Following his successful autobiography (imaginatively titled Autobiography), Morrissey recently announced that he has begun a novel. Crossing genres is not that unusual – he would be following in the footsteps of fellow musicians Leonard Cohen, Ryan Adams, Nick Cave, Tracey Thorn, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith, all of whom have written critically acclaimed literary fiction.
Others have juggled writing ambitions with rather less glamorous careers. Harper Lee, for example, worked as a reservation clerk for an airline for more than eight years, Stephen King worked as a school janitor and in a commercial launderette washing sheets. T.S Eliot composed passages of The Wasteland on his way to his job as a clerk at Lloyds Bank in London, whilst Richard Wright spent seven years working as a letter sorter for the US Post Office. Margaret Atwood worked in a coffee shop, and JD Salinger worked as Director of Entertainment on a Swedish cruise ship.
Kurt Vonnegut managed America’s first Saab dealership in Cape Cod during the 1950s and later joked “I now believe my failure as a dealer so long ago explains what would otherwise remain a deep mystery: why the Swedes have never given me a Nobel Prize for Literature.”
Many of these writers used these experiences as inspiration – see high school story Carrie by ex-janitor Stephen King, Atwood’s essay Ka Ching! and Salinger’s story Teddy, set on a liner – showing that even uninspiring, repetitive jobs cannot stifle the truly creative mind.