Creative types are quick to dismiss the day job as a white flag. Instead of being another case of practicality’s triumph over passion, the day job can be a creative muse in and of itself. It’s all about perspective. Presenting exhibits A, B, and C: 3 literary masterpieces inspired by their creators’ day jobs.
1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, set in one of American literature’s most enduring fantasy worlds, was inspired by author, L. Frank Baum’s, various day jobs. In 1882, a young Baum was managing a New York theater as a means to support himself and his new wife. One day, during a performance of Baum’s unfortunately titled play, Matches, the theater caught fire and burnt to the ground. Baum lost many manuscripts in the fire but gained something much more important: the idea for a scarecrow character who, for obvious reasons, is afraid of matches. A few years later, Baum’s writing career wasn’t generating enough income to support his growing family, so he took a job as an oil salesman to keep food on the table. From this experience, the Tin Man, another now iconic character, was born. In 1889, Baum brought his characters to life in the now classic novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was published the following year, to great acclaim. Its title shortened to The Wizard of Oz, the beloved story was made into a groundbreaking 1939 motion picture, solidifying Baum’s place in the cultural canon. Instead of mere necessity, Baum viewed his odd jobs as yellow bricks on his road to literary legend. It made all the difference.
2. Jane Eyre
If you think your day job sucks, consider Charlotte Bronte's. In the summer of 1839, 23-year-old Bronte was the governess (live-in nanny) of a wealthy family living in the countryside of her native England. Her employers charged her for washing her own laundry and it seems that the apple didn't fall far from the tree. One young charge threw a Bible at Bronte. To top it all off, Bronte's salary translates to the equivalent of a measly $2,000.00 in today's money. Bronte had the last laugh. Her classic 1847 novel, Jane Eyre, about a young governess, incorporates many of Bronte's real-life experiences, including a Bible chucking scene.
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The award for most interesting day job on this list goes to Ken Kesey. Technically, it was a night job. In the early 1960's, Kesey was working as a night aide at California's Menlo Park Veterans Hospital. The hospital was the site of Project MKULTRA, a top secret, CIA-financed military program that studied the effects of psychoactive drugs. A member of the counterculture, Kesey volunteered to be a subject. His experience as medical guinea pig informed Kesey's 1962 work, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Kesey's book was an overnight success. It was adapted into a play and in 1975, an Oscar winning movie, starring Jack Nicholson.
These 3 examples prove that a creative mind can spin even the most mundane day job into a compelling literary tale!