Strange Day Jobs of Authors Before They Were Famous

All you struggling artists and writers out there, take heart. It may seem like you’re just spinning your wheels at that random job you got walking dogs/painting fences/selling umbrellas on the corner, but you could find your inspiration for the Next Great American Novel at any moment. Or, think of it this way: one day you’ll get to talk about whatever you’re doing now as a charming aside in interviews with the New York Times. After all, from pirating to condom sales to modeling, many of the most famous authors in American history had a few pretty weird day jobs to pay the bills before they hit the big time, and we don’t know about you, but we find that to be a comforting thought. Click through to see some of the strangest day jobs of beloved authors before they were famous, and then get back to work.

J.D. Salinger once served as the entertainment director on the H.M.S Kungsholm, a Swedish luxury liner. We wonder if he was any good at that.

Between graduating from the Colorado School of Mines and starting his MFA at Syracuse, George Saunders worked in a slaughterhouse, in a convenience store, as a doorman in Beverly Hills, as a groundsman, as a roofer, and as a geophysicist.

Franz Kafka was the Chief Legal Secretary of the Workmen’s Accident Insurance Institute, obviously.

The international Tom McCarthy was a nude model at an art school in Prague, tended bar at an Irish pub in Berlin, and fed waiters cat food as a sous-chef in a restaurant in Amsterdam.

John Steinbeck ran a fish hatchery in Lake Tahoe. He also led guided tours of the place, during one of which he met his first wife, Carol Henning.