Inspiring or depressing?: B.I. on 15 famous writers’ early jobs
If you’re a writer and you’re not one of the most famous and successful authors in the world, you’re probably working that job you worked before you became one of the most famous and successful authors in the world.
I know I am.
That’s why I like looking at pieces like the one Business Insider posted this week listing the first jobs of 15 famous writers.
Did you know that J.D. Salinger was once the entertainment director on a Swedish luxury liner? That must have been a party, though to be fair, it was 1941, so just not getting torpedoed was kind of a hot time. Kurt Vonnegut sold, or tried to sell Saabs. Swedish cars. Sensing a theme?
The list has some meat, with quotes from the writers describing their jobs. Here’s Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” talking about his experience participating in MKULTRA, the CIA’s test of LSD as a truth serum:
[The scientists] didn’t have the guts to do it themselves, so they hired students. “Hey, we found this room. Would you please go inside and let us know what’s going on in there?” When we came back out, they took one look at us and said, “Whatever they do, don’t let them go back in that room!”
Jack London got his start as an oyster thief, though he called himself an “oyster pirate.” John Grisham was a plumber. Charles Dickens, famously, worked in a shoe-polish factory when his father was sent to debtor’s prison. What are you doing?
Before I became the obscure writer and editor I am today, I sorted mail and shipped packages at a mailbox rental joint and—like reformed oyster pirate Jack London—wrote the pugs at a Hearst newspaper.