a full issue).

    -For screenplays, same thing 10/5 pages.

    -For prose, 500-2000 words depending whether fiction or nonfiction. Usually less for nonfiction because research tends to slow down the process.

    When stalled, a 30-minute nap seems to have the best effect; though jumping jacks or a brisk walk around the building/block–basically anything that gets the blood flowing; a no-carb/sugars meal/snack; or switching to a different writing project all seem to have the same effect: they let my subconscious dismantle the problem while my attention’s elsewhere.

  56. Writing is “manual labor of the mind” … I wish I remembered which writer had said it (sorry, I don’t) and I wish I had heard it before writing a book. My book got published by a major publisher, and was successful for its genre (business books) but boy – if I’d only known that writing is not like sitting in a cafe in Paris with deep insights flowing effortlessly in beautiful sentences from your brain to paper!

    Two things helped:

    – my publisher’s deadline: procrastination was not an option

    – a technique I heard credited to Hemingway: before ending the day, write the beginning of what you’ll write next. That way, when you sit down the next day, you’re not staring at an empty sheet of paper. It really was much easier to get going every morning and get into the flow (such as it was.)

    Good luck with finishing your manuscript, Tim! Alles mit Mass und Ziel probably doesn’t apply as a guideline for your next weeks. (Well, the Ziel part does. But you’re out of luck on Mass)

  57. Loved your post, as a brazilian, I don’t like Paulo Coelho’s books, but we can’t denny that the guy knows how to,sell books.

    I always wanted to know how he writesmthat much.

    Thanks for sharing,

  58. I write explanations for the LSAT. This method has worked well for me, but it’s a special kind of writing: I have to write a short (150-250 word) explanation for each of the 100 questions on an LSAT test.

    Careful thought it required, the questions are hard and I have to make it easy for people to understand them. But the writing demands little creativity; each question is separate, and concepts repeat.

    So this is most applicable to anyone who has to write technical or repetitive work. I was most productive during a month I spent in Cuba – they have no internet.

    I used the pomodoro technique. You work for 25 minutes, and take a five minute break. You take a longer break every four cycles.

    7:00 wake up, drink water, go to computer, start writing for 25 minutes. Take a five minute break afterwards. (One pomodoro)

    During the break, I did exercise: crab walk, pushups, body weight work. Moving keeps you energetic when you go back to write. During later breaks, you can alternate exercise with reading in the sun.

    You do four of these 30 minute cycles. Around 9:00, I would go shower, and go downstairs to have coffee with the owner of the house.

    10:00-12:00 Four more pomodoro cycles.

    Around 12:00, I would have lunch, and then do four more pomodoro cycles.

    (I write fasted until lunch. You don’t get hungry once you get used to it. Try it)

    Around 2:30, I would go for a walk along the beach or into town.

    3:30-6:00, four more pomodoros then eat supper and a relaxing evening.

    Due to the nature of my writing, I could measure success in how much was written. Using this method I wrote about 30-50% more each day, while keeping quality high.

    I was most effective if I kept up this cycle for 9-10 days, then took 2-3 days completely off and did fun things.

    Focus is powerful. I find if I have to do any errands during a day, it’s twice as hard to get any real writing done.

    Hope that’s useful, to anyone who has to write something similar. Send me an email if you want to know more.

    p.s. I write standing, which helps keep me energetic through the day.

  59. [Q: When on deadline, what is the first thing you do in the morning?]

    A: I have an interesting tendency to think deeply on meaningful topics in the evening, especially as I’m having my pre-bed snack, brushing my teeth, and getting into bed. It’s in this process that I can usually put my crosshair on whatever issue needs resolution. When I wake up in the morning, I can usually recall the issue, whether I’ve taken notes or not. If I haven’t yet determined my “play”, that’s generally where my thoughts are in the morning. My physical actions vary. Sometimes I lie in bed thinking for an hour, sometimes I lie in bed reading, sometimes I eat immediately, sometimes I go for a walk, sometimes I go right to my computer. My physical action is generally in relationship to the state of my thoughts, however I have no firm system.

    [Q: What does your daily schedule look like?]

