Odd Jobs That 15 Famous Writers Had

Odd Jobs That 15 Famous Writers Had


Struggling with a job you hate? Don’t worry, you’re not the only that’s had to work a crappy job while waiting for something better to come along. Just ask these fifteen famous authors what they had to do before getting published.

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Not all famous writers were instant successes. Most worked full time jobs in industries that have nothing to do with the field of writing. Some started writing at 5 a.m. before they had to go to work, while others waited until they got a big break to really write, however these fifteen writers all have something in common; they persevered and kept doing what they loved most, eventually this paid off and they became great literary success stories. So don’t worry if you aren’t working your dream job right now. As these authors have proven, it takes a lot of hard work, the ability to keep your spirits high and focus on what you love doing.

15. Kurt Vonnegut

Before Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut was working at one of America’s first Saab dealerships. Struggling to make ends meet for his family he worked at this dealership to pay the bills. According to Vonnegutlibrary, “In a 2005 newspaper interview, Vonnegut noted that the time spent failing as a dealer furthered his resolve to find a way to write about what he witnessed in Dresden.” It just goes to prove that sometimes bad jobs can lead to better opportunities.

14. Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes


Langston Hughes was one of the few to use his odd job to bring success to his career. Working as a busboy in Washington at a hotel restaurant, Langston slipped poet Vachel Lindsay his poems one day. Lindsay was so impressed that he used his connections so that Hughes poetry could reach a wider audience. Who said small jobs can’t bring you high rewards?

13. Robert Frost

Another famous poet is Robert Frost. Known for his poems like Nothing Gold Can Stay and Fire and Ice, Frost worked many odd jobs but the most memorable is definitely when he and his wife tried poultry farming. Let’s just say that Frost was a better writer.

12. Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver is no stranger to the odd job. He worked as a janitor, gas-station attendant, and a delivery man to support his family, he only became a full time writer after he was fired from his textbook editing job. All of these odd jobs helped him to understand the working class and how to write for them. His short stories wouldn’t be the same without the jobs and struggles he went through.

11. George Saunders

George Saunders hasn’t just been spending his years pulling out great stories, but he’s also worked almost every odd job he’s come across. Saunders has worked in a slaughterhouse, convenience store, as a doorman, groundsman, roofer, and geophysicist. There’s not much George hasn’t tried his hand in.

10. Ken Kesey

Scenes from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest were inspired by Ken Kesey’s experience in a paid experimental study sponsored by the government at Stanford University. A little different from construction work or ad writing like some of the other writers, Kesey’s odd job involved mind-altering drugs. Interesting experiences make interesting books, right?

9. Harper Lee

Author of To Kill a Mockingbird and the newly released Go Set a Watchman didn’t get her success overnight. Before Lee wrote her bestseller she worked as a ticket agent for Eastern Air Lines for years. It was only after she received an impressive gift that she was able to focus on writing. A friend gave her one full year’s wages and it was at that time that she gave birth to the rough draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.

8. William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying writer William Faulkner worked many odd jobs before his books became successful. He made money as a bookseller’s assistant, spent two years as a postmaster for the University of Mississippi, and was even a scoutmaster.

7. Charles Dickens

Dickens father went to jail causing little Charles to be forced to work labelling jars in a shoe polish factory at a young age. Making six shillings a week, this odd job inspired themes in some of Dickens best books. Although definitely a horrible experience, would his books be the same if he hadn’t lived through it?

6. John Grisham

Grisham, known as the lawyer turned writer, worked at a nursery as a teenager watering bushes for a dollar an hour. This was just one of the many odd jobs he took before college and before he realized his calling for novel writing.

5. Jack Kerouac

After dropping out of college Jack Kerouac worked several odd jobs like a gas station attendant, cotton picker, night guard, railroad brakeman, dishwasher, and construction worker. The On The Road writer certainly knew how to travel.

4. Dr. Seuss

Everyone knows Dr. Seuss and his illustrated children’s books but not everyone knows that he spent 15 years writing for Standard Oil in the advertising department. He is known to have said:

“I would like to say I went into children’s book writing because of my great understanding of children. I went in because it wasn’t excluded by my Standard Oil contract.”

3. Stephen King

Stephen King’s been described as the king of horror. Year after year he comes up with new and terrifying novels to thrill and excite audiences, but what did he do before he started writing? King once worked as a high school janitor! In fact, that’s where he got inspired for his famous shower scene in his novel Carrie, proving that high school is rough and it can even be horrifying at times.

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald

Scott Fitzgerald is a renowned author for writingThe Great Gatsby,but what did he do before his wrote the novel that would one day fill classrooms and become a classic? Fitzgerald’s odd job was working briefly for an advertising agency writing slogans for trolley placards. The Great Gatsby received moderate success during his life but only really became famous after his death.

1. Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks is famous for his novels like The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, and The Longest Ride making women everywhere wish their men were more like Noah, but before he became a household name, Sparks took some pretty odd jobs to make ends meet. He made money as a waiter, real estate appraiser, and even as a telemarketer before the start of his success with The Notebook.

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While these jobs might range drastically all these writers share some commonalities. Every one of them worked hard to make a living before they were the successes that we know today. They had to take undesirable jobs to pay the bills but it wasn’t all for nothing. Many writers used their experiences to write better novels that were in some ways based on their jobs from the past.

One could even say that their novels, short stories, and poems were so great because of the odd jobs that they had to take. Every experience made them a more interesting and complex person. So next time you see a grocery store clerk, a construction worker, or a high school janitor just know that they could be the next Stephen King or George Saunders. You never know what kind of mind is hiding under the uniform.