Umberto Eco’s Advice to Aspiring Writers

Umber­to Eco, now 83 years old, has some advice to pass along to the young.

In March, the Ital­ian semi­oti­cian, philoso­pher, lit­er­ary crit­ic, and nov­el­ist — and, of course, author of Fou­cault’s Pen­du­lum — pub­lished How to Write a The­sisIt’s a wit­ty, irrev­er­ent and prac­ti­cal guide for the stu­dent labor­ing over a the­sis or dis­ser­ta­tion. Josh Jones has more on that here.

Now, in a new­ly-released video from The Louisiana Chan­nel (a media out­let based in Den­mark), Eco turns his atten­tion toward aspir­ing writ­ers. And his wise coun­sel comes down to this: Keep your ego in check, make sure your ambi­tions are real­is­tic, put in the time and the hard work, and don’t shoot for the Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture straight out of the gate. That, Eco says, kills every lit­er­ary career. He’ll also tell you that writ­ing is “10% inspi­ra­tion and 90% per­spi­ra­tion.” They’re tru­isms — you dis­cov­er when you’re an octo­ge­nar­i­an — that turn out to be true.

Find more tips for aspir­ing writ­ers below.

Dan Col­man is the founder/editor of Open Cul­ture. Fol­low us on Face­book, Twit­ter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and  share intel­li­gent media with your friends. Or bet­ter yet, sign up for our dai­ly email and get a dai­ly dose of Open Cul­ture in your inbox.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ernest Hem­ing­way Cre­ates a Read­ing List for a Young Writer, 1934

Ray Brad­bury Gives 12 Pieces of Writ­ing Advice to Young Authors (2001)

Toni Mor­ri­son Dis­pens­es Writ­ing Wis­dom in 1993 Paris Review Inter­view

John Steinbeck’s Six Tips for the Aspir­ing Writer and His Nobel Prize Speech

Stephen King Cre­ates a List of 96 Books for Aspir­ing Writ­ers to Read

Kurt Von­negut Gives Advice to Aspir­ing Writ­ers in a 1991 TV Inter­view

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.