In the spring of 1934, an aspiring writer named Arnold Samuelson hitchhiked from Minnesota to Florida to see if he could land a meeting with his favorite author. Feeling discouraged over his writing, Samuelson believed he needed a mentor to help him improve his craft.
The writer he had picked to be his mentor? Ernest Hemingway.
Samuelson showed up at Hemingway’s front door and begged the famous author for just a few minutes of conversation. Much to Samuelson’s delight, Hemingway agreed to talk with him and read some of his work. Although Hemingway wasn’t particularly impressed by Samuelson’s writing, he was impressed by the 22-year-old’s seriousness and dedication.
Unfortunately, Hemingway had planned to leave Florida soon on his boat Pilar. But luckily for Samuelson, Hemingway invited him to join the crew. While at sea, Samuelson had the rare opportunity to pick Hemingway’s brains about writing.
In a 1935 article for Esquire magazine, Hemingway shared some of the advice he had given Samuelson. Read on for five of Hemingway’s tips that we can use to improve our own writing.
1. Always stop when you’re going good
Samuelson wanted to be sure he was devoting enough time to writing. He asked Hemingway, “How much should you write in a day?”
Instead of giving Samuelson an arbitrary word-count goal or a number of hours to shoot for, Hemingway answered,
The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.
Essentially, Hemingway was warning us writers not to worry so much about reaching a word count goal that it depletes our creative energy.
Instead, end your writing sessions mid-paragraph while you still have a clear idea of what you want to write next. That way you’ll maintain your momentum and avoid showing up to a blank page the next day with no idea how to move forward.
This is an excerpt from my guest post that was just published on GoinsWriter.com. Check out the next four tips here. And be sure to let me know what you think of Hemingway’s tips.