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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Compost in the Daylight: A dead squirrel

Even the smallest ideas could have some value.

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There’s a note on my phone and it’s titled “What’s Important.” I think every writer or young person who’s thought they’ve had a great idea has something similar. It’s tucked away on their phone or in a journal or on scraps of paper floating in an accessible area. Those pieces of words never get off that list though, so I thought it was time they did. Or at least mine did. Here are some of the things I’ve written down:

I’ve never seen a dead squirrel before, perhaps that’s because I didn’t ever think they could fall out of trees.

The last time I was on a public bus, I was also crying.

My sister, Petra, one time picked up a stone from a river at summer camp, then discovered it was a snapping turtle and threw it at my face.

There should be a detective series where the main character’s day job is being a freelance obituary writer.

Grey stained-glass windows are sick.

My family has this superpower where we can find the oddest connections between ourselves and strangers. At the fishing pond today, Gavin, my brother, discovered the old man, who asked for extra string, met his wife because my grandfather set them up. They worked at the same environmental law firm.

“Echooo,” my sister yelled on an isolated corner of the lake. “Don’t ask me how I discovered this, alone.”

There were fishhooks in the car.

Puddles could be portals to other worlds — in a really cool dystopian world, I’m too lazy to build on paper.

I’m here with my friends at the graveyard.

“She is a perfect cabinet of oddities. (Charlotte Brontë, “Villette” (1853)).

Kumquats.

I like going really fast — sometimes.

I heard this list referred to as a “compost heap” by my favorite writer, Neil Gaiman. I read it in an interview somewhere on the internet over the summer. Other writers have also exchanged this term — or variations of this term — in books or talks.

For those who eventually want to be writers, the compost heap is a place where you dump all your fragmented ideas. Because writing something important or great or funny is really hard. Truly, I’m not even sure if I want to write anything that’s substantially interesting, but this list has been growing on my phone for the last three years.

Another thing I’ve been involved in recently is this strange dance with the idea of novelty. Ah, this existential crisis is certainly not novel for a college senior. But it’s been difficult. Even when I try to tell stories to my friends, I find myself stopping halfway through because I’m not sure they’re good enough. So, I think this 500-word space could be a good place for me.

I’m going to show you my compost heap and tell the stories behind it. When you hear a story from a friend, a family member or a stranger and you have the urge to write it down, I believe that little idea could be something that errs on the edge of originality. Sure, all things are reused, but we keep telling stories anyway, and that means something.