Previous jobs of writers

Previous jobs of writers, from Beth Mende Conny

While you may dream of writing for a living, you likely will have to make a living in order to write, at least initially. So it was for me: babysitter, waitress, green house attendant, dental assistant, typist, community organizer, office temp and teaching assistant.

Eventually, I got where I wanted to go, only to realize how much work it takes to remain there. Writing is work. Which is why I prefer having written.

But that’s a separate topic. Here, I simply list early jobs of famous writers. I hope it will inspire you, or at least remind you that delays are not denials.

Stephen King — janitor

Robert Frost — newspaper boy, teaching assistant, factory light-bulb-filament replacer

William S. Burroughs — was exterminator

James Joyce — singer, piano player, cinema operator

Vladimir Nabokov — entomologist of underappreciated greatness

Margaret Atwood — coffee shop counter girl

Douglas Adams — hospital porter, barn builder, chicken shed cleaner, hotel security guard, bodyguard for family of Qatar oil tycoons

Ken Kesey — voluntary participant in CIA psych tests

J.D. Salinger — entertainment director aboard Swedish luxury liner

Harlan Ellison — tuna fisherman, crop-picker, hired gun for a wealthy neurotic, nitroglycerine truck driver, short order cook, cab driver, lithographer, book salesman, department store floorwalker, door-to-door brush salesman

Zane Grey — dentist

Raymond Carver — saw mill worker, janitor, delivery man

Don DeLillo — parking attendant

Haruki Murakami — record store clerk, owner of coffeehouse and jazz bar

John Grisham —plant nursery worker, fence crewman, plumbing contractor, attorney

George Orwell — Burma policeman

Herman Melville — cruise liner cabin boy

Kurt Vonnegut — Saab dealership manager, public relations executive, volunteer firefighter

Jack London — cannery worker, oyster pirate

John Steinbeck — warehousman

Jack Kerouac — gas station attendant, cotton picker, night guard, railroad brakeman, dishwasher, construction worker, deckhand.

Richard Wright — postal clerk

Joseph Heller — blacksmith’s apprentice, messenger boy, file clerk

Joseph Conrad — seaman, gunrunner

Harper Lee — airline reservation clerk

William S. Borroughs — exterminator

Agatha Christie — apothecary assistant

Charles Dickens — legal clerk, factory worker

Fyodor Dostoyevsky — engineer, translator of French literature

Arthur Conan Doyle — surgeon

John Galsworthy — barrister, shipping business worker, seaman

Franz Kafka — legal clerk, compensation assessor, cofounder asbestos factory

Bram Stoker — theater critic, personal assistant to Victorian actor Sir Henry Irving

George Sanders — geophysical engineer

Anthony Trollope — postal worker

Patrick DeWitt — dishwasher, construction worker

I compiled this list from the following sites:

Photo by Nelly Deen is licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

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