    A: Because I have a tendency to do things in short intense bursts, if I’m writing, I’m writing. I am not engaged in social activities or recreation. If I am at a complete block, which hasn’t occurred often, I may widen the scope of my activities, but a part of my brain is still engaged in exploring my writing task. I’ve read that our brain has natural mechanisms to resolve anomalous perceptions long after the original perception took place. I’ve read that this mechanism is active even, or perhaps even especially, while we sleep. That’s why I never feel unproductive while napping during the day or sleeping for extended periods. My background processes are still running, thx. Once I’ve done a satisfactory amount of writing for the day, or I’ve “published” some piece, that’s when I allow myself to completely rest, relax, or partake in recreation. Most of my best writing is done in the evening. I usually use the daytime for research.

    [Q: Do you take any days off, and what determines if you’ve had a “successful” writing day?]

    A: I don’t have a clearly defined system for taking days off while on a deadline. Mostly I just listen to, or poll the state of my brain and body. If my eyes are heavy, if my attention span is limited, if there’s no “flow”, my first play is to go for a walk/run or to take a nap, sometimes both. If the rejuvenation is insufficient, I will usually seek out the company or companionship of a friend, not necessarily discussing my writing topic. Again, my brain’s background processes are still churning.

    I have had very few mediocre writing days. I think that’s a pretty consistent pattern across my performance in multiple arenas. I am either having a very good day, in which I am writing both in volume and in quality, or I am having a very bad day, in which I am really not writing much at all. I’ve heard the wisdom that showing up and putting in the effort on the bad days is what makes one exceptional in the long run. I’ve shown up and worked hard on days where there was little joy and it felt like a grind, but if it’s just a flat out “bad” day, that’s when I would usually invoke the day off.

    A successful day is a day in which I carried my thread, or threads, forward in the direction intended. That doesn’t mean they have been perfectly crafted, because no first draft is. It just means that I made progress toward my goal, whether that goal is explicitly or vaguely defined. I would even go so far as to classify a day in which I thoughtfully explored a tangent as successful, so long as it doesn’t impede me from finishing my defined project on time.

    [Q: What are the 2-3 things you personally find most invigorating or helpful when you’re stuck or feel stagnated with writing/ideas?]


    1) A new environment. That could mean using a new pen or text editor, re-arranging the furniture in your room, writing on the subway, writing in someone else’s environment; or it could mean actually moving or traveling to a different city/country/cultural environment. The latter would be the most invigorating, but it’s also the most expensive.

    2) Forget about writing for a while. “Writing” is just a communication medium. That is, you are communicating some thought or idea via symbols for some other consciousness to interpret and comprehend. If you have no thoughts or ideas to communicate, then it doesn’t matter how savvy you are with the symbols. Go do something interesting. Then you’ll have something to write about.

    3) Having a good, free-flowing conversation with an intelligent human being with no end in mind.

    [Q: Do you have a team of any type (researchers, etc.) who help you?]

    A: I do not have an explicit team or researchers, but because I publish thoughtful, relevant content, I can certainly get feedback from those who find my work interesting. I have consciously sought out the company of those who know more than me in some given field. That way, when they publish something, I can read, digest, and integrate their work into my own. I can also get their feedback if they feel what I have published doesn’t work cohesively in their framework or understanding of their own field. I have always been drawn to the idea of creating content that deftly mixes ideas from multiple disciplines.

  60. WOW!

    I am soooo looking forward to this new T. Ferris book.

    When two great minds, like Tim’s willingness to get the best results with the least effort (or better to say with the most concentrated, 110% efficient, goal oriented manner) & Paulo’s way to talk & share a soul, meet…. the result HAS TO BE….. a Supernova!

    Great to see such strengths meet & collaborate… I think this is what this “new Earth” should be all about…

    With Love, Joy & Consciousness,


  61. This is just want I needed! Not only is the article (and your answers so useful, the interview is great – Paul’s answers are GREAT. Additionally, having his interview as a podcast > so that we can connect with his voice and his personality are GENIUS. I typically like reading, but to be honest, I LOVED hearing him. And then as I got to the comments, the commenters have GREAT comments and advice too. Thank you!

  62. Interesting that Mr. Coelho jumps on email first thing. It’s in direct opposition to what Tim advises: do something that moves one of your most important goals forward, something that might even be uncomfortable when you first sit down to work; don’t get distracted by email (much easier said than done). My “day” job is downtown in a major city; at lunch I take my laptop to a huge stone church nearby that was built in the early 1900s which is very quiet and peaceful, and this is where I write. The second I walk in, my mind begins to shift to my novel. Because I know I have very little time to get work done, I find I can focus very easily.

