Writer Nguyen Truong: “Quietly learn new things, read more books, or try any means to accumulate knowledge, and then breakthroughs will come your way”

To comprehensively picture the famous Nguyen Truong, many literary critics describe him as a predestined writer. Nonetheless, his career doesn’t only limit to literary writing as he is also an important figure that bridges many meaningful messages with our everyday life via his influences in the media nationwide. Such influences prevailed during his time working as Editor-in-Chief for Thanh Nien Publishing House, and though now in retirement, Nguyen Truong continued his career path by representing Van Nghe Newspaper in Northern Vietnam alongside being a content advisor, Editor-in-Chief for our very own TheFace Vietnam website.

60 years old? That is merely a number. One can still sense in Nguyen Truong a positive vitality source through his seemingly young energy and sharpness in response to the progression of times. The young generation should view this as a valuable opportunity to learn about more “secrets” from those who made it in this media industry.

Working in publishing and journalism, not to mention leaving many long-lasting influences in the world of liberal arts, what do you find most gratifying after such a lifetime of dedication?

It is publishing and journalism that have been my most trusted companions on my path of writing. I was given many opportunities to travel to places and interact with numerous people and events. Regarding publishing, I have to browse thousands of publications every year, in addition to reading many other works that pique my interest. In return, my store of knowledge keeps building up daily. As a writer or a journalist, it is crucial to keep myself up to date with current affairs, which is the source of emotions in my works. If a writer stands outside the flow of life, no longer care for what is going on around him, he will become obsolete, unable to produce any work, let alone a good one.

Một Nguyễn Xuân Trường lúc còn trẻ so với tên tuổi nhà văn Nguyễn Trường ngày nay có gì giống và khác nhau?

Một Nguyễn Trường lúc còn trẻ so với Nguyễn Trường hiện nay cũng có nhiều khác biệt, hồi trẻ mình viết hồn nhiên, chưa được trang bị nhiều kiến thức trong trường lớp (Năm 36 tuổi tôi mới đi học Trường Viết văn Nguyễn Du), sau khi ra trường tôi về làm biên tập cho nhà xuất bản và đi lên từ vị trí biên tập viên. Chính quá trình đi lên, học hỏi, tích lũy kiến thức đã cho tôi bản lĩnh, viết kỹ càng hơn, sâu sắc hơn hồi tôi còn trẻ. Tuy vậy nó cũng mất đi chất hồn nhiên của người mới viết - lúc tâm hồn còn tươi rói. Tôi có truyện ngắn "Đêm chiến tranh" viết lúc tôi mới ba mươi tuổi, nay xếp cạnh những truyện tôi mới viết vừa đoạt giải, vẫn không lép vế, hóa ra tính hồn nhiên, trong trẻo của tuổi trẻ cũng có cái hay riêng.

Compared to the young Nguyen Xuan Truong, how is the current one similar and different from your point of view?

The young Nguyen Truong compared to himself now undoubtedly has many differences. In my early years of writing, my works were that of innocence with a lack of knowledge from schools (I didn’t attend Nguyen Du School of Writing until 36). After graduation, I worked as an editor for a publishing house and went my way up from there. On that way up, thanks to constantly learning, accumulating knowledge, I was given the will and strength to write more carefully and with greater depths than when I was young. However, it also came at the cost of the innocence every new writer has when their inspiration is still fresh. On the other hand, “Night of war”, a short story I published at the age of 30, even if placed alongside my recent award-winning works now, it still doesn’t get outshined. It turns out the innocence and freshness of youth are also a blessing on their own.

Looking back at your journey, have you reached any conclusion regarding some sets of principles for success? Can you share some of your experiences or milestones that led to such rules in life?

After so many years spent in writing, I realized that when composing, one should curb his impatience to be famous and instead, quietly learn new things, read more books, or try any means to accumulate knowledge. Proceed until your understanding reaches a point of profoundness, then you will recognize more of life philosophies and excellence will naturally come your way. “Good wine needs no bush”, no need to rush, if your works are beautifully written, they are sure to be accepted by society. Never have I witnessed an incompetent writer turned popular suddenly thanks to advertising.

Speaking of milestones, I have quite a few. When I was in my twenties, I wrote very simple-heartedly, and by the time of my thirties, I produced several short stories that caught readers’ attention, namely my novels "The Emperor's Dream" and "More than Love." After graduating from Nguyen Du School of Writing, although with the knowledge and methods of composing at my disposal, not to mention chances to exchange work with several great artists, I inexplicably became perplexed and unable to write. Just like a centipede, my teachers jokingly said, it was taught how to raise its legs back and forth, which in turn caused it to move without coordination. Twenty years later, with a more proper set of knowledge, I eagerly stepped into composing and as you may know, I have published quite a lot of quality works recently.

Do you have any advice for the young generation, those who grew up in times of technological advances unlike their predecessors, to make it in their careers?

Advice for young people? Our generation is different from the younger generation in our passion for literature. I have this friend who is a member of the Prime Minister's economic advisory group. He can sit and talk with many writers without being overwhelmed because he used to read a lot of literature books, from all genres and times, and he could remember them vividly. He has a Ph.D. in economics and used to be the Chairman of the National Financial Supervisory Commission. Whenever giving a presentation on economics, he always adds a little touch of literature making the session even more compelling. No wonder students are extremely excited when talking to him. Unfortunately, youngsters nowadays are too busy with their smartphones, Facebook,... that they neglect reading literature. As a result, it drains their imagination, limits their cognitive and creative thinking process. My only advice is that young people should place more attention on reading literature books, but remember to choose those of genuine artistic values.

As an all-time advocate of many youth projects in media and literacy development, which includes your participation as Editor-in-Chief of TheFace Vietnam website, can you share with us what this project aims to bring and your thoughts on joining this?

TheFace Vietnam is a meaningful project with its goal is to introduce unique and creative individuals to the public. "Only through uniqueness can you exist" as I was told by a certain someone, therefore, I hope to witness many more people with incredible creativity getting recognized and facilitated to provide numerous inventions to serve their country as well as all mankind. So in all, here’s a word to youngsters: Do your best! You are the hope and pride in which people are placing their trust in the belief that you will guide our country’s future to long-lasting prosperity.

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