Where is the origin of ideas? How are they formed? I brought an Inventors’ Congress to Hinckley Elementary when I taught there many years ago. I had an inventor come to meet with the fifth grade. One of the comments he made has stuck with me. He said there are very few, genuinely, new ideas conceived of at any given time. As we think of something that strikes us as novel, it is likely being thought of elsewhere at that exact moment -somewhere among the earth’s population. What makes a difference in idea formation is the ability to take those ideas and bring them into something substantive – to give them birth.
People have come up the driveway to ask if I am following a plan for the teardrop trailer under construction. The short answer is “no”. The longer answer is that I have perused hundreds of pictures of teardrops, and read countless stories of teardrop construction. That followed with my own drawings along with an ample dose of erasing and revisions. For me, the most important decisions about design are always followed by consultation with my chief collaborator. Very few creative acts have gone forward without calling my wife out to lend an eye. Together we look, tweak, and redesign until we collaboratively come up with a more refined idea than I began with.
I remember so well our initial foray into house construction on our hobby farm west of Hinckley. While I held the gambrel rafters up, Darla went out into the pasture to give a look at the lines. Through hand signals, we shifted the roof until we came up with the pleasing lines it would become.
The essence of a teardrop begins with its profile. I had pictures I drew that provided general ideas, but it wasn’t until I was able to lay the 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood on its side and begin drawing the curves that would provide its shape that it became a workable plan. My chief collaborator came out – I drew a draft – we took turns holding and looking – I’d tweak a radial length of one of the curves – until we came up with design I could put the saw blade to.
Our best work comes about through collaborative interactions. This is true in teardrop construction, constructivist learning environments in our classrooms, and the richness of a successful marriage and family. I am deeply thankful for the lifelong partner I have been blessed with.