One of the greatest joys of this writing life is that inspiration can come visiting in the most unlikely of places and at the strangest of times.
It happened to me yesterday, when I was lecturing in careers in the media at Exeter University -
It's something I love doing for all the reasons you've heard before - putting a little back into the community, offering the students a thought about a rewarding way of life, feeling young again as I get to engage with the future of the nation, delighting in that sense of life, talent, energy and optimism etc.
So I was enjoying the lecture because of all that when - out of nowhere - the idea came.
It was during the question and answer part, at the end. When I sensed something about the audience had changed.
An interesting number of the questions were about how to find a work-life balance; secure a good degree, but also do a part time job to try to minimise debt, while at the same time getting some work experience to enhance your CV, and also the important issue of actually having a life, too.
It was apparent that being a student has suddenly become a very serious business. With all the money they now have to spend on getting a degree, they want to make sure they get it right and get something very worthwhile for it. And that seems to have made them much more earnest and thoughtful.
The rights and wrongs of all that can be debated endlessly. But what it did give me was an idea for a new tvdetective book, featuring that sense of the modern day pressures of being young.
I'm liking the idea, because I think it'll make for a strong plot, and it's also about capturing a moment of change - and that's part of the job of a writer, or so I'm told.
So, thanks very much to the group (here's some of them, being kind enough to look interested! - )
... for playing along with my games and strange ways of teaching, for all the kind and warming feedback, and for giving me inspiration, too. And the best of luck to you - on the evidence of yesterday, you'll go far indeed.