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Before They Were Famous



Not many authors have the luxury of leaving school and getting stuck straight into a successful literary career. In fact, most authors had to do a “day” job for a long time before earning any kind of a living from writing. Of course, writing requires inspiration, and where better to draw this inspiration from than the real, working world?


For those literary trivia lovers out there, here is a list of what they were before they were famous writers, some of the (often odd) jobs that our prized authors have enjoyed along their road to success. As you head out to face the daily grind, may this offer inspiration to you all!


Dr. Seuss: ad writer

Stephen King: high school janitor

John Grisham: nursery worker, plumbing contractor, and attorney

George Orwell: officer of the Burmese Indian Imperial Police

Harper Lee: airline ticket agent

Arthur Conan Doyle: medical officer on a steamship

Charles Dickens: lawyer’s clerk

John Steinbeck: fruit picker, caretaker, painter, tour guide at a fish hatchery, and construction worker

Anthony Trollope: postal inspector

Margaret Atwood: counter girl in a coffee shop

Jack London: canner, gold prospector, and “oyster pirate”

Douglas Adams: hospital porter, barn builder, chicken shed cleaner, hotel security guard, and bodyguard for a family of oil tycoons

Joseph Conrad: gunrunner and political conspiracist

Herman Melville: cruise liner cabin boy

Ken Kesey: voluntary CIA psych test participant

James Joyce: singer and pianist

Kurt Vonnegut: car dealership manager

Haruki Murakami: record store assistant, Tokyo coffeehouse and jazz bar owner

J. D. Salinger: entertainment director on a luxury cruise ship

William S. Burroughs: exterminator

T. S. Eliot: bank clerk

Jorge Luis Borges: librarian

Joseph Heller: blacksmith’s apprentice, messenger, and filing clerk

Nicholas Sparks: real estate appraiser, waiter, and dental products salesman

Mary Higgins Clark: secretary

J. K. Rowling: teacher of English as a second language

Dan Brown: high school English teacher

Henry David Thoreau: handyman, vegetable seller, tutor, and teacher

William Faulkner: postmaster and screenwriter

Robert Frost: newspaper boy, teaching assistant, and light-bulb factory worker

Jonathan Franzen: lab assistant

Ralph Waldo Emerson: assistant in a school for young women, minister, and lecturer

Jack Kerouac: gas station attendant, cotton picker, night watchman, dishwasher, construction worker, deckhand, and railroad brakeman

Langston Hughes: busboy


Emma Codd

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