It is often the case that the most underestimated, unlikely individuals manage to subvert their circumstances and do incredible things. The following writers have all conquered prejudice, inner struggles or discouragement- obstacles which would have extinguished the dreams of many others. Here are five of the most incredible authors who overcame all sorts of difficulties to create some of the most coveted literary works the world has seen:
It seems only fitting that this list should begin with one of the first women ever to earn a living through writing. Despite her gender, Aphra Behn was a successful poet, playwright, and novelist. Popular even in her own time, Behn defied 17th century societal expectations and overcame gender prejudice and discrimination. Moreover, such experiences as spending a short period in a debtor’s prison add to the unlikelihood of Behn’s success and yet, after her release, Behn began her writing career- at first, writing for the stage.
While King may not have had to fight against societal prejudice, he had personal and familial struggles to contend with before he became the bestselling horror king (pun intended) that he is today. King’s father left the family when he was very young, abandoning him, his brother and mother under the pretense of going out to buy cigarettes, placing great emotional and financial strain on his mother throughout his childhood. Even more shocking is the revelation that King saw his friend killed by a train when he was just a child and, as a result, suffered psychological trauma- as recounted by his parents (though he cannot remember this event now). These childhood struggles and traumas didn’t hinder and may have even enhanced, King’s determination to write horror novels.
A few months after Blyton was born, she almost died from whooping cough- and, let’s face it, no matter how passionate an individual is about writing, you can’t really overcome death. Thankfully, she was dotingly cared for by her father and made a full recovery. Blyton was very close to her father in early childhood; he influenced her love for nature, literature, art, and theatre. In contrast, Blyton’s mother took little interest in her daughter’s pursuits. Shortly after Blyton’s 13th birthday, however, her father left the family for another woman- much to the devastation of poor Enid. Her relationship with her mother did not improve after this time and she considered Blyton’s writing ambitions as a waste of time. The only encouragement Blyton received was from her school-friends auntie, Mabel Attenborough, which seemed to be enough, along with Blyton’s highly self-motivated attitude, to turn her into one of the most successful children’s authors of all time.
Born into an aristocratic family in Russia, Tolstoy seemingly had the world at his feet. However, despite his privileged upbringing, Tolstoy was described at the university as “both unable and unwilling to learn”, taking for granted- and frankly, rejecting –the educational opportunities offered to him. Tolstoy left the university before completing his studies and took to gambling, running up huge gambling debts. Eventually, Tolstoy joined the army; it was here that Tolstoy started writing. Tolstoy then went on to write novels including one of the most esteemed realist novels of all time: War and Peace.
J. K. Rowling
Rowling was under the employment of Amnesty International when struck with the inspiration for the Harry Potter series, whilst traveling on a train. After this initial inspiration, however, Rowling saw the death of her mother, a divorce, the birth of her first child and was reduced to living in relative poverty. Against the odds, Rowling managed to overcome these difficulties and write the first novel, which was rejected by twelve different publishers before finally being accepted by Bloomsbury publishing. The Harry Potter series then went on to become the bestselling series of all time.
The lesson these writers’ lives can teach us is: to be resilient; to not be discouraged by others and; to work hard to pursue your dreams, no matter what difficulties you face.
“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” – Thomas Paine