Being a writer doesn’t necessarily guarantee fame, fortune and success. Looking at what the great literary geniuses have achieved, usually tends to deceive us. We forget that they are mere mortals – like us. They go through many of the problems we have faced at some points in our lives. Some have been through worse. Today, let us have a look at some of the great writers who had to face immense obstacles and yet, managed to overcome them and achieve success.
“The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”
The English writer is considered the most significant English author after William Shakespeare.
He is best known for writing ‘Paradise Lost’, which has been called the greatest epic poem in English. His other works – ‘Paradise Regained’ and ‘Samson Agonistes’, have ensured that Milton will be remembered as one of the most eminent writers of all time.
What many people do not know is that, while writing his magnum opus, Paradise Lost, he was losing his eyesight and was completely blind before he completed his work.
The poet was undeterred and was able to finish his work with the help of his wife. Despite his handicap, he still wrote many books which have influenced other literary greats like Alexander Pope and William Wordsworth.
“To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable.”
“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.”
When he was a child, Charles Dickens’ father, John Dickens, was sent to prison for failing to pay his creditors. That was why, since childhood, Dickens was forced to work as a laborer in a boot-blacking warehouse, a schoolteacher and also as a junior clerk in a law office. Later, he worked as a journalist, traveling all over Britain.
Despite growing up in such crippling poverty, Dickens managed to persevere and eventually succeed as a writer. When he recalled his difficult days, he says that his experiences helped him in creating the stories and characters in his books.
In 1838, Dickens published the iconic ‘Oliver Twist’, a novel about an orphan boy who learns the ways of down-and-out Britain. His most celebrated work, ‘David Copperfield’, is considered his unofficial autobiography.
“The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.”
J K. Rowling
“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”
Forbes listed J. K. Rowling in 2004 as being the first person to become a U.S. dollar billionaire from writing books. However, prior to her success, Rowling went through a seven-year period that included divorcing her first husband, the death of her mother, existing on benefits as a single mother in Edinburgh, suffering from depression, and even considering suicide.
Today, the author of the ‘Harry Potter’ series is one of the best-selling authors of all time having sold more than 400 million copies!
“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”
“Happiness can exist only in acceptance.”
Considered one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, many people don’t know that he was broke most of his life. Before becoming a famous novelist and essayist, Orwell volunteered to serve in the Spanish Civil War and worked in Burma’s Indian Imperial Police. Supporting himself on loans from friends and family, often taking odd jobs wherever they happened to be.
To make what little money he could, he reviewed anything he could get his hands on, and even wrote propaganda for the war. Finally, when he was past the age of 40, Orwell broke literary ground with his allegorical novella, ‘Animal Farm’, a satirical and fantastical analysis of modern communism. This propelled him to iconic status.
“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.”
“I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen.”
American novelist Carson McCullers, author of ‘The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,’ suffered from severe, lifelong health problems. She had rheumatic fever at the age of 15 and suffered from strokes that began in her youth. After her divorce from fellow writer Reeves McCullers in 1941, she moved to New York, where she joined an art commune in Brooklyn Heights named February House. There she lived with other brilliant artists and intellectuals including the pianist Benjamin Britten and poet W.H. Auden.
McCullers continued working throughout her life, writing novels, short stories, poetry, and even a play, despite suffering from debilitating illnesses, including the strokes that left her partially paralyzed by only 31. Her works explore the lives of misfits and outcasts in small towns set in the American South.
“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”