    Establishing this routine was hard at first; it was much more tempting to screw around during lunch – go shopping, snork around on the Internet – but, while I’m not a religious person, I found I loved escaping the noisy office and entering that quiet environment with its vaulted ceilings, the warm light coming through the tall stained glass windows, the candles flickering by the altar, the beautifully carved wooden pews, and the massive sense of space. Now I look forward to writing every day.


  63. I’m brazilian and think it’s a pity the way his work is seen around here. Most brazilians have a very serious problem when it comes to other brazilians being successful and known around the world. They don’t accept it well and tend to underestimate the work of people like Coelho.

  64. I am a biology major and I write practice essay exams questions, and essays. I’m not sure if this counts.

    First thing I do when I get up is work-out, light bodyweights, 30 pressups, 60 situps.

    my daily schedule is get up, go to cafe/common-room (I avoid the library) and write for 12 hours (9am-12pm). ideally. get back home, read, relax, study some languages and then work out again and then sleep.

    I take days of whenever I burnout, since my day is intense, this will happen often. I take the weekend off also.

    1.) Working out on a heavy bag and listening to my imaginary walk-in music to pump me up works ok.

    2.) I think defining goals really helps me. and making them small and manageable and process oriented helps (i will read 1 chapter and write a practice essay)

    3) Changing my environment + material, i.e. from a cafe to a train, train to a university library, from a university. Changing a textbook ro review article, review article to research paper. Introducing a novelty element helps like writing on a friends computer expaining what you wish to comunicate out loud ect (I can use my imagination)

    I work alone, or with friends

  65. When on deadline:

    What is the first thing you do in the morning?: I workout i find that i accomplice several things at once.

    What does your daily schedule look like?: two pages a day up to six pages, at first it two sentences on each page then 3 paragraphs then can i write a full page from that.

    a) write two sentences until i reach 200 pages or how ever long book is takes a month

    b) go back over and expand sentences to half a pageish take a month (i notice places where i need work on)

    c) go back again and write it out this is my first draft

    Do you take any days off?: Yes usually Friday/saterday/Sunday that way i must have X number of pages done. Unless I’m really far behind i dont touch those days.

    what determines if you’ve had a “successful” writing day?: How I feel IF i wrote two pages and it left me wanting to write more then it was a good day

  66. *sorry, too long, summarized:

    12 hours of writing with green tea in a cafe. success is 5 pages of notes.

    1.) heavy bag workout

    2.) defining goals

    3.) change environment + materials

  67. Tim, you are amazing. Sometimes I think I’ve already heard everything I could ever hear from you (4HRWW, 4HRBODY)… and this? Insane. INSANE! One of the most beloved writers in the world, and you got to interview him about his craft. My god. I will study this. THANK YOU!!!!

  68. Something that gets me going to get it done is to lay some money on the table. Right now I have just started with an internet marketer because I can write but I really suck at programming. He is charging me a monthly fee to get a book done and sold on the web. The longer I take to write the book, the more months he gets to charge. It really motivates me to write and get it done.

    If you don’t want a mentor or coach, just sign up for some subscription service. It could only cost a few dollars a month. But promise yourself that you don’t get to cancel the service until you finish writing your book/term paper/website/whatever. Make the service your home page so you are constantly reminded it is charging you for your procrastination. Maybe I am just a cheapskate but I find it will bug you enough to get it done.

  69. I love this post! Thanks so much. I’ve now written two books and with both I had very specific processes that helped me get the job done on time (both were written with insanely tight deadlines and lots of other pressing family/business obligations going on at the same time):

    In the morning, I make time for some kind of physical activity (preferably a run – gets the juices flowing best) and then I do Julia Cameron’s ‘morning pages’ process of writing, freehand, by hand (no computer), for three full pages. No format, no editing, just a big old brain dump. Sometimes it’s on topic, but mostly it’s just getting out the rants and mumble jumble that’s occupying my mind. I started this a couple of months before I had the idea for my first book, and I can’t write without it. It’s like housecleaning for your brain – gets rid of the messy clutter so your creativity comes through.

