In life, it is easy to lean toward the tried and true road—the path of least resistance. We make decisions based on their likelihood to hold us up against the odds. But that tends to take a toll on us over time. Deep down, we all seek to fulfill our desires for freedom and to pursue long-waiting dreams, no matter the cost. And what better time than All or Nothing Day to start?
One of the careers most characterized by the all-or-nothing spirit is that of a writer; highly risky with examples of high rewards for those who break in, it is no wonder so many view the craft as a path toward personal freedom. In honor of this All Or Nothing Day, here are five authors who put their livelihoods on the line for the sake of a career in writing.
When things are too good to be true, it is usually an indicator of approaching hard times. That’s what Lee Child predicted while in the middle of a career as a presentation director at ITV in the United Kingdom, according to his own introduction of his first novel, Jack Reacher: Killing Floor. He was eventually forced to leave his position “because of corporate restructuring,” according to Wikipedia, after which he delved fully into the written word and began producing his collection of bestselling Jack Reacher books. Because, when you lose your well-paying job, the obvious route is to start writing books.
If there ever was a literal representation of the phrase, “living by the seat of your pants,” it would be Stephen King’s pre-novelist era, when he was literally funding his family by the seat of his writing chair. The early years of his marriage and family life were characterized by completing short stories in the nick of time to pay the bills, according to Stephen King himself in the documentary about his life by Biography. After working as a janitor and a high school English teacher, he compiled such experiences to write his break-in novel Carrie. Sometimes, going all or nothing into what you love is what it takes to rise from living in a mobile home to bestselling author.
George R. R. Martin
Did you know that the author who wrote the phenomenon A Song of Ice and Fire also wrote for the Twilight Zone? George R. R. Martin’s writing career began with writing novels, such as his science fiction romance Dying of the Light, and his take on historical fiction and the vampire genre Fevre Dream; however, The Armageddon Rag’s lack of success forced him to dive into the world of television, according to the documentary about his life posted by the YouTube Channel Amit Srivatsa. During his years as a screenwriter, few of his works were actually produced due to their budget-crushing scope. After getting fed up with Hollywood’s fiscal incompetence to produce the stories he wanted to tell, Martin returned to the world of novels, hellbent on writing an epic series that no Hollywood producer would dare even touch. And what you got from that was A Song of Ice and Fire and later the hit TV series Game of Thrones. How ironic.
If there ever was a writer characterized by the all-or-nothing spirit, it would be George Lucas. On multiple occasions in his life, he bet his heart, soul, and physical health on his dreams. In high school, Lucas stood at the cusp of an exciting career as a race car driver until barely surviving an accident. The event forced him to rethink his future, and he chose filmmaking as his alternative route. During his time in college, he produced a 20-minute long dystopian thriller that was only supposed to be 5 minutes long, according to the documentary Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy. After graduation, he worked for an independent film company called American Zoetrope, which soon crashed and burned, after which he founded Lucasfilm Limited. His first hit movie was American Graffiti, in which utilized his personal experiences from his teenage racing years. Afterward, Lucas threw everything he had into the epic of his career: Star Wars. Battling every problem imaginable in the film industry and ignoring his doctor’s advice to lower his stress levels, he managed to create a trilogy that would serve as a dividing line in the history of cinema, with the past on one side and the future of film on the other.
He was the author of Jurassic Park, the television show ER, and numerous other bestselling novels: Long story short: Michael Crichton wanted to be a writer but also wanted to make a good living, so he attended Harvard Medical School and wrote 10 novels during his time there under two different pseudonyms. After his novel The Andromeda Strain broke him into the industry, Michael Crichton delved into a dual career of writing novels and films, even directing some of his own book adaptations. Despite equally strong forces trying to pull him into one box or the other, Crichton acted as the immovable object in his life and maintained a steady involvement, as well as distance, between the two interwoven industries. According to an interview conducted by Diane Sawyer, Crichton increasingly deprived himself of sleep and eating as he got further into a writing project. Though his wellbeing was starkly lower than the previous mentions, his life was one of constantly pursuing his goals and standards, even at the cost of multiple marriages and his own happiness. If that’s not all or nothing, I don’t know what is.