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Illustration from Don't Quit Your Day Job by Jack Lynch - William Faulkner (1897 - 1962) His own little postage stamp.

Wallace Stevens, poet and insurance executive, argued that “poetry and surety claims aren't as unlikely a combination as they may seem.” Don't Quit Your Day Job collects fifty accounts of famous people like Stevens who made it big in some field of excellence while holding down some other job. When we grow weary of defining ourselves in terms of our occupations, we can turn to historical examples of people who have managed to find fulfillment in two distinct worlds.

Illustration from Don't Quit Your Day Job by Jack Lynch - William Faulkner (1897 - 1962) His own little postage stamp.

FAULKNER

Faulkner published his first poem, “L'Après-Midi d'un Faune,” in 1919. His new status as a veteran entitled him to enroll in classes at Ole Miss, though once again he found himself bored, and again dropped out after just a few weeks. How, then, to make a living? He looked for a desk job that would let him remain on campus without taking too much time away from his literary endeavors, and got himself appointed postmaster at the university. As one biographer says, “It was…an improbable position for a person known to be both indifferent to mail and allergic to routine.” Still, Faulkner was grateful for the income. The eccentric “poet-postmaster” became a well-known character around the university.

Illustration from Don't Quit Your Day Job by Jack Lynch - William Faulkner (1897 - 1962) His own little postage stamp.

STOKER

Stoker served [the actor Henry] Irving as business manager [of his theater] for twenty-seven years. And he was good at what he did, helping to make the Lyceum the place to be seen in late Victorian London. Stoker introduced a number of innovations that now seem utterly natural: he was the first to number the seats, for instance, and to offer tickets for specific places in each section of the theater. He encouraged patrons to make reservations for seats in advance. And he advertised the theater's entire season as a whole, rather than emphasizing a single play at a time.

Illustration from Don't Quit Your Day Job by Jack Lynch - William Faulkner (1897 - 1962) His own little postage stamp.

TROLLOPE

In 1852 Trollope made two of his most lasting inventions. The first was literary: he conceived the outline of his most famous novels, the series known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire. The second was part of his business: he proposed to the English postal service that they change the way letters entered the system. Stamps were widely available at every shop, but people still had to travel long distances to the main post office to mail their letters. Why, he asked, couldn't there be drop boxes, perhaps mounted on posts by the side of the road, where people could leave their stamped letters, and wait for the postman to pick them up?

Illustration from Don't Quit Your Day Job by Jack Lynch - William Faulkner (1897 - 1962) His own little postage stamp.

NEWTON

Reconfiguring the entire intellectual would have been enough for most people, but Newton began to consult with the Royal Mint on the side. The English monetary system was under threat from counterfeiters and “coin-clippers,” cheats who would snip bits of silver and gold from coins and sell the precious metal for extra income. Newton advised the government on how to redesign English coins, and by systematically replacing all the old currency with new coins with milled edges–like our modern quarter or dime–where any clipping would destroy the ridged patterns, he largely solved the problem of clipping.

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