55 Famous Writers – What They Did Before They Wrote

In this post, we look at the day jobs of famous writers before they were successfully published.

The Day Jobs Of 55 Famous Authors

  1. Anne Rice was a waitress, cook and insurance claims examiner.
  2. Charles Dickens worked in a shoe-polish factory.
  3. China Miéville lived in Egypt in 1990, teaching English for a year.
  4. Dan Brown was a high school English teacher.
  5. Dean Koontz was an English teacher.
  6. Don DeLillo was a parking attendant. It was so boring that he became an avid reader, which led him to pursue a career in writing.
  7. Douglas Adams worked as a hospital porter, barn builder, chicken shed cleaner, a hotel security guard and a bodyguard.
  8. E.E. Cummings worked as an essayist and portrait artist for ‘Vanity Fair’ magazine.
  9. Franz Kafka was the Chief Legal Secretary of the Workmen’s Accident Insurance Institute.
  10. George Orwell was an officer of the Indian Imperial Police in Burma.
  11. H.G. Wells became an apprentice to a draper at the age of fourteen.
  12. Harper Lee was a reservation clerk at Eastern Airlines.
  13. Haruki Murakami worked in a record store during college, and owned a coffee house and jazz bar in Tokyo called the Peter Cat.
  14. Henry Fielding was a magistrate.
  15. Herman Melville was employed as a cabin boy on a cruise liner.
  16. Hilary Mantel was a social worker.
  17. Ian Rankin was a grape-picker, swineherd, taxman, alcohol researcher, hi-fi journalist, college secretary and punk musician.
  18. J.D. Salinger was the entertainment director on a Swedish luxury liner.
  19. J.K. Rowling worked as a secretary and also as a teacher.
  20. Jack Kerouac was a gas station attendant, cotton picker, night guard,  railroad brakeman, dishwasher, construction worker, and a deckhand.
  21. Jack London worked at a cannery, then became an oyster pirate.
  22. James Joyce sang and played piano.
  23. James Patterson worked as a junior copywriter at J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. He later became the CEO.
  24. Jeanette Winterson was an ice cream truck driver and a make-up artist at a funeral parlour.
  25. Jeffery Deaver was a lawyer.
  26. John Grisham worked at a nursery watering bushes, then as a plumber, before becoming a lawyer.
  27. John Steinbeck was a tour guide at a fish hatchery.
  28. Jorge Luis Borges worked as an assistant in the Buenos Aires Municipal Library.
  29. Joseph Conrad was involved in gunrunning and political conspiracy.
  30. Joseph Heller was a blacksmith’s apprentice, messenger boy, and file clerk.
  31. Ken Kesey was a voluntary participant in CIA psych tests.
  32. Kurt Vonnegut was the manager of a Saab dealership, worked in public relations for General Electric, and was a volunteer fire fighter.
  33. Lee Child was as a television director with a British TV network.
  34. Margaret Atwood worked as a counter girl in a coffee shop in Toronto.
  35. Mark Twain was a steamboat pilot.
  36. Mary Higgins Clark was a secretary, a model, and a stewardess.
  37. Michael Crichton was a medical doctor.
  38. Neil Gaiman was a journalist, writing articles for British newspapers and magazines.
  39. Nicholas Sparks was a real estate appraiser, sold dental products by phone, and started his own manufacturing business.
  40. P.D. James worked for the National Health Service and the Civil Service.
  41. Pat Conroy taught English in Beaufort, South Carolina.
  42. Paulo Coelho worked as a songwriter, an actor, a journalist, and theatre director.
  43. Philip Pullman was a teacher.
  44. Raymond Carver worked at a sawmill, as a janitor, delivery man and again at the sawmill to support his family while building his career.
  45. Roald Dahl worked for the Shell Oil Company of East Africa until World War II. He then served in the Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot.
  46. Robert Frost was a newspaper boy, his mother’s teaching assistant, and a light-bulb-filament replacer in a factory.
  47. Stephen King was a high school janitor
  48. Stephenie Meyer was a receptionist in a property company.
  49. Sylvia Plath worked as a receptionist at a psychiatric hospital.
  50. T.S. Eliot worked at the Colonial and Foreign Accounts desk for Lloyd’s Bank of London
  51. Tess Gerritsen was a medical doctor.
  52. Tom Wolfe was a reporter.
  53. Vladimir Nabokov was an entomologist.
  54. William Faulkner was a mail man.
  55. William S. Burroughs was an exterminator.

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 by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 26th October 2012

4 thoughts on “55 Famous Writers – What They Did Before They Wrote”

  1. Coincidentally, I was speaking yesterday and mentioned my many former jobs. They (the jobs, not the writings) put me in the company of Vonnegut, Faulkner, Bukowski, Kerouac, and Rice.
    And Amanda Patterson was a…

  2. It appears I’m going to have a very interesting, but not uncommon, resume for my writing career. This is good. The discussions at the next writing conference are going to be intriguing.

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