I tend to treat classic literary writers like gods. That’s not hard to do. How else would you feel when you’re reading a book that’s so full of wisdom and knowledge?
However, I think sometimes it’s important to ground our literary heroes. We need to see them as the complex and flawed human beings that they are. Just like you and me. The best classic writers wrote their masterpieces with massive doses of humanity and we owe it to them to recognize that. They were not free of struggles, or the boredom of writing, or the vulnerability that comes with it. But despite these odds, they wrote and wrote and wrote more, because that was the only thing that kept them going.
So if you’re a writer, or someone who just discovered their passion for writing, I think you’ll find yourself in at least one of the masters in this list.
The Misunderstood Literary Genius: Shirley Jackson
If you feel weird and misunderstood, I think you’d find comfort in the works of Shirley Jackson.
Most know her for her short story “The Lottery,” the Netflix adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House, and the new fan-fic-slash-biopic Shirley starring Elizabeth Moss.
Fewer people know her for We Have Always Lived in the Castle, the gothic masterpiece about the reclusive Blackwood sisters. The haunting tale sheds light on the life of the author who once wrote that “the only sane people are the ones who are condemned as mad.”
Sadly, people saw her as nothing more than a female genre writer during her time. Weirdos and misfits should rest assured, though, because she later became one of the best classic writers in history.
The Nice Guy with a Dark Side: Roald Dahl
Everyone has a dark side, even children’s literature icon Roald Dahl.
Aside from writing James and the Giant Peach – a book so timeless that celebrities are currently revitalizing it via Youtube to raise charity – he also wrote deliciously twisted short stories for adults.
There’s one about the housewife who murders her ungrateful husband with a leg of lamb (“Lamb to the Slaughter”), another about a gang of soldiers who rescue prostitutes from their cruel madame (“Madame Rosette”), and there’s also one about an heir of a newspaper and magazine empire who decapitates his cheating wife (“Neck”).
Despite the subject matter, these stories read like his children’s books: wistful, kooky, and wonderfully weird. If you have a sunny disposition but like to dip your toes in the macabre, Dahl’s your man.
The Workhorse with a Heart: Stephen King
Has anyone ever called you a workaholic? Do you find beauty in humanity even during its darkest and ugliest moments? If your answers to these questions are yes, then you can count yourself a member of the Losers Club.
Stephen King has written almost a hundred books, and with his new short story collection If It Bleeds, it doesn’t look like he’s stopping anytime soon.
Horror hounds continue to cherish early works through remakes like It and the decades-late The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep. While his nightmare fuel made him one of the best writers in classic horror, it’s his lovable and fleshed-out characters that garner constant readers.
If you’re a workaholic with a big heart and a knack for scaring people, then you have more things in common with the king of horror than you might think.
The Helpful Mystic: Rumi
Rumi’s poetry has stood the test of time. While he was born in 1207, you can still find his bite-sized poetry floating around online alongside younger scribes like Lang Leav.
It’s no wonder why modern readers find his poetry so readable and Instagrammable. They’re practical, plain-spoken, and brief, yet so full of wisdom. His lyrical reflections on the nature of humanity and identity wrestle with issues that we still face today.
If you’re described as “wise beyond your years” or if your friends consistently come to you for advice, then you’re most definitely a Rumi.
The Resourceful Comedian: Mark Twain
In 1862, Samuel Langhorne Clemens tried his hand at mining. When that didn’t go well, he sold funny yarns and sketches to newspapers instead. He had a knack for making his friends laugh during dire times, so why not make America laugh?
He started writing under the pseudonym “Josh.” After publishing several of his humor pieces, Joseph Goodman of the Enterprise newspaper discovered his talent and offered him a job that paid $25 a week. That was the beginning of his literary journey as writer Mark Twain.
Twain was the kind of person who found joy and humour in even the most unfortunate circumstances. His influence in comedy is so vast that comedians each year are awarded a prize that’s named after him. If you’re the class clown, keep your chin up because you’re a spiritual descendant of the late, great Mark Twain.
Remember: If you didn’t find yourself in one of these, don’t be upset. These are just five literary writers. There are so many more of them out there. Keep reading, keep searching, and perhaps, you’ll find a writer who resonates with you.
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