03 May 2024

We are all apprentices

Ran across something enlightening on YouTube entitled Ernest Hemingway's Favorite Writing Exercise and figured writers would find is as interesting as I found it.

In 1934, Ernest Hemingway gave an aspiring writer an exercise to sharpen his observation skills to describe his observations on paper, to train himself to be a better writer.

Broken into three steps to "show, don't tell" in writing a story:

  1. Closely observe a situation, then retell it in words. Search for what excited you about the action to avoid vagueness in writing.
  2. Pay attention to emotions and reactions of others in the situation and see the world though their eyes. Writers should not judge people but understand them.
  3. Repeat the first two steps. Practice. Practice. Practice. Observe and listen.

The video includes a terrific Hemingway quote, "All good books are alike in that they are truer if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer."

The video ends with another Hemingway quote, "We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master."

The video elaborates on each step. Many examples come from my favorite Hemingway novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

While Hemingway's style is not to everyone's taste, we can learn from him.

Link to the video entitled Ernest Hemingway's Favorite Writing Exercise – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sjw08QKel8

Video Credit: www.nicolebianco.com

That's all for now,



  1. Absolutely. That's one of the reasons I love his "A Moveable Feast" and "Death in the Afternoon" - he was at his best when he was writing what he was living at the time.

  2. I can't find the quote now (naturally!), but in an interview, Hemingway once talked about trying to recreate the emotions in a scene while discussing the action. It's somewhat like the suggestion above, but it was phrased so much like "emotional recall" exercises in the Stanislavski acting method that it made me think Hemingway could have also been a good stage actor if he'd tried it.
    At the same time, I love the distance and detachment he can create in his best work, some of the short stories, especially. "Hills Like White Elephants" is as good as it gets.

  3. I used The Sun Also Rises in my writing classes as examples of show not tell. Nowhere in the novel does Jake actually say that he loves Brett, but you will know it from the first time she appears in the novel. He makes you feel the emotions of others - Brilliant. Melodie

  4. Elizabeth Dearborn03 May, 2024 12:49

    I'm not sure Ernest Hemingway had any official connection to the mattresses named after him: https://tinyurl.com/2ckvendw

    1. I had no idea what a Hemingway mattress was! Perhaps the daughter inspired it, Elizabeth.

  5. O'Neil, I can't think of better arguments.


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