Week 4: Turn Poop Into Fuel

The "Getting and Staying Un-Stuck" Experiment is One Month Old! 🎉

Hi! We made it through Wednesday. At times this week I’ve felt like:

Move Along Go Go Go GIF by David UrbinatiAnd even:

Gummy Worms Candy GIF by Phyllis MaBut then there’s also been a lot of:

greenhouse gases poop GIF by University of CaliforniaYou?

Every week I click “Publish and Send” late on Wednesday night and I think to myself: Lesson learned. Let’s start this earlier next week. Maybe draft over the weekend? Or at least draft on Tuesday so there’s a day to sit with it, polish it. But for the first three weeks I ended up feverishly writing fairly late on Send Night, pausing to load the dishwasher or respond to squawks from the baby monitor. I started drafting this in a cafe earlier today today and spent some time free writing yesterday, which I wish felt like more of a victory. Instead it feels like a slow, slow slog.

I do keep a running list on my phone throughout the week where I drop links that I want to be sure to share, so when I feel stuck at least there. (While we’re observing patterns: My dashboard shows that the most-clicked links so far are the brain candy and especially the recipes. NOTED, and so I offer you this week’s fancy salad with the notes that 1) I used cheaper mozzarella and regular chili flakes and dried thyme and it all worked out fine, 2) delicata squash is tied with microwaved spaghetti squash for Easiest Squash and if you’re not cooking with it, make this your Fall of Delicata!, and 3) my spouse is not as into either of these recipes as I am so I can’t endorse quite as confidently as I did, say, the brownies.)

The next step, I think, is to actually write a lot more throughout the week and to embrace the concept of “composting” — keeping a running doc with bits of unfinished or rejected-for-now writing, links to powerful writing by others, screen shots of eye-catching tweets, anything I observe and feel moved to record in case a reason becomes clear later. The key is to not become a digital hoarder, to let it sit, but not for too long. To cut and paste within that document actively and often, turn the word-soil, aerate the images, in hopes that something will be warmed up and useful by Wednesday.

I’m almost positive that I first heard this concept via Ann Friedman, maybe in a description of the writing workshops she teaches with Jade Chang, but I can’t find a link to credit. If I do, I’ll add it another upcoming week. (I would also be unsurprised if compost-as-metaphor appears in adrienne maree brown’s beautiful book Emergent Strategy, which I haven’t finished.) In the meantime, a site called Daily Writing offers How to Compost Words, and one called This Itch of Writing describes some related exercises: Composting, Dreaming and Other Hard Work.

This feels promising, maybe even luxurious and privileged. I can gift myself the belief that if observe keenly and I don’t rush, this practice will work out. The piece I started writing yesterday feels like it might turn into a personal essay that could be shared here or in some other forum if I stick with it. The email I wrote to Gloria gushing about her beautiful dance performance wants to inform something here in a future week. The hodgepodge of items I’m not including this week don’t have to sit on the cutting room floor forever, but if they do, I can trust it’s for the best.

As I sat here scrolling through compost-related gifs and illustrations before writing most of this, my friend Kristi texted me out of the blue. This was UNCANNY because not only have we been out of touch for weeks, but she is a super environmentalist who I knew would be utterly unfazed by the question I immediately texted her: Pop quiz: What’s your favorite fun fact about composting? I was expecting something obscure and worm-focused and instead received this response seconds later: You heard it here first (maybe), folks. Is 2018 the year you bring composting to your workplace? Kristi did it last year and it was revelatory. She’s going to send me some info to share in an upcoming week.

Is there a metaphor in here for our times? Could revolutionizing the way we deal with our day-to-day waste be the way we get rid of the shit all around us, locally and nationally? Does it at least seem like as good a place to start as any?

This week’s links

  • Watch: This two minute video or this 4 minute video. Follow Chicago Community Bond Fund on FB, get to know their work, donate if you can.

  • Listen: The back to school episode of the Code Switch podcast.

  • Read: This excerpt of Rebecca Traister’s new book, Good and Mad (The Cut). Intriguing but not surprising that this season also brings us Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly.

  • We hosted about eight people here on Saturday to write postcards through a group called Sister District, which gathers volunteers “into local teams based on where they live, and ‘sister’ this deep blue energy with swing districts across the country to support strategic state races that matter...with the strategic goals of (1) flipping Republican-held state chambers (2) holding fragile Democratic majorities in state chambers, and (3) making blue inroads in badly gerrymandered states." There are certainly other ways to channel your rage against the shit everywhere, but there are < 50 days ‘til the election, so if you want to help get out the vote this year, this is a friendly place to start.

  • Last week as I sent the third installment of this email, two things unfolded on my social media timelines: Cynthia Nixon tweeted her Election Night tweets (see a few here) and Planned Parenthood announced that Dr. Leana Wen is its new president (NPR interview). I’m still learning about Dr. Wen but I hear she’s been a badass in Baltimore and I’m not mad to have found this piece she wrote about what a pain it is to find places to pump in public (also NPR) because my life right now still involves 3-5 pump sessions every day.

  • I started reading Behold the Dreamers. Have you read it? Can we talk about it when I’m done?

Funky, organic love,


Gifs: Green worm by David Urbinati; gummy worms by Phyllis Ma; pile o’ crap from University of California Research’s Turn Poop Into Fuel; Cargo Collective, International Compost Awareness Week poster