BY: DARLENE CAMPOS
Writing, like many careers, has its risks. There is no guarantee a writer will be a bestseller or have their story made into a movie. However, many writers did not go into this field for fame and money – they write because it is their passion. While writing carries its risks, it is not impossible to become a successful writer over time. Here are five writers who started from humbled beginnings.
You may know Cisneros from her novel The House on Mango Street. In addition to this novel, Cisneros is the author of many books as well as a past winner of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship and the Texas Medal of Arts. Cisneros’ childhood was not an easy one. She grew up in poverty, constantly relocated, and with six brothers, she often felt isolated in her own home. It was this isolation that led Cisneros to writing and she composed her first poem at just ten years old. When one of her high school teachers encouraged her to keep writing, Cisneros took the advice and was later admitted into the Iowa Writers Workshop. It was at this workshop that Cisneros discovered her writing voice. She is now considered one of the most influential writers of this generation.
Best known for his horror stories, Stephen King’s works have become synonymous with terror and fright. He is known for several novels including Carrie, It, and The Shining. Before King became the writer he is today, he had a difficult childhood. His father left the family when King was only two years old, making King’s mother the sole provider for him and his brother David. When King grew up, he was barely able to support himself and his wife Tabitha due to unemployment. He made some income by selling short stories to magazines, but it was not enough. It was around this time that King began drafting Carrie. He became so frustrated with the novel that he initially threw it away in the garbage, but Tabitha encouraged him to finish it. Carrie proved to be King’s big break, thanks to his wife!
Gabriel García Márquez
García Márquez is best known for his novels One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. However, like many writers, García Márquez’s past was a struggle. Before he started writing One Hundred Years of Solitude, García Márquez had the idea for the novel, but he was unsure of how to write it down. One day, García Márquez was driving his wife and children to Acapulco for vacation, the first line popped into his head and he immediately turned the car around to head home and write the first draft. To make ends meet, García Márquez sold the family car and his wife Mercedes persuaded the local butcher, baker, and their landlord to grant them a line of credit until García Márquez finished his latest book. When One Hundred Years of Solitude was finally released, it became an international success and García Márquez officially became a respected voice in literature.
Morrison is a former winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. She is famous for her novel Song of Solomon. As a child, Morrison grew up in a difficult time. When she was around two years old, her family’s landlord set fire to their home since they had been unable to pay the rent, leaving them with nothing. Morrison’s father worked several odd jobs to support the family. Later in life, Morrison married and had two sons, but divorced soon after, leaving her to care for her two young sons all by herself. When she began writing her first novel, The Bluest Eye, she woke up each morning at 4 AM to write as her sons slept. It was Song of Solomon that gave Morrison her biggest acclaim, and with this, her writing career kicked off to a supreme start.
Octavia E. Butler
Butler is best known for her science fiction Patternist series and the Xenogenesis series. Before she became a writer, she too came from humbled beginnings. Her father died when she was only seven years old and she was raised by her mother and grandmother in a very strict household. Butler’s mother was a maid and sometimes she accompanied her to work where they witnessed and experienced racial segregation. Butler was also extremely shy and was diagnosed with dyslexia and often bullied at school. She took comfort in reading books and when she was ten years old, she begged her mother to buy her a typewriter so she could begin writing her own books. As an adult, Butler worked several jobs to support herself and woke up every morning at 2 AM to write before a long day of work. Butler would later win the MacArthur Fellowship, becoming the first science fiction writer in history to hold this award. She would go on to win many more awards for her influential science fiction works.
Yes, writing has its risks, but sometimes risks are worth taking. To writers who are just getting started, remember that you are just getting started and the future holds completed dreams. These five writers got their breakthroughs despite the odds and you can, too!