Oct. 14 2015

The First Draft of Anything is Shit

There’s no pressure to produce gold on the first try. A relief for any writer.

This quote comes from a book by Arnold Samuelson. He was a fan of Hemingway, and would correspond with him regularly. Legend goes that Hemingway wanted someone to talk to so he hired him on as a cabin boy and sailed him around Key West and Cuba.

Samuelson was an aspiring writer and wrote this down, alleging Hemingway said to him:

“Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote the first part of A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself.”


Samuelson never did much with his writing career, according to this article in the Bismarck Tribune, and the 1984 book, “With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba” was put together by his daughter, Dian Darby.

So there are some fun facts for you, but despite the vague past of this quote the crux is this:

If you think it needs to be print-worthy on the first draft, you’ll never get anything done, and you’ll lose your flow.

Do the work now; refine it later.

I took this photo at sunset in the summer, on the Coquihalla Highway in British Columbia.

Download the wallpaper.