Review: Sing Me The Creation: second edition

From the incomparable Nimue Brown, this warming review of Sing Me The Creation: Creative Writing Sourcebook, 2nd Edition.

How to write and whether to read: Sing Me The Creation – 2nd Edition by Paul Matthews

I’m not a great fan of how-to instructions for writers. I’ve read a few, of varying length, and often what happens is that the process is reduced to its mechanical components. Many could be better described as ‘how to write what’s fashionable right now and therefore easier to pitch to a publisher’ and of course fashions change, it is in their nature to do so. This year’s hot, sure fire thing is next year’s damp squib. Authors who seek a career being quite like that big popular thing, may well make a living, in fact may well be a lot more successful than I am, but it’s still not a path I’d choose.

If my primary interest was money, I would not be trying to write books. There are easier, more reliable ways to make a living. So much of the book world is about how to sell. I work in marketing some of the time, and I understand how the selling side is essential to make publishing work, but books designed for marketing are just entertainment products, and for me that’s missing something.

Reading Paul Matthews Sing Me The Creation brought home to me what it is that I don’t like in books about writing, and in the industry as a whole. This is a book of re-enchantment, seeking magic and wonder in language. It’s a book of soul and art. Writing for the love of it, and for the love of the world, sharing stories and poems because it is good to do so. There’s not a marketing tip in there, and no consideration of whether you can cough up a best seller. On the cover is an image of a heart shaped book – and this is a book all about bringing heart and words together.

It’s full of ideas and creative exercises. If you do all the exercises, you will not have written a book. You won’t have a model for a book. You won’t have a marketing plan. What you will have, very likely, is a fire in your head and a joyful sense of the possibilities of language. You’ll have an urge to play with words and concepts, and perhaps a returning sense of why you wanted to write in the first place.

This is a book for people who need to fall in love (again) with the idea of writing. This is for people who are feeling a bit lost, a bit jaded in their craft. This is the book for writers who are no longer sure why they write, or what it achieves or whether there is any point. There is a point.

I’ve struggled with all of this for years, with the demands and nature of the industry pulling one way and my inspiration pulling the other. I’ve struggled with the idea that to be a successful professional, I have to write what’s wanted, not what I feel needs putting into the world. This is a book that has helped me reclaim my inspiration, my sense of wonder and possibility.

I’ll keep the marketing hat and I’ll use it to help other people get their work noticed. I’ll keep the marketing hat for after books are written, but I won’t wear it when I’m writing. It tends to constrict the flow of blood to the brain, the flow of words to the pen.

This book, Sing me the Creation, I will keep, and any time the world of publishing gets me down, I will pick a random page and open it, and remind myself of what I’m doing and why. If it sounds like a book you would enjoy, then I very much recommended it to you, if re-enchantment calls to you, this book is well worth your time.

Buy the book here…

Read Nimue Brown’s blog here…