Sunday, February 16, 2014

Before They Were Famous: The Strangest Jobs of Six Literary Luminaries


Everybody has to make a living, even writers.  Here are some interesting jobs by famous authors before they became famous.  I am convinced, though, that each of these people gained insight about the human condition while fulfilling their jobs. 

Kurt Vonnegut managed America’s first Saab dealership in Cape Cod during the late 1950s, a job he joked about in a 2004 essay: “I now believe my failure as a dealer so long ago explains what would otherwise remain a deep mystery: Why the Swedes have never given me a Nobel Prize for Literature.”
 John Steinbeck took on a range of odd occupations before 
earning enough to work as a full-time writer. Among his day jobs: apprentice painter, fruit picker, estate caretaker and Madison Square Garden construction worker.
 Stephen King served as a janitor for a high school while struggling to get his fiction published. His time wheeling the cart through the halls inspired him to write the opening girls’ locker room scene in Carrie, which would become his breakout novel.
 Harper Lee worked as a reservation clerk for Eastern Air Lines for more than eight years, writing stories in her spare time. This all changed when a friend offered her a Christmas gift of one year’s wages, with the note, “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please.” She wrote the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird within the year.
 Before his writing career took off, William Faulkner also worked for the Postal Service, as postmaster at the University of Mississippi. In his resignation note, he neatly summarized the struggle of art and commerce faced by many authors: “As long as I live under the capitalist system I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp. This, sir, is my resignation.”
 T.S. Eliot worked as a banker, serving as a clerk for Lloyds Bank of London for eight years. The job must have been a bummer—he composed passages of The Waste Land while walking to work each da Sometimes, an odd job can actually lead to opportunity. Poet Vachel Lindsay was interrupted as he dined at a hotel restaurant in Washington, D.C., by a busboy who handed him some sheets of poetry. At first irritated by the young man, Lindsay was quickly impressed by the writing. When he asked, “Who wrote this?” the busboy replied, “I did.” Langston Hughes was about to get his big break

10 comments:

  1. Thanks, Nancy, for this encouraging post. Who knew they did all that? We live and breathe and learn and all life can be our inspiration.

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    1. Oh, Penny, what you've said is so true! Many thanks for your comment on this post.

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  2. It's fun to read about the perseverance of some of the greats. Thanks for an interesting post.

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  3. Thanks for your comment, Rosi. Yes, I had fun with this post. In the end, I think they're regular people like the rest of us when you put the major talent aside...

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  4. I love this post. Thanks for sharing it with us. We all had to start somewhere, right? I also read that Stephen King did laundry for a seafood place, and his descriptions of that job in his autobiography (first part of ON WRITING) were so gross--beginnings of a horror writer for sure.

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    1. I hadn't heard about Stephen King but will read up on it. Thanks for your comments. So appreciated!

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  5. Very interesting post. I knew the story about Langston Hughes. My son is a talented writer who has the same impatience with having to work a dreary job in order to eat. I'm going to send him this link.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Jane. I know how your son feels, in that it's hard for someone young and ambitious to have to wait! Hope it helps a little...

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  6. Thanks, Sue! Glad you liked it. Thanks for the support as well!

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