    When I get stuck, I move. Sometimes this is just moving physical space – from writing inside to outside or to a coffee shop. Or just to another desk/table in the house. Sometimes I need more physical movement and go for a run. It’s no accident that I’ve trained for and run a marathon at the same time as writing each book. Running gets my creative juices going. Absolutely the best cure for writer’s block.

    Thanks for your great books, blog and work! I love what you’re doing.

    – Margaret

  70. Tim,

    Outstanding post about Paulo and I will be checking out his Facebook page. Good grief, 8,000,000 fans! Thanks for what you do. I am an elite marathoner so appreciate the life you lead, how you value fitness and the lives you have changed by what you do. Just ordered the 4-hour work week…have to read it.

    Awesome post.


  71. Tim: Something just occurred to me…since you are both A) interested in the writing process and B) a manic tracker/logger of information about yourself, have you–and forgive me if you have already stated you’re doing this and I’ve just missed it–added your writing productivity to your tracking?

    I believe I read somewhere that, because you had kept such notes for so long about what you had eaten, what exercises you had done, and what shape you were in as a result–you could get back to whatever shape you wanted by using yourself as a model.

    Along the same lines, perhaps by logging your writing alongside everything else you could learn that X diet gives you the best results. Or perhaps Y physical shape. Z time of day. Whatever parameters worked. And perhaps different things work better for you depending on what you’re writing. “X Parameters work best for blog posts, Y Parameters for 4 Hour Chef.”

    Your follow-up to 4HC could be The Four-Hour Novel. 🙂

    Anyway, just a thought. Would be fascinated to hear if you are already tinkering with this tracking and if so, what results you have seen, or if your current config is what you have found thus far to be your best.

  72. Tim, I thought this was f**ing awesome, brutha. I ESPECIALLY liked the note on deadlifts and sprints, that was GREAT.

    His process seems simple and basic, systematized.

    He doesn’t complicate and writes from the heart.

    I think that is critical. He only writes what he is inspired about. His inspiration guides him and he doesn’t deny it.

    When I FIRST began writing and creating programs, I flopped a few times, and as I learned in time, when I denied my inspiration and true passion, and tried to conform, my end result was PURE sh*t.

    I NEVER deny who I truly am any more. The results are infinitely more powerful – what does “powerful” mean? It means I help MORE people change their lives.

    Thnx, my brutha!!

  73. Tim, I’m fans of Coelho. Whatever related to him, it could be something interesting for me. Besides, wanna discuss and documented all things about Coelho. Someday, i wanna write about him for Indonesian readers.

    Coz that reason, allow me to reposting it in my blog and share this article into my blog. But, dont worry, to avoid plagiarism, i will put resources (your web) as it resources.

    Before that all. Thanks alot.


    Zulfikar Akbar

  74. Paulo Coelho is really one of the best writer I’ve ever known. His book is fantastic and amazing. what I like most about Coelho’s book is that every time you open the first page you will see a verse quoted from the bible. If you really love writing then Paulo’s books are the best to read and get inspired.

  75. I jog, eat breakfast, listen to music and start writing. I make sure I take rests. I think it’s important to take days off when you can, because your ideas are fresher and you can write whenever you want to. If I don’t have any ideas or I’m stuck, I relax by taking naps, listen to music or do other things.

  76. Hi Tim,

    I have read more than 5 books of Paulo so this interview is really interesting to me. It was a great idea to ask these questions and share with us.

  77. Brilliant insights from Mr. Coelho, I love how he lets things flow and trusts inspiration while being persistent. Awesome interview! I loved listening to him, and how he answered in his own words. It adds depth to the post, great job!! I am inspired, thanks!

    PD I tried to vote for you in the Shorty awards, but it seems like the voting is closed. I ´ll try next time.

    Cheers, thanks man! Great job!

  78. Sorry if this isn’t the place to ask this question but I wasn’t sure where to post it. In “four hour body” on page 191, there is a French research study pertaining to females and protein consumption. I would love to explore the original studies if anyone knows where they can be found. Thanks in advance for anyone’s help. Best, -Brandon

  79. How Paolo writes? His Alchemist is too similar to one Hasidic story 200 years old (the same plot, different city). I am surprised that nobody founded yet…

  80. Hey Tim,

    On the post – Beautiful.

    I love the sound of Paulo’s voice – it reminds me a little of Michel Thomas from whom I started learning French. He has such a warm, friendly voice.

