Sarah Tripp in collaboration with Isobel Lutz-Smith, ‘Make Your Own Guitar’, video, 9.34mins, 2020

Dear Alice,

I am trying to find my reason for writing Guitar! I am looking back at the ways I found to write this book over the three years between its initiation and completion, during which time I became a parent.

I have been making some notes on the origins of Guitar! The origins turn out to be habits of writing which were all entirely new to me because they were definitely not my habits before I began. But you do not have to build from the ground up, and you do not need any special tools either, guitars can be made from anything anywhere. What a good guitar does is respond. What this Guitar! does is give the changing conditions of my practice form as words on a page.

Guitar! began as an exploration of conversation. I wanted to make a conversation unfold between strangers, and to show how conversation is a much-overlooked art form. What persisted, as everything changed in the wake of parenthood, were the pressing questions of why we speak, how we learn and relearn to speak, and what good conditions for speaking might be. All this became evinced through the possibilities of this word, guitar. I have been wondering if, with the right listener, you could live with just two words.

Guitar and balloon.

I think writing habits are always in some way responses to uncertainty. To facing the unstable conditions of time, place and community you write from and with. And like most habits, these may also become defences against chaos, or changing priorities, or shrinking resources. And habits tend towards maintaining what are perceived as good conditions, because the ongoing ongoingness of immersive imagining is too easily sabotaged by noise. And then there is the complexity of self-sabotage too, the noise the writer herself makes, or makes herself make.

When I began making this Guitar! I worked quite hard at keeping all kinds of noise at bay, at loving silence. But the Guitar! I have here and now took shape in noise, took its form from noise, was made with noise. Oh, and exhaustion, did I mention joy and exhaustion?

The shape of Guitar! is very different from how I thought it would be three years ago. So, here, partially and seriously, are my untoward habits. Here they are, and there they go, because no sooner are they noted than they are erased by more change.



A limited edition pamphlet is available FREE and will be sent out in September: please contact with your postal address if you would like to reserve a copy. This offer ends beginning 1.09.20. Designed by the artist and printed by Book Works Studio, it includes the 5 letters and special writing exercises devised by Sarah Tripp.


The Self-Illuminating Pen was also published as a limited edition notebook by MAP Editions in November 2020 and made available free. Designed by the artist and with cover artwork by Ciara Phillips, it includes the 5 letters, 5 special writing exercises devised by Sarah Tripp and over 100 blank pages.


Sarah Tripp is an artist, writer and lecturer based in Glasgow. She lectures in Scotland and the United Kingdom and guest lectures at international universities. Her work has been published by Book Works (London), F.R. DAVID (Berlin), 2HB (Glasgow), Space Poetry (Denmark) and The Happy Hypocrite.

Isobel Lutz-Smith is a Scottish moving image artist based in Glasgow. In 2016 she graduated from the Master of Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art, as part of this programme she spent an exchange semester in Tokyo. Her work will feature in an upcoming issue of the Drouth.


Creative Scotland awarded Sarah Tripp Open Project Funding to support the production of the book and performance project Guitar!