I've gotten a decent start on my fourth book. It's a stand-alone in a college setting, and I've been wanting to write it for a long time. (Yes, I'm also planning to write a BTL #4. I have a storyline loosely mapped and the characters chosen. I'm making notes and doing research, and will begin writing it as soon as the current WIP is complete.)
I finished college once my kids began school. As a non-traditional student (they didn't fool me - I knew non-traditional meant old), I often felt like more of an observer than a participator - a good thing for an aspiring writer, I think. As a shy person, this was no different than how I've always felt within groups. I've always preferred to remain outside the spotlight, and I enjoy watching everyone else. I also love interacting with younger people. Unlike many of my non-traditional peers, most of the friends I made were outside my age group, or were others like me who were comfortable with people ten or fifteen years younger.
After graduating, I got a job on campus and became an academic advisor. When someone walks into my office, I don't know what load they're carrying. Are they on probation because they've partied too hard, or because they're fighting clinical depression, or dealing with a horrible breakup, or simply took on too much at once? I've had students battling physical or mental ailments who didn't know about the disability office that will help them get course accommodations for everything from ADD to cancer to closed head injury to hearing impairments. Many students don't know there's free, confidential counseling available. Or that there's a free clinic if they're sick. Or an office that provides low-cost tutors whose fees are half-paid by the state.
I've had students sit on the other side of my desk, close to tears because they've struggled academically and are now a little behind for their age - their high school friends have "all" graduated from college and they feel like they've failed. I told a guy the other day, "You have no power to change what you did but you have complete power over what you're about to do." I thought I was saying something he'd heard a hundred times, but from the look on his face he'd either never heard it or never listened before.
I've loved this job and felt fulfilled by it. But I love writing more, and I've found that I simply don't have time for both. While I was writing the last book, I worked 20 hours a week and wrote 50 hours a week. My family sometimes forgot what I looked like! So today, I turned in my resignation notice. This was a scary decision. Health insurance for my five-person family will now fall completely on my husband, as will any semblance of a steady paycheck, but he's in agreement that I can't do both any longer.
I'm not a fast writer, and I doubt I'll ever be able to pound out a novel in a couple of months. The only reason I was able to get three books out in 2011 is because I had one completed and one half-completed a year ago. But I believe that having the most energetic and mentally creative time of my day back will help.
I'm starting 2012 from scratch: Ready. Set. Go.