Talking with Mitchell got me reminiscing. He's still in college. He got published while in college (or just before; I'm not sure I know the details).
I loved college. I'm ashamed to say it, but I think of those as the best years of my life. So far. They were likely the only retirement I'll ever see. I sensed that, and I made the best of them I knew how.
I learned independence in college. It was the first time I'd done anything by myself (although those who knew me during those years would argue I was never without my best college friend Jami, so maybe this is simply my recollection of events).
I learned people skills. I'd never had those before college. Only one actual friend survives my pre-college years, although I've made several since (I have very strict definitions for friend).
I drew my best pictures in college. They were all about my stories. For those four years, there was nothing I couldn't draw. I've lost that ability. I suppose my inner child died when I realized paper costs money I could spend on the mortgage.
And the stories! I wrote the first Past Ties.
I started Fox Hunt, a pirate romance that's a cross between Swashbuckler (the book, not the movie) and The Princess Bride (the movie, not the book). Maybe some day I'll get back to it.
I started Other Sapiens, a story I dreamed up when I was 12 and living on a tropical island. My Barbies acted it out before I wrote it. Well, Barbies and my brother's 12 inch Boba Fett doll from the original Empire Strikes Back. Other Sapiens has a heavy influence from Isaac Asimov's Robots and Empire and Golden Dream by Ardath Mayhar.
I started A Star to Sail By, which is by far the story closest to my heart, yet seems to be the least likely to get written now. It's a coming of age tale of an orphan alien set in a future several hundred years after Star of Justice. The title came from that line by Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka: All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to sail her by (he's quoting a poem, but I don't know which one). One of the characters is very like the ship from Flight of the Navigator. I think we can all agree: silly movie, cool ship. I thought I could do better.
(For the record, I did study in college. I had almost straight A's with an 18 hour course load, but that's not a huge accomplishment because I'm good at school and I didn't have to work a job through college.)
It seemed like I had all the time in the world to write, and all the desire to do so. Almost all of the stories in my files originated during that time.
After college... well, life got in the way. A mortgage showed up, along with a number of cats. Maybe the cats came first. I got a day job I enjoyed that paid the bills, so publishing for money wasn't a need. I've already admitted I have almost no ambition.
Basically, I got comfortable. When you're comfortable, you're not motivated.
Oooh, that's a writing lesson, too. Comfortable characters are boring characters. They need that drive to keep the story moving.
My drive is the approaching 4-0. Like Phoebe from Friends, I have some things I'd like to have accomplished by that birthday. Publication is one of them. So, while college was great, I have a life to get on with.
To Mitchell I say, enjoy it. You may never get another time like this.