May 10, 2010

First Things

 

I heard my first cuckoo of the spring today.*  I thought I’d heard one about a week ago but I wasn’t sure—today I was sure.  Although since I was hearing it from pretty much the same spot, I probably was hearing it a week ago.

            One ‘first’ is also a good moment to inaugurate another blog thread:  answering some of the questions you’re assiduously sending to Askrobin.**  But before I begin on a few I am going to answer:  pleeeeeeeease remember, before you submit a question, to do your homework first.  Despite a clear statement of the rules http://robinmckinleysblog.com/2010/05/03/new-blog-feature-qa/  there are questions coming in that are answered in the FAQ http://www.robinmckinley.com/faq/

            It would also be a good idea to have a look through ‘about’ on the blog. http://robinmckinleysblog.com/about/ .  Someone has asked for photos of the sort of bells I ring, for example:  there’s a list of change-ringing sites in ‘about’, several of which have, or had, the last time I looked, not only photos of change-ringing tower bells, but video clips, so you can see the wheels and the 360° swing thing, and I think there’s at least one that shows you how the ‘stay’ shuttles back and forth as the bell swoops one way and then the other in its frame.***  If any of the links are broken, please tell Blogmom, and if Blogmom can’t fix ’em I’ll look for more.

            I’ve thought about trying to get photos of some of my bells.  But bells are tucked away in belfries which† have a nasty habit of being dark, insanely cramped, full of dust and dead flies, and unilaterally inhospitable to humans.††  I may try one day.  But not today. 

Does chocolate inspire you to write? 

No, but the need to buy more does.  Green & Black’s is seriously not cheap.  Especially at the rate I get through it.

 What is the best thing to keep yourself motivated as a writer, in your experience?

 Um.  The need to buy more chocolate?†††

            Really:  the need to write.  The need to get that story down.  This is one of the things I say to people who want to be writers—who think they want to be writers—who are wondering if they want to be writers.  Who are indulging in a little fantasy about the pleasures of the writing life.‡  If you have to write—then write.  If the story is going to kill you if you don’t write it, then definitely—write the freller.‡‡  If you don’t have to write . . . don’t.  Take up knitting or bell ringing or raising kumquats or something‡‡‡ and be grateful for your narrow escape from a particular kind of obsessive insanity.

            And yes, there are bad days.  Or weeks.  Or months.§  When you can’t write, and when you do, it’s drivel.  But that’s another answer to another question.  The main thing that should keep you writing is needing to write. 

How does one pronounce “foogit”?  Hard g or soft g?

 Hard.  Foo as in phooey and git as in . . . git.  Git you rascal! 

            That’ll do for a start.  Writing about writing!  Boooooring!  I’d rather be shovelling snow!§§  No, no, I’ll be good, I’ll answer more.  Later.  Maybe answering writery questions will grow on me.  I didn’t use to like the colour yellow, or violin music, or dahlias.  They’ve all grown on me.  I’m wearing a yellow pullover, Rachel Podger is on the CD player, and my tray of dahlia seedlings is one of the things I will bring indoors tonight.  Just in case.

 * * *

* http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.557143  I like Delius, I like folk-song-inspired classical music, I like slushy romantic ‘English’ music.  There’s an old YouTube recording of some of it, but I can’t get it to play. 

** You are, right?  You aren’t?  Well, go assiduate then.  askrobin@robinmckinleysblog.com 

*** And if anyone is ever lucky enough to go to Perth in Australia, be sure to visit the bell tower and watch the Swan bells being rung.  Literally.  There’s an observation deck around the (very heavily soundproofed) glass walled belfry, and you can stand there and watch, peering down occasionally at the mere ringers a floor below you.  I’ve been there and it is spectacularly cool.  I suppose I’m a trifle biased.  I don’t understand why Perth doesn’t have the highest per capita bell ringing population in the world, with the glass-walled belfry as a teaser.  Maybe it does.  Perth is a nice town too. 

† except in Perth 

†† You need a graduate degree in climbing to be allowed up there at all.  First there are the ladders, and then there are the bell frames.  There is no floor:  just beams and bell frames.  And then there are the spiders.  If you don’t know what spiders^ have to do with climbing, I’m not going to tell you.  I don’t want to destroy your faith in the basic goodness of creation.^^

^ Large ones.  Large hairy ones. 

^^ Small to medium sized spiders in the bottom of the bath are fine.  I hang a bathmat over the edge and let them climb out and run away.  There are limits.  And you can’t run away when you’re clinging to a beam in a floorless belfry. 

††† I never promised to be serious about answering. 

‡ Although it’s perfectly true you can loll around all day in your dressing-gown and never comb your hair if you want to.  I don’t recommend it, however, because people will knock on the door, and you don’t want to go out of your way to develop a reputation for eccentricity.  The reputation for eccentricity will happen naturally without any effort whatsoever on your part. 

‡‡ And figure out what to do with it later.  While you’re writing, it’s just you and the story. 

‡‡‡ Not that knitting or bell ringing and writing are mutually exclusive.  I don’t know about kumquat raising. 

§ Or years. 

§§ No, no!  Joke!  We’re not going to have a frost tonight! Noooooo!

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