    Listening to Paulo speak and also reading what you write above is what I’d consider the best recipe for success. Clearly have in mind who you are talking to.

    I have written a few books – the one I am happiest with is one which I wrote for my son (whilst in hospital and frustrated about not being able to ‘do’ anything) – this is because I had very clearly in mind my audience (my son) who I knew intimately and wanted to please with the outcome.

    I’m hardly an expert but my guess would be if your audience is vague or more general then the focus of the book/writing could suffer.

    I also just recently finished reading your book – congratulations on a really amazing piece of work. It’s really outstanding – and you cite one of my favourite short stories/anecdotes (the fisherman) plus pretty much my favourite concept which I’ve been telling people for years (80/20 rule),

    I also learned from your book that I am already NR by your definition (I never knew!) – if a very modest one 😉

    take care and very best wishes for everything you do – awesome,


  81. Thanks for the great post Tim.

    May I add though, if I’m not mistaken Paulo is a fiction story writer. I’ve written both fiction and non-fiction and I can tell the process differs hugely in each. In fiction, you’re mainly creating a world that if created rightly is/ends up being unknown even to you, in non-fiction you’re communicating a message.

    I really like how he trusts the idea fully and does not let the noises (random irrelevant but seemingly brilliant random ideas) get in the way of a good story. That’s not easy.

  82. hmm.. can’t fake it. I almost always feel like writing, except when I don’t. yeah I know exactly how that sounds.. I blame the direction that my writing has taken and write about something else. Too chicken to take the blame myself. I need my ego bad to be able to put words on paper. But then I get really tired. If I have clocked over 20k in 1 week. I don’t write every day of the year. Once every 4-5 years, I write something serious. That’s probably how long it is to get inspired. To fill the cup so it overflows on to paper. You have to allow things to happen first – otherwise it is a bit like asking a Tibetan monk to write about Wall street. Zilch! Throwing up on an empty stomach.. you can make all the gurgling sounds you want, ain’t nothing gonna come out~~

  83. I find it interesting that a successful author goes through the same struggles as ordinary people. I always find it hard to balance removing the distraction and laptop isolation. Best advice I received, write that first crappy page, it will always be time later to rework it!

  84. I love being a writer but get stuck like everyone. The comment I wish to make is that I recently lost 10kg in 5 weeks using the Gary Taube diet which Tim Ferriss quotes and it was sooooo easy but I really pumped it up because I was taking MMS as well at the time for CFS. A friend had suggested it after using MMS for his Level 4 Cancer and getting a clear. Jim Humbles book on MMS is worth a read if you are sick or wish to stay well or clean the toxins from your body. Just thought Tim might like to research and experiment with it for weightloss and building a strong healthy body as he mentioned using CQ for a staph infection, this works faster and safer.

  85. I can´t believe it!!! I started to read your book a couple of months ago (4hour work week) and stopped reading it…but I made a list what I would like to do…writing. And so…I tried to get in touch with Paolo because he is one of my favorite writers…didn´t work ;-). I started to read your book again now and just wanted to check out your blog and what do I see? PAULO! I better read the interview now. Thanks! I am about to jump!

  86. Great post! Veronica Must die is another AWESOME book! It’s amazing how you got Paulo Coelho to do this article. Can you please write a post on how to get in touch with high profile people etc please, it will definately help me and others in my business.

  87. Great idea to reach out to Coelho… his writing has always inspired me and I look forward to diving into his tips for the creative process.

  88. “Writing anything remarkable can immortalize anyone”. -This is my own point of view of writing. Writers differ on time and place when and where they best write. The emotions and the outside environment of the writer greatly influence the outcome of his works. It is best for the writer to write in a place that soothes and attracts his senses and opens his mind, imagination, and eyes, and can transcend beyond reality.

    My personal example for such devotion is the great Philippine National Hero, Jose Rizal. He wrote a lot of articles, poems, essays, and novels that greatly depicted and showcased the reality of his time.

    Furthermore, being a writer also requires you to be a reader. By reading, you get different insights, aspects, and point of views that could possibly be a great contribution to your own piece. By that way, you are enabled to make a remarkable literary art, which could possible immortalize your name through space and time.

  89. Funny I came across this today as I just began writing my own book today. Im writing about helping local businesses develop an online marketing strategy, fingers crossed it will sell 1/4 as much as The Four Hour Work Week haha. Tim you are one cool dude.