When Inventions Break

What do you do when something you care for breaks? If your 18-year-old vehicle needs a new transmission, is it “broken” or does it just need another new part? Or say you find a hole in a favorite shirt. Is it trash now? A work shirt? Or still a regular shirt, just with “personality”?

I’ve never been one to enjoy throwing things away. There’s a certain sadness to it.

Like “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. There are many layers to that story, but one noteworthy angle is the tree is very useful. Even when it’s down to a stump, a stump still has value. I love that story with all my heart.

But there is a point in life where you can get stumped if you don’t embrace change.

Here’s how bad I am at this:

My popcorn popper. I’ve had this popcorn popper for over 10 years. It first cracked – just a little bit –  about 2 years into its current lifespan. But it still worked. In fact, it even worked better in some ways because the crack provided a little bit of “give” for transferring popcorn to another bowl.

Over the last 8 years, the original crack grew, and it split the entire lid of the popper. There is literally 3-4 inches of lid left before it’s broken in two. But people handle popper problems in different ways:

Some people would throw it away or donate it 8 years ago.

Other people might keep it for awhile, but once it’s ¾ gone, it’s done.

I am convinced that there is someone out there who, even after it’s split in two, would duct tape this puppy together and say, “See! It still works!”

Sometimes inventions break because we break them.

Sometimes things just break down.

At some point, we have to embrace that change is a good thing. Brokenness is never fun, but sometimes inventors get so caught up in what’s broken, we lose sight of the original goal.

Does the popper make popcorn?

But don’t stop there, because after that, inventing becomes a whole lot more fun. Values and critical thinking can be applied. Is the popper operating to the best of its ability? How can we improve it? Is it aesthetically pleasing? Does it need to be? Would it be better to adopt an entirely new way to pop popcorn altogether?

When we embrace a mindset that allows for brokenness to be a catalyst for change, the world becomes a place that is full of different ways to make popcorn: over the fire, off the cob, in the microwave, on the stove in a pot, in a covered tinfoil pie plate….

I’m getting hungry, so I’m going to wrap this up. When inventions break, face the broken pieces and move forward with your end goal in mind.

The results may be the best part of your story. Happy inventing!

Nature Writing 101

I’m not a professor. Before you hit X, you need to know I did take a nature writing class in college. So, I am professionally taught. Right now, my butt is on a rock and an oak root is buddying up to my coffee mug. It doesn’t get more natural than that.

Welcome to nature writing.

My first assignment to you will be the same challenge I took from my professor in college:

  1. Get up a half-hour earlier than you normally do.
  2. Make coffee. It must be coffee.
  3. Grab a notebook, pen, and your coffee – then go outside.

We had to go to the same spot every day and write – so we were advised to pick our spot carefully. I climbed a tree by a pond back then. I’m feeling kind of lame on this rock now, but that’s okay. I’ll climb a tree tomorrow.

Anyway, once you’re in your “spot” – and if you live in the north during the school season, you’re probably getting cold fast – here’s what you do:

  1. Write what you hear, taste, smell, touch, and see.
  2. Write what you’re thinking about.
  3. Write how you feel.
  4. Drink your coffee.

The coffee part was the killer for me because I was not a coffee drinker – so I thought I’d be super-smart and buy the cheapest stuff I could find.


But it became an odd companion to me. And I visited that tree long after the class was over. You know, it’s funny because it sounds like a complete waste of time. And there are people who will always think something like nature writing is a complete waste of time no matter what you say.

I was going to try and describe all the things I hear, and feel, and imagine right now, but my professor nailed it:

You’ve just got to experience it for yourself.

So, we studied a bunch of books, wrote reports, and all that jazz. For today, I’m going to cut out early and find a tree. As for you, you have your assignment.

Class dismissed.

*I originally wrote this post as a guest blogger for questtype.com. It’s a really cool blog that has fun DIY projects for kids and adults, delicious recipes, and great writing advice. Check it out! Questtype.com.

And have fun inventing your story today.