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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Learning to Write XII

Stradivarius made stringed instruments. If someone was instructing you how to make a violin, he wouldn’t teach you what Stradivarius did. What Stradivarius did can’t be taught. This fictional teacher might let you handle a Stradivarius in the unlikely circumstance that he had one to hand; allow you to feel the grain, even hear something of the tone.

But he wouldn’t teach you to make a Stradivarius.

What he’d teach you would be something to do with the selecting and care of good tone-woods, with the marking-out of joints and the laying-on of veneers. You would learn about cutting and clamping and it is these things that would fill your days.

The maker of musical instruments had to learn all of these things and many others before he was able to build his first real violin and subsequently begin to add the individual flourishes that would distinguish his later work from his very earliest attempts.

The writer has an advantage. The violin-maker had first to master the use of the tools of his trade; a long process in itself. But as a writer, your own tools consist of character and plot, which are also the end-product almost as soon as you bring them into being. You are working on the end-product, the whole composition, as soon as you sit down at the keyboard.

One Response to “Learning to Write XII”

  1. M.E Ellis says:

    Gawd. I used to play the violin as a kid. Hated the smell of resin, and my teacher had the misfortune of having a glass eye. She freaked the damn life out of me as I never knew if she looked at me or the other violinists.

    Poor cow.


    jb says: Here’s looking at you, kid.