I have had people over the years ask me what it is like to be a writer. I always find that question interesting because it isn’t something I think about; being a writer is just who I am. I think I was born to write. I know I was born to tell stories.
My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Richardson pushed me into writing with the threat, “Put your ideas on paper and stop disrupting my class or you’re gonna spend another year, right here, in my classroom.” I can still see her mustached upper lip snarling at me and her piercing black eyes flashing with punishable seriousness.
I always had my own ideas, from the time I can remember, about everything. I watched. I listened. I commented on everything (whether anyone was listening or not), and if I didn’t comment verbally, I had a continual inner-dialogue going on in my head. Words, words, words, thoughts and ideas went along with reading stacks of books.
I always thought if I went to school in the 90s and not the 60s, they would have probably had me on a drug, and I would have sported a label. Gratefully, I had parents who took my nosy, commenting energy and turned me into a storyteller.
Sitting on a street bench with my mother we would “people watch” and tell each other complete stories, that, we were certain were true. I felt like Sherlock Holmes, at an early age, watching, listening, observing limps and broken heels, scars, and scratches. Going to lunch and sitting in locations where I could ease-drop and overhear conversations, picking out accents, attitudes, and storylines.
People today, often mistake my, self-inflicted, solitary life, for aloofness or arrogance. It is not that; I just want to watch, smell, hear, taste and feel everything that is going on around me, completely.
It is often difficult for writers to turn off the writer inside to socialize or be with groups of friends or even family. I know that sounds strange, but it is the demanding part of my work that pulls me, secretly, into the viewpoint of strangers. Sometimes playing with my imaginary friends, my characters, is just so interesting.
Writer’s to communicate must observe, smell the flowers, and hear the bees to have something to write about.
So when asked what it is like to be a writer, I just shrug my shoulders and mumble something along the lines of being weird and just, a nosy observer.
Author, historian Janie Lynn Panagopoulos has worked in the field of historical research, interpretation, and professional writing for over 37 years. Starting in the advertising field writing commercials for radio, television, newspapers and magazines, she moved into journalism and writing columns for newspapers and magazines with over 1,000 articles to her credit. Nearly 25 years ago, she began writing Great Lakes historical fiction novels for students 3rd-8th grade. Panagopoulos believes sharing the stories of our American past, helps students understand who we are, today, in history.