Article | Jobs Famous Writers Had Before They Became Authors

Jobs 13 Famous Writers Had Before They Became Best-Selling Authors

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Some of today’s best-selling authors got their start working jobs that are a far cry from being an author. The jobs, whether authors hated them or liked them, in turn, inspired them to write their best works.

Everyone has to start somewhere, right? Take a look at where these successful authors began.

Agatha Christie

Apothecaries’ assistant
It’s no coincidence that Agatha Christie knows so much about how to poison characters. At the beginning of WWI, Christie worked as a volunteer at a hospital tending to troops. Her experience landed her a paid position at an apothecary. Christie wrote her first book off of her knowledge of pharmaceuticals.

Stephen King

Janitor
Carrie is one of the first of many novels by the king of horror himself, Stephen King. Before his success as an author, King worked as a high school janitor. King says that he got the idea for writing Carrie while working there.

Harper Lee

Airline ticket clerk
Harper Lee dropped out of law school at the University of Alabama to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. To keep herself afloat while writing various articles and short stories, she worked as a ticket clerk for Eastern Airlines and BOAC (now British Airways).

Charles Dickens

Factory worker
Charles Dickens very first job was at the age of 12, where he worked in a factory putting labels on to tins of boot polish. He worked ten hours a day, making hardly any money, six shillings a week which is roughly around $25 today. Later, he became a freelance journalist and eventually one of the best authors of all time.

Suzanne Collins

Wrote TV shows for kids
Author of The Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins was first a writer on Nickelodeon’s Emmy-nominated Clarissa Explains it All. She also worked on other shows like Clifford’s Puppy Days, Generation O!, and Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!. In her time writing for these shows, she met children’s author James Proimos, who convinced her to write a children’s book.

Nicholas Sparks

Dental products salesman
Romance author of the widely successful story The Notebook once sold dental products over the phone while he waited patiently for his work to be accepted. He also worked as a waiter, real estate appraisal, and even attempted to start his own manufacturing business. A literary agent soon discovered Sparks and not long after did he become a New York Times best-seller.

Diana Gabaldon

University Professor
Diana Gabaldon started her career as a writer while working at Arizona State University teaching environmental sciences. Gabaldon taught for 12 years before becoming a full-time author, eventually publishing the popular historical romance series, Outlander.

William Faulkner

Postmaster
William Faulkner briefly worked as a postmaster at the University of Mississippi. From all accounts, Faulkner wasn’t a model employee. Sources say he would lose mail (sometimes throw it away), ignored customers, played cards and wrote while working. His infamous letter of resignation is a written work you have to read.

Jack Kerouac

Cotton picker
Jack Kerouac worked a long list of odd jobs, which is fitting for someone at the forefront of the beat movement. His resume included various periods of work as a cotton picker, dishwasher, deckhand, railroad brakeman, and night guard.

J.K. Rowling

English as a foreign language teacher
Before the success of the young adult series Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling taught English as a foreign language in Portugal. Rowling quit teaching and returned to the UK where she fully committed herself to working on The Sorcerer’s Stone.

John Green

Chaplain
The inspiration for The Fault in Our Stars came to John Green while he worked as a chaplain at a Children’s hospital. He never did end up becoming a full-time clergyman. Green is an author of six books.

Douglas Adams

Bodyguard
Before the infamous The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy hit bookshelves, Douglas Adams was a bodyguard for a wealthy Arabian family. During this time he continued to submit his writing to radio and TV producers. Few were accepted, and it hurt Adams’ confidence, but he continued to write. After the success of radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy he moved on to become a BBC radio producer.

Robert Frost

Teacher
American poet Robert Frost left Dartmouth College after two months and returned to his hometown. While writing poetry, Frost was a teacher and eventually took a job at a light-bulb filament factory until he sold his first poem in 1894.

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