Write What You Know: 6 Famous Writers Influenced by Day Jobs


Write What You Know: 6 Famous Writers Influenced by Day Jobs


Everything you experience as a writer can be used in your craft – no matter how unrelated it may seem at first. What might feel like everyday drudgery to you could be the exact content to explore in your writing, as you alone are the expert on this personal microcosm. And if you lean on your day job for inspiration, you’ll be in good company. Read on for six famous writers who turned their experiences at work into works of art.

1. Laura Ingalls Wilder


Wilder didn’t begin writing books until her sixties and would never have written the Little House on the Prairie series without her other occupational experiences. Her first job was as a teacher, but after she married, she turned to farming. She and her husband grew wheat and later focused on poultry and dairy, gaining Wilder the attention of a local paper, the Missouri Ruralist. She became a columnist for them in her 40s, sharing her knowledge in “As a Farm Woman Thinks.” It wasn’t until she became more comfortable honing her writing skills in this setting that she finally pulled from her rural experiences to write the series for which she’s known.

2. Charles Bukowski

As a gritty poet and author, Bukowski always blurred the line between his writing and personal life. Most of his novels involve a semi-autobiographical character named “Henry Chinaski” whose alcoholism and disdain for his work chronicle Bukowski’s own struggles. His novel Post Office is a prime example of this; it draws on his darker years as a letter carrier and filing clerk for the U.S. Postal Service.

3. Carl Hiaasen

Satirical crime novelist Carl Hiaasen would never have found his niche if he hadn’t explored his political interests as a college reporter and then delved into investigative journalism for the Miami Herald once he finished school. The passion he built for satire, Floridian politics, and environmentalism as a journalist set the scene for over twenty humorous crime novels, as well as the children’s classic Hoot which won a Newbery Honor award and was adapted into a film of the same name.

4. Charlotte Brontë


It isn’t always a job you love that offers the most inspiration. Though she began writing poetry from the age of 13, Charlotte Brontë first worked as a governess after she completed school. When the work wasn’t as enjoyable as she expected, she and her sisters decided to open up their own school as a way to continue teaching. The venture was unsuccessful, so she revisited her love of writing. Brontë’s second and most successful novel, Jane Eyre, drew on her experiences as a governess, particularly her time spent with the Sidgwick family. Their difficult, book-throwing son, John, was the inspiration for the character John Reed.

5. J.R.R. Tolkien

After serving as a lieutenant during World War I, Tolkien returned to his first passion: academia. He landed faculty spots at University of Leeds and then Oxford University, teaching linguistics. Before he ever wrote The Hobbit, Tolkien’s philologist background and love of literature and history inspired him to translate Beowulf. These pursuits paved the way for him to create the detailed lore and a variety of his own languages for The Lord of the Rings.

6. David Simon

Novelist and The Wire creator David Simon began a dedicated career as a police reporter for The Baltimore Sun as soon as he finished college, giving him a taste of crime writing. Six years into his reporting career, he took a year off to spend time in the Baltimore Police Department’s Homicide Unit. His goal was to chronicle his observations and he indeed turned the experimental year into an award-winning true crime book entitled Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Simon then began writing for television, adapting the book into a show. He later drew on the characters and experiences of this book again to write the HBO show The Wire, which was critically acclaimed for its hyper-realistic portrayal of police life.

Whether your day job involves writing or outwardly has nothing to do with grand authorial dreams, your work experience is never a waste. You’re a writer no matter what you’re doing, and the best writers can spin gold from anything. When the time comes to clock off, be ready to write what you know.

  • Posted by Julia McAlpine
  • May 25, 2020 8:19 AM PDT
  • 0 comments
  • 461 views
What might feel like everyday drudgery to you could be the exact content to explore in your writing, as you alone are the expert on this personal microcosm. And if you lean on your day job for inspiration, you’ll be in good company.

Comments

0 comments

Articles