Great Writer’s Past & Present – Working & Writing
We rarely peep into the life history of great writer’s, as we are overwhelmed with their colossal work of writing. There is no pattern in the correlation between the work they do and the passion they pursue, notwithstanding the past or present day writers, all have done some odd jobs to earn their living and it is only at some point in life and after their creative work connected with the world outside they could rely on their creative talent to sustain their livelihood.
There are engineers, there are doctors, there are lawyer and there are bankers and the list goes on and on…the disconnect of the profession from the passion is there to be seen by one and all. It is that we get swayed by their work of passion and their work of occupation or profession remains the background…I’m just trying to bring onto the foreground for an academic debate, adding some very interesting aspects of their life and living and working while writing.
I have randomly chosen the galaxy of writers from my repository (different genre, different age, different period, different work, different interest, different life, different thinking to different countries) and there are others who have similar life and engagement with working and writing, so there is no specific logic or reason in choosing the writers I have chosen to share my perspective on “working and writing”…
Some had just one book that was enough to turn a new chapter in their life and others kept writing and have been still writing and number of book published and sold in millions. Some knew very early in their life that they want write and others found it later and they did so when faced with some situations.
Some kept work and writing separate, worked in the morning and wrote in the evening, some managed to combine both and extend job that had some connection to creative work. But as we look into the day work and pick few of the job they did, gives no logic and no pattern can be derived as regard that creative writer does a certain type of job and creative writer’s logical side of the brain is equally active and it is only that they have an inclination towards the right side of the brain.
- Harper Lee – Airline Clerk
The American Novelist with biggest best seller of all time with “To Kill a Mockingbird” was only one novel that was published and hugely successful. The second novel “Go Set a Watchman” was believed to have been written before the first, it happens to get published in the last year of her life. She worked as reservation clerk in airline. She challenged the social order and made a huge cultural impact with the book. She passed away at the age of 89, this year Feb 2016.
According to her on “To Kill a Mockingbird”; “I didn’t expect the book to sell in the first place. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but at the same time I sort of hoped that maybe someone would like it enough to give me encouragement”
- Franz Kafka – Legal Clerk
Though he belonged to a Czech family spoke and wrote in German, was an icon of dark existentialist. The term “Kafkaesque” was coined after him; it marked surreal distortion and impending danger. His best known work includes “The Metamorphosis”, “A Hunger Artist” and “The Trial”. He did his law, worked as a legal clerk and also in an insurance agency. He had a difficult relationship with parents and father had little appreciation for his creative side. He had a chequered life with family matters and passed away at very early age of 40. Kafka celebrity as a writer came after his death.
According to Kafka, in science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry it is exact opposite.
- Charles Dickens – Factory Worker
British writer was regarded as the greatest novelist of Victoria era and was known for his colossal literary contribution. “A Tale of Two Cities”, “Oliver Twist” and “The Great Expectations” are classics and have become timeless stories. His own story is a classic rag to riches story. The term Dickensian is used to describe something reminiscent of his work on writing. His writing style is marked by a copious linguistic creativity. He had a big family and had ten children before separating from his wife. He worked initially in a Shoe Factory as a worker.
The best quote from him and that one can ever read; “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
- Margaret Atwood – Shop Cashier
Canadian writer best know for her poetry and short stories, know for her works “The Circle Game”, “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Snowbird”, “The Blind Assassin” and “The Tent”. She deconstructs fairy-tales, myths and her work is often Gothic. Her first real job was a cashier at a Coffee Shop in Toronto. That was working for her livelihood like all of us do but we think writers only write and have lots of money and rich people as we read only about their success stories and not aware of their struggle to meet that writing success.
- Stephen King – School Janitor
He is an American author of contemporary horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction and fantasy. He has published 54 novels and over 200 short stories and sold over 350 million books. His most notable work includes “Carrie”, “Rita Hayworth”, and “Shawshank Redemption”; the latter is regarded as the greatest films of all time. When he started writing, he was writing images as that what he at that time. He had to odd jobs to study including that of a janitor in school. He didn’t have an easy life, he had to come out of drinks and drugs, and he survived a major accident and was back to what he loves the most writing and continues to entertain readers.
His most famous quotes; “Amateur sit and wait for inspiration, rest of us just get up and go to work”
- George Orwell – Police Officer
Eric Arthur Blair was born in British India, used the pen name George Orwell. He is known for his dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty Four” and the allegorical novel “The Animal Farm”. “Orwellian” is now universal shorthand for anything repressive or totalitarian. He served as a police officer along many other unrelated jobs to support his livelihood.
