Writing Advice to a Young Writer From Ernest Hemingway

An aspiring writer knocked on Hemingway’s Key West door in 1934, looking for help with his writing. It must have been a case of being in the right place at the right time, because, for some reason, Hemingway obliged.

Jennifer Geer
6 min readDec 27, 2019


Ernest Hemingway posing with a marlin, Havana Harbor, Cuba. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. July 1934. Public Domain.

Can you imagine seeking out the home of your favorite celebrity, and then being invited in and offered career advice? Times were different then, and in 1934, that’s exactly what happened to Arnold Samuelson, a 22-year-old aspiring writer from Minnesota. He hitchhiked to Florida on a coal car to get a chance to meet his favorite author and hopefully get a few minutes of his time and some tips on writing.

He did better than that. Hemingway was not impressed with Samuelson’s writing skills but must have been impressed with his tenacity. He invited the young writer to join his crew on a boat trip to Cuba, answering his questions along the way.

It must have surreal for Samuelson, to get Hemingway’s undivided attention. Well, it was probably somewhat divided, with all the drinking and the fishing, but you get the idea.

We can no longer come across Hemingway sitting at his favorite bar in Key West, with a mojito in his hand, willing to share his wisdom. But we have the next best thing. We have the articles and the books he left behind. And we have the article he wrote for Esquire Magazine, Monologue to the Maestro, that was inspired by his boat trip with Samuelson. What follows are my favorite pieces of his advice from that article.

As Hemingway said, the information he imparted “would have been worth fifty cents to him when he was twenty-one.”

Ernest Hemingway outside of his residence at 113 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Paris. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. 1924. Public Domain

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Jennifer Geer

Writer, blogger, mom, owner of pugs, wellness enthusiast, and true crime obsessed.