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Famous Writers’ Day Jobs – Part 2

terminator 2Just about every famous writer we admire had to struggle on many different levels.  They lived a life filled with struggle; of mental, and motivational struggle, struggle with rejection, exhaustion, focus, and discipline. They lived a life of uncertainty.

They had to struggle with exhausting and at times soul-wrenching day jobs.  If you’re a screenwriter, or any kind of writer, you are not alone.  Here are a few examples;

James Cameron

Everybody knows James Cameron for the Terminator film series, and his box office-shattering  and critically acclaimed Oscar winning films Titanic and Avatar.   Before all that, however, he grew up in Orange County and studied physics at Cal State Fullerton.  His interests changed at some point and he switched his major to English and then dropped out.

Back when he was still dreaming of a film career he worked at a machine shop, became a school bus driver and a truck driver.  Cameron was kind of a genius at design, especially of aliens and monsters, and found a job working as a miniature model maker at Roger Corman Studios.  There he got the chance to direct  his first commercial film Piranah II, which he was unceremoniously fired from by some hack producer.

Stephen King

King is widely known for his novels Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, Misery and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank  Redemption.   All of those novels have been adapted for film.  When he first started out, however, he worked various odd jobs including gas pump attendant, laundry worker, and high school janitor, which is where he was inspired to write the novel Carrie.

Still a struggling writer, King earned a teaching certificate which allowed him to teach high school.  Since he couldn’t find a teaching job right away, he started selling short stories to various magazines such as Cavalier.  He eventually landed a teaching job at Hampden Academy in Maine.  While he was teaching he finished the manuscript for Carrie for which he received an advance for $2,500.

John Patrick Shanley

Shanley is an Academy Award winning screenwriter for Moonstruck, and a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright for Doubt.  Shanley also wrote the screenplay for the film version of Doubt.

Early in his life Shanley enlisted in the Marines during the Vietnam War.  However, he never saw active duty,  being stationed in the States.  After the Marines he returned to college and after graduating worked as an elevator operator, a house painter, a bartender and a moving man.

Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks has been a prolific author, writing  The Notebook, The Choice, Nights In Rodanthe, The Last Song, and many others, a good number of which have been adapted into films.  At 18 he won a track scholarship to Notre Dame University.  Sidelined by an injury, Sparks spent his time recuperating and writing his first novel, which has yet to be published.

After school he worked as a waiter, a real estate appraiser, and a telemarketer, selling dental products over the phone.  He didn’t try writing another novel for quite some time.  He did, however go into business manufacturing orthopedic supplies.

Sparks found this line of business pretty much unsatisfying and decided to write three more novels.  If nothing happened, he’d go back into business.   He spent from 1994 to 1995 writing the first of these three novels , The Notebook.  It was a big success as a novel and fetched one million dollars in film rights.

Richard Linklater

Linklater has made some classic independent films including Dazed and Confused,  Slackers,  Before Midnight, and Waking Life, and  more recently the Oscar nominated film Boyhood.  His first day job growing up in Huntsville, Texas, was parking cars at the local prison rodeo.  At that point he had dreams of becoming the first  professional baseball player/serious novelist.

After the baseball/novelist dream went by the wayside, he found work on an oil rig off the shore of Houston, for about two years.  When he went to the mainland for breaks he always made trips to art house theaters.  He was kind of a loner, but had friends on the rig who were writers.

Harper Lee

Harper Lee finished one major novel in her lifetime; the universally beloved Pulitzer Prize winning To Kill A Mockingbird.  She wrote a novel before that called Go Set A Watchman, which was essentially a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird.  She also worked on some nonfiction material, including an unpublished work about an Alabama serial killer entitled The Reverend.

In 1949 at 23 she moved to New York where she started writing in earnest.  She struggled to pay the bills working as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines.  This was her only job aside from writing.  She grew up with Truman Capote and the two of them socialized with a wealthy Broadway composer and lyricist Michael Brown.

Lee was given a Christmas present from the Browns —a rather lucky one for her.  The Browns offered to support her for a year while she finished her novel.

Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin has written a number of dramatic films including A Few Good Men, The American President, Steve Jobs, and the Academy award winning Best Picture The Social Network.

After graduating Syracuse University with a degree in Musical Theater he became just another struggling writer working day jobs such as a limousine driver, tending bar, handing out fliers for a hunting and fishing show, and delivering singing telegrams.

After the Broadway and film success of A Few Good Men Sorkin landed the ultimate “day job,” as a contract writer for Castle Rock, doing rewrites and polishes, working under the mentorship of Academy Award winning screenwriter William Goldman.

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Image credit: Creative Commons  terminator_ two_judgement_day 2010 by Maurina Rara is licensed under CC By 2.0







Famous Writers’ Day Jobs – Part 2

David Silverman, MA, LMFT

A lot of careers can really knock you around. The compettiion is fierce, in graphic design, architecture, you name it -- especially in creative careers in Hollywood. Writers and performers get slammed with rejection constantly. If you're going through something -- anxiety, addiction or depression -- I help people like you get through it. And thrive. Let me help you get your dream back on track.

Please check out my website: My story: my brother grew up with a severe case of OCD, and while I just a kid --- in family therapy with him, I witnessed a miracle as he was transformed, and now is enjoying the life he deserves. I went to Stanford University to study Psychology, and USC Film. I've worked in FIlm/TV and experienced high levels of anxiety, and got slammed with rejection myself. I learned how to get through it. Today, I love to help people to regain the lifestyle they deserve.

David Silverman Psychotherapy

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APA Reference
Silverman, D. (2016). Famous Writers’ Day Jobs – Part 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Jun 2016
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