What 16 Writers Did For Jobs Before Publishing Big

Unless you've been blessed with a fairy godmother (or a trust fund), chances are you're slogging away at some sort of day job to make ends meet while crafting that grand novel, script, or poetry collection. Pulling a double shift with work and writing takes plenty of energy and dedication, but rest assured, you're not alone. I'd wager that many yet-to-be-published writers fantasize about having all the uninterrupted hours and months in the world to work on their first big pieces.

For most of us, though, this notion has no basis in real life, where pesky things like rent and the human need to feed and clothe ourselves exist. Of course, one could opt for the MFA route, and spend a couple years living and writing on a grad school stipend or fellowship. Whatever path you choose to follow in pursuit of success, though, chances are you'll spend a bit (or a lot) of time toiling away at a non-career job to support yourself until that elusive day when literary fame and fortune rush in.

Now, if you're having one of those physically and creatively draining days that makes you feel like you're at your wits end, and the day job-writing balance seems impossible, take the following list of authors as inspiration. These 16 female writers didn't let the daily grind stand in the way of creating their masterpieces... and neither should you.

Fae Myenne Ng

The acclaimed writer waited tables in New York for years while working on her first novel, Bone.

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Ernessa T. Carter

Before debuting her first novel, 32 Candles, Carter taught ESL in Japan. She also spent time working as Derby Doll in L.A. (seriously!).

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Harper Lee

Shortly before penning her masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee supported herself working as an airline ticket reservations agent in New York City.

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Julie Orringer

While struggling to make a name for herself in her early 20s, the author of The Invisible Bridge worked as a receptionist at a fertility clinic in San Francisco.

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Amy Tan

Tan first made her living as a freelance business writer, eventually turning to fiction writing and going on to publish her first novel, The Joy Luck Club.

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Tananarive Due

Due began her career as a reporter, working for the Miami Herald while she wrote her first novel, The Between.

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Terry McMillan

The Waiting to Exhale author put in years working as a word processor in New York before she established herself as a successful writer.

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Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

The NYU grads and coauthors of The Nanny Diaries drew from their experience working as — you guessed it! nannies on Manhattan's Upper East Side to write their bestselling novel.

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Cherríe Moraga

While developing her skills as a feminist writer, Moraga worked as a waitress in San Francisco in the late 1970s.

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Jessie Ann Foley

The emerging YA novelist and author of The Carnival at Bray still teaches English in the Chicago Public Schools system (how's that for multitasking?).

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Alissa York

The Canadian writer worked a smattering of odd jobs in her early 20s, as a florist, waitress, and bookstore employee.

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Audre Lorde

The feminist poet and legendary activist worked as a librarian in New York during the early part of her writing career in the 1960s.

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Jennifer Egan

In her early days as a New York writer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad struggled through a series of temp jobs, including one as a caterer at the World Trade Center.

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Stephanie Danler

Talk about a lucky meeting: Danler was waiting tables at a Manhattan restaurant when she happened to serve Penguin Random House editor at large Peter Gethers. Danlers had her agent send her unpublished manuscript, Sweetbitter, to Gethers, and the rest is history. The waitress has since signed a six-figure, two-book deal, with Sweetbitter set to hit shelves in 2016.

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Alisa Valdes

For years before she signed a much buzzed-about six-figure deal for her first novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club, Valdes worked as a journalist for the Boston Globe, the LA Times, and various other publications.

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Images: kgrosheva/Instagram; Giphy (1); Stephanie Danler/Twitter