Every now and again, someone asks me about how I come up with ideas for “One Month at a Time.”
The usual answer is that about half of the topics are things I’ve thought about, but haven’t done much to learn about. The other half are things either an editor or someone else has come up with that sounded pretty good for one reason or another.
Good is a relative term. Often, what makes for a good idea is something that sounds awful to me like handling guns, performing in front of a large crowd or committing to some kind of exercise plan.
Generally, these are also the things I come to with little actual knowledge but some preconceived notions.
I also have a list of things that I’d like to do, but haven’t been able to work out for one reason or another.
A few of these include Islam, scuba diving, caving and working in a Chinese restaurant.
When I thought the newspaper might be ending (or at least the part of my life where I worked for a newspaper), I chose to bump up learning to fly as a topic.
That was a fairly harrowing month, actually.
There is also a list of things suggested to me that sound like terrible, possibly career-ending, ideas that I consider and reconsider from time to time.
I’m not going to post any of those.
I do take suggestions. Some of my favorite months came from topics pushed forward by readers. It’s how I found myself performing with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Kanawha Kordsmen. It’s how I got involved with Spring Hill Cemetery and a historical reenactment.
So, what do I need to make a suggestion work?
Well, contact with people who can help me do the work and move the topic forward.
Sometimes, when people write or call in, they have great ideas. One that gets brought up over and over is spending a month with the police, but… it’s never the police who bring this idea up.
Feasibility to accomplish something inside of about a month.
The police example is problematic because to actually be a police officer requires quite a bit of training. Nobody is going to turn me loose with a badge and gun and tell me to go fight some crime.
Probably, Fox has already turned that into a reality television show.
Even walking me through the high points would be time consuming for everyone involved –and the suspicion would be that the police would shield me from actual danger, like going on patrol and dealing with the evil-doing public.
So, that probably wouldn’t work.
A column like “One Month at a Time” is a labor of love for me. This is the best gig I’ve ever come up with, but like all other writing I’ve done, it’s not particularly lucrative.
I put a lot of time in. Some of it, I get paid for. Some of it, I do not.
I have expenses. Some of these I can turn in. Others, I can’t for one reason or another.
I operate on a shoestring budget. So, a willingness to invite me along as a guest instead of a paying customer helps.
Every once in a while, we’ll have to pick up the check for something, but it’s best to keep my costs low for long-term viability.
Generally, I think this works out. I try to be upfront that I’m going to write whatever needs to be written, whatever I notice, whatever happens to me, whatever I learn, but the exposure for whoever is probably good.
Anyway, if you’ve got an idea for a month or want to invite me along to do something, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.