Hemingway’s protégé: Arnold Samuelson

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about Ernest Hemingway’s protégé Arnold Samuelson….

Arnold Samuelson was a 22-year-old aspiring writer during the Great Depression when he had the idea he wanted Ernest Hemingway to be his mentor. I learned about his story from a captivating Brain Pickings post headlined: Hemingway’s Advice on Writing, Ambition, the Art of Revision.

Samuelson hitchhiked to Key West and ended up spending almost a full year with Hemingway, learning about writing and recording Hemingway’s thoughts and advice in a book that was   discovered by Samuelson’s daughter only after his death in 1981. It was eventually published as With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba  and it offers a plethora of writing advice from the famous author. (The image, above, is a detail from the cover.) Funnily enough, even though I’ve never been a huge fan of Hemingway’s novels, I very much appreciate his advice about writing, which strikes me as very sensible.

Take, for example, his counsel to Samuelson about not writing to too much at once:

The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work.

I also found it amusing to read his advice about competition:

Never compete with living writers. You don’t know whether they’re good or not. Compete with the dead ones you know are good. Then when you can pass them up you know you’re going good. 

I hadn’t heard of the Samuelson book before reading this blog post and now I’m going to check it out of my local library.

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