I open my fourth floor apartment door, and inches from my feet, a seagull is prancing around in the tiny space between the top of the stairs and me. I suddenly remember Alfred Hitchcock and The Birds, and I am paralyzed. The nearby window is shut. How did the seagull enter, and how did it manage to close the window? The seagull does not offer any clues. I can’t reach the window without stepping on the bird, and I need to go down the stairs so that I can meet a friend for lunch. The seagull suddenly decides to descend the stairs. It does a combined flying leap down to the first stair and pauses. I take the opportunity to open the window, but the seagull is not interested, nor is it too adept at stair descending. We are both stuck. That’s how I felt when I first started to work on transforming the blog into a book.
How do you organize a blog into a book? I teach and talk a lot about writing process in my MoonWriting workshops. ‘It starts with percolating,” I say. “Let the ideas bubble up to the surface. Don’t worry about giving them shape.”
That’s essentially what I did when I wrote those forty-three blog posts over a period of fifteen months. One day the stones of Lucca inspired a post. Another day a fire smoldered in the mountains near my Colorado home, and the pre-evacuation order forced me to make choices about what to pack. What I learned from those choices became another post. The subjects went on to include war, chasing dogs through olive groves, decisions to retire, and more. Read in the sequence in which they were written, they were an unruly mess.
Where was the coherence? Where were the unifying themes? It was time for the next phase of the process: clarity. For a while I was stuck, and that’s when some midwives arrived. Stay tuned. At some point, both the seagull and I learned to fly!