Why I Write – Ben Panico
If you take a look at my resume, you’ll see it’s a little all over the place. I’ve had a bunch of interesting, fulfilling, and stressful jobs. I’ve worked in multiple nonprofits, a plant store, a rock climbing wall, and the Obama administration (though not in that order). Even though I really value these experiences, I can’t say I’d want to go back to any of them.
As my parents reluctantly inch closer to retirement, they are both anxious about how they will fill their time after leaving the 9 to 5 (more like 8 to 6) jobs they’ve held for 20+ years. “Get a hobby!” I’ve told them on numerous occasions.
Me? I’d love to be retired. I have plenty of hobbies. For one, I love music. I play guitar and ukulele. I sing, albeit not too well yet. And I’ve been teaching myself piano during the quarantine. I write my own songs, and I’m slowly learning how to mix and produce my music into something that sounds vaguely professional.
For another, I love to write. I graduated with an English Literature degree, though I studied poetry in the creative writing department for a year. In my free time, I like to write creative nonfiction. And in the work hours I set for myself, I write basically anything else.
I’ve written blog posts, product reviews, newsletters… I even wrote a television commercial script recently. I enjoy the challenge of writing in so many different styles, and I appreciate that as a freelancer, I can always find new topics to learn and write about.
Freelance writing gives me the flexibility to set my own hours, and work only how much I want to in order to make however much money I think I need. Instead of sitting at a desk for eight hours straight, even if I could get my work done in less time, I clock in and out whenever I want. I take breaks between client projects to do chores and refresh my brain. I actually sit and enjoy my breakfast and lunch — something I often didn’t have time for in my previous stress-filled, full-time jobs — usually with a crossword puzzle or an ebook. And when I’m done working for the day, be it one or three pm, I can move to the piano with a clear head, and plenty of energy left for my creative pursuits.
One last passion I'll mention is travel. I am a life-long learner. I read a lot, and I like to assign myself random subjects I want to learn more about (tree identification, Pluto, psychology). One of my favorite studies is culture: I’m so curious how my life would be different had I grown up in this country or that state.
I like to check out every place I pass. What do the houses look like? How good is their neighborhood cafe’s coffee? What types of pie does the diner serve? I spend a lot of time walking, not really hiking per se, but just walking up and down blocks or around a lake or park. (My record at the moment is just over 30,000 steps from the day I followed the Berlin Wall for a few miles.)
Freelance writing gives me the flexibility to do that. As long as I have WiFi, I can work from a motel room, a park bench, or a public library, just to name a few of my recent “offices.” When I’m done, I just close my laptop and continue to explore the world around me.
Maybe one day I’ll make money from an album I produce or a book I publish. I don’t know. I’m more concerned with continuing this lifestyle I’ve cultivated. What I do know for sure is that I can happily go the rest of my life without ever again being cooped up in an office for eight hours a day.