Faulkner was a mailman. Charlotte Brontë was a governess. And you? Whether you're fresh out of school or staring down yet another career change, here are five jobs that can give you a steady paycheck and an unfettered mind for your scribblings!
Banking. T. S. Eliot repeatedly turned down editorial opportunities to keep working as a banker and wrote several of his best poems during that time. “I am absorbed during the daytime by the balance sheets of foreign banks. It is a peaceful, but very interesting pursuit,” he declared in a letter. And much of the force of The Waste Land comes from his depictions of the “Unreal City,” filled with equally bland businessmen. Banking just might be the perfect job for writers who think in iambic pentameter.
Actuarial. With clockwork habits and a monotonous wardrobe, Wallace Stevens stayed at the Hartford insurance company all his adult life. He composed his poems on his way to and from work, and pulled out his calculator as soon as he entered the office. Much like banking, the industry is dominated by numbers and statistics. Surprisingly, though, actuaries have a high level of satisfaction with their jobs. It’s not as exciting as test-driving roller coasters, but it’s much more reliable and stress-free. Detail-oriented writers encouraged to apply.
Law. Franz Kafka worked in Legal, and usually finished with his day’s work by about two in the afternoon. Reading and writing legal documents doesn’t allow much daydreaming, but the often juicy subject matter at hand has turned out such writers as John Grisham and Stephen L. Carter. A crime, a detective, a criminal, and a punishment—what setup could be simpler or more alluring? This is the ideal job for a mystery writer: all the facts are there, but the devil’s in the details.
Medicine. It was a trend even before Chekhov declared that “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress,” and poets and novelists alike—from John Keats and William Carlos Williams to W. Somerset Maugham and Khaled Hosseini—have followed in that doctor’s footsteps. Maybe it’s the rigor of med school that forces these authors to attend to patients and words with equal discipline. Maybe it’s their immense fascination with the human body. Character-driven novelists should start studying for their MCATs.
Library Science. Okay, so nowadays the job requires a hefty graduate degree, but if the children’s book author Avi and bestselling novelist Jayne Ann Krentz have both spent time behind the checkout desk, so can you. Once you’re in the door, you’re almost working in a bookstore. The biggest advantage? Your coworkers might actually read your novel when it comes out.
Keep in mind that, for the first time in forever, unemployment rates are on the decline. And getting away from your laptop will do your brain good. Your novel will thank you, so make like Bubba and get Back to Work!
Image credit: fotolog.com