On finding good ideas

Let me tell you a story about good ideas.

When I first started teaching developmental editing, I taught a beginning class for a year or two and it became very popular. The sponsoring organization asked me to teach an intermediate class. So I did that. Finally that asked if I could teach another class, again since the first two were so popular.

I didn’t have anything new to say, and I didn’t know what this other class would cover, so I decided I would just support the editors in editing a full-length manuscript, start to finish, instead of the partial ones we used in the beginning and intermediate classes. I figured the best way to learn is do. I called this the advanced class, and for a long time (several years), that was it. Beginning, intermediate, and advanced.

People would sometimes say, “How about a class on POV?” and I’d say, “Here’s a link to a blog post.” I just couldn’t conceive that there would be more to say. Until one day someone said, “I want to get work from publishers.” I was able to imagine what that class would look like. So I wrote it up and taught it and . . . I realized I could also write that POV class and that conflict class and so on.

Over the past five years, I’ve introduced a lot of new classes about editing, and every time I think I’ve exhausted my ideas and there will be no more. And yet someone I just added three new classes for the fall semester, even though I was pretty sure that by now I’d covered it all.

Ideas come when you act on them.