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Don’t Give Up the Day Job

Article by Derek Flynn © 14 January 2015.
Posted in Guest Blogs ().

Writers often hear the phrase “Don’t give up the day job”. Not because they’re bad writers, but because only a small percentage of authors actually make their living from writing full-time. It’s interesting to note then that this is not a new phenomenon. In an article for “Business Insider” entitled “15 Famous Writers Who Worked Other Jobs To Pay The Bills”, Vivian Giang looks at the vast spectrum of jobs that some of the world’s most famous authors worked at. Here’s a sample:

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Stephen King was a high school janitor before he became the ‘king of horror novels’

He received an English degree from the University of Maine, but couldn’t find a teaching job after graduating and became a high school janitor instead. In 1973, King’s first book “Carrie” was published, which he says was inspired during his time cleaning the girl’s locker rooms.

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Ken Kesey’s famous novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was inspired by his time testing LSD for a government-sponsored study

Kesey’s inspiration for the novel was based on his experience working as a janitor in a mental hospital combined with his experience participating in a CIA-study called “Project MKULTRA” as a student at Stanford University. The study aimed to test whether “truth serums,” or LSD, actually worked for interrogations and psychological warfare. While working his night shifts in the mental hospital, Kesey says he spent many nights talking to patients while high on LSD from participating in the study earlier in the day.

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Langston Hughes was once a busboy, assistant cook, launderer and seaman sailing around Africa and Europe

As a customer at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., the poet Vachel Lindsay came across poems that were written on his own napkin. They were so well-written that Lindsay asked to meet the author of the poems who happened to be Hughes, according to The Academy of American Poets. The former busboy quickly became known for his form of jazz poetry.

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The winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, William Faulkner was once a mailman

Before fame from the “Sound and the Fury,” Faulkner was a postmaster, which enabled him to read magazines that he delivered.

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After his father was arrested, Charles Dickens was sent to work in a shoe-polish factory

He’s known for literature masterpieces such as “A Christmas Carol,” “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Great Expectations,” but before the great writing, Dickens had to work in a shoe polish factory at the age of 12 to help pay off debt to get his father out of jail.

You can read the full article here: http://www.businessinsider.com/first-jobs-of-famous-writers-2012-10?op=1#ixzz3KauoDESC

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Derek Flynn runs Writing.ie's SongBook blog, and is an Irish writer and musician. He has a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and his fiction was featured in 'Surge', an anthology of new Irish writing published by O’ Brien Press with the aim of showcasing “the very best of the next generation of Irish authors”. Online he can be found at his writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – and on Twitter as @derekf03