11 Writers: Advice to the Young



What would some of the greatest writers of our time advise their younger peers? Find out here where Jonathan Franzen, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Richard Ford, Umberto Eco and seven others share their thoughts on how to make it as a writer.

“Have fun … if you’re having fun there’s a good chance that the reader will too,” is American Jonathan Franzen’s (b. 1959) most important piece of advice.

Swedish playwright Lars Norén (b. 1944) argues that writing isn’t about desire, but about necessity: “… the disappointments and the efforts are so tough that you must have an inner conviction that this is what you want.”

“Write, write, write and write again, and you will get it right.” Such is the key piece of advice from Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (b. 1938).

American Lydia Davis (b.1947) emphasizes how important it is accept that writing can be chaotic and to put effort into making the text flow: “You learn from models, you study them, you analyse them very closely … You pick it apart.”

Remember what excited you when you were at your most impressionable, says Icelandic Sjón (b. 1962), who also urges young writers not to be embarrassed by what initially inspired you: “All of us come to culture through trash.”

”Build a good name,” is American rock poet Patti Smith’s (b. 1946) powerful advice, which she herself was given by legendary writer and poet William S. Burroughs: ”If you build a good name, eventually that name will be its own currency.”

Italian Umberto Eco (b. 1932) advises aspiring writers not to take themselves too seriously, and to remember that: “You’re 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration.”

“If you’re not talented, you shouldn’t write.” Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany (b. 1957) puts it as simply as that. However, if you do have talent, you can only make a difference if writing is truly the most important thing in your life.

Norwegian Herbjørg Wassmo (b. 1942) is unambiguous in her advice to aspiring writers when she states that it quite simply takes hard work and persistence to achieve your goals: “Write, write, write!”

Becoming a writer isn’t something you should aspire to be, according to American Richard Ford (b. 1944). Making it as a writer is “a long shot,” but if you can’t talk yourself out of it, then maybe it really is your vocation.

Norwegian Kjell Askildsen (b. 1929) turns things around and argues that one simply shouldn’t take advice from anyone but rather listen to the books you love.

Interviews by Kim Skotte, Anette Dina Sørensen, Bjørn Bredal, Tonny Vorm, Marc-Christoph Wagner, Christian Lund and Kasper Bech Dyg.

For full length interviews see: http://channel.louisiana.dk/topics/literature

Produced by: Christian Lund
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

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