Opening Lines is a wonderful project exploring how famous writers, artists, musicians, innovators, philosophers and politicians got their start, pushing past bumpy beginnings towards epic triumphs.
The Opening Lines editors scour libraries, archives and the web, even conducting original interviews, to unearth how cultural icons went about pursuing their passions in those early days when setbacks were prolific, rejection unabashed and affirmation scarce. From legendary physicist Stephen Hawking to Mashable’s Pete Cashmore to guitar legend Jimmy Page, the project covers an impressively rich and cross-disciplinary spectrum of mavericks and masterminds, go-getters and geniuses.
Even geniuses had to start somewhere. We’ve researched the lives of many accomplished writers and artists, musicians and innovators, philosophers and politicians, to bring you the stories of how they got interested in their craft and the first attempts they made at pursuing it. Some may debate the veracity of one or another of these tales, but more than anything else, we simply hope to shed a little light on that moment when people decide to follow their passions and try to create something for the very first time. In most cases, these figures were struggling artists long before they were exceptional ones. So perhaps readers will find some inspiration in these stories to pursue their own passions.
Robert Frost should have been a failed writer. He never graduated college, and spent the first half of his life writing in total obscurity.
By the time Frost was closing in on his 40th birthday, he’d been unable to publish any books (not counting a privately printed volume of six poems that he’d given to his fiancee years earlier), and had only been fortunate enough to see a select few of his poems appear in print at all. While writers often improve in later years as they accrue more life experience and hone their talents, it’s obviously still quite daunting to fail at achieving any recognition after years of pursuing the craft.
So what makes a writer continue to toil away in the face of persistent neglect?
In Frost’s case, the answer may be twofold. He’d always wanted to be a poet, and he’d experienced some mild success early on that might have made him feel entitled to this passion.
Poetry was the thread that tied his life together. He graduated high school as class poet (an honor you wouldn’t likely see highlighted in year books today.) Two years later (after a brief stint at Dartmouth), Frost sold his first poem to a small magazine called the New York Independent for the grand sum of $15. Published and paid, what could be better?
Still, on the whole, the poem was a success, one which Frost intended to surpass. “Rather than equal what I have written and be satisfied, I will idle away an age accumulating a greater inspiration,” Frost wrote in a letter to the publisher of this poem. And it did take nearly half a lifetime to do so.
For two more decades, this poem was pretty much all the world heard from Robert Frost, though he kept himself busy. Frost moved around, first to Virginia then Massachusetts, where he attended Harvard briefly, then to a family farm in New Hampshire, where he worked for several years as a poultry farmer. Along the way, he got married and continued to write, and even teach high school English. At last, he became fed up with his lack of success in America and moved abroad to England, where he finally managed to kick start his career and make up for lost time.
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