In his essay “Politics and the English Language”, he wrote about the importance of clear and precise language, he argued that vague writing can be used as a tool for political manipulation because it shapes the way we think.
His famous quotes are “if it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out” and “never use a long word where a short one will do”.
- William Faulkner – Mailman
American novelist and novel prize laureate, he was relatively unknown until he received his noble prize. His notable works includes “A Fable”, “The Sound and the Fury” and “The Reivers”. He has captured the raw beauty of rural life in all its dark complexity. He was a mailman before he was known for his famous work on “The Sound and the Fury”.
He said; “The writer doesn’t need economic freedom, all he need is pencil and pen”. According to him, a writer needs three things; experience, observation and imagination, and any one or two of which will supply the lack of other in the work of writing.
The best part I have read in his interview in Paris Review, and something I really loved about his interpretation of life and artist is “Life is motion and every artist needs to arrest the motion of life in artificial means and hold on for hundreds of years and when some stranger looks at it, it moves as it is life”
- Nicholas Sparks – Salesman
American novelist, the king of love story has published over 17 romantic novels, a master in telling love stories but avoids giving real world romantic advice. He has many have become the international bestsellers and have been adapted to films with multi-million dollar box office grosses. “The Notebook”, remains his one the best work. He was working as a pharmaceutical salesman before he became famous as a writer.
In an interview to Time, he said when you write stories you are striving to evoke all the emotions of life, so that by the time the reader finishes reading, they feel as if they have lived a mini-life”. His own favorite works are “A Walk to Remember”, “See Me, The Longest Ride and Safe Heaven” and of course “The Notebook”.
- Thomas S Eliot – Banker
American born British writer was awarded a Nobel Prize for literature, attracted widespread attention for his poems “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”, followed by the “The Waste Land” and “The Hollow Men”. He was influenced by the poetry of Omar Khayyam at very early age of his life. Even after publishing his most famous works, he still continued to work in the day job as a banker.
“Where is the Life we lost in living? Where is the wisdom we lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we lost in information?”
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Engineer
He was a Russian Novelist, was introduced to literature at an early age through fairy-tales and legends. He explored the human psychology and engaged with variety of philosophical and religious themes. He is considered by many as the greatest psychologist in world literature. His major work includes “Crime and Punishment”, “The Idiot”, and “Notes from Underground”. He traveled the Western Europe and during that period developed a gambling addiction and which led to financial hardship and eventually came out of the crisis and become the most highly regarded Russian writer. Though he graduated from an engineering school but choose his literary career later.
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”…he said with his creative wisdom.
- Arthur Conan Doyle – Doctor
The Scottish writer, he is best known for his 60 stories he wrote fictional detective Sherlock Homes. In his autobiography he said though he had set up an Ophthalmology practice in London, not a single patient ever crossed his door, ophthalmology loss was literature gain. He could dedicate his time to writing. He was a man of man talent and pursuits. He loved sports and he was the first person to get skiing from Scandinavian to Switzerland.
“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
- John Grisham – Plumber
He is an American novelist best known for his legal thrillers. His first bestseller was “the Firm” and thereafter eight of other novels have been adapted into films. He is one of three authors to have sold two million copies in the first printing; the others are Tom Clancy and J K Rowling. He has a lifelong passion for baseball. His latest book is “The Tumor”, he says his most important book of his career and he wanted to give it away for free comes a headline in The Washington Post.
“Writing is the most difficult job I’ve ever had, but is worth it.” Writing was not a childhood dream of mine. I do not recall longing to write as a student. I wasn’t sure how to start…in the words of John Grisham.
I’m sure we all have own take away and it would be a great learning for me knowing your take away, that will change my perspective, it may be skewed, it may be distorted, it will get distilled, I will be able to creatively crystallize my thoughts and prepare to present my case better in future…looking forward to hearing your set of take away.
My Take Away from this Post;
- I need to read few more times “To Kill a Mockingbird”
- I’m a big fan of Frank Kafka; I need to try my hand in poetry.
- I need to keep revisiting the quotes from Charles Dickens.
- I need to read the classic “The Handmaid’s Tales”
- I need to watch the movie Shawshank Redemption.
- I need to follow the words of George Orwell on writing.
- I’m exploring ways how to arrest the motion of life.
- I need to capture all the emotions in my writing.
- I need to once again read “the Waste Land”.
- I need to apply my engineering mind to create.
- I needn’t have to doctor my other areas of interest.
- I needn’t have to worry as your best work comes late in life.