Becoming a more productive writer

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a Guardian article written about novelist Wyl Menmuir…

I had never before heard of UK writer Wyl Menmuir, although I was enthralled by his name from the moment I saw it. Turns out, he  teaches creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and is the 2017 writer in residence at Falmouth University. Oh, and his bestselling debut novel, The Many was long-listed for the 2016 Man Booker Prize.

But I’m writing about him because, apparently, a Guardian article about his writing experience has gone viral. I read the piece and found it deeply interesting. I particularly liked the way he described the ‘ups and downs’ of the writing process — the predictable lows followed by the inevitable highs.

Here’s the thing that interested me most, however. I learned about Wyl Menmuir and his Guardian article from reading a piece in my local newspaper written by Russell Smith. Smith decried Menmuir’s approach and was scathing about the idea of using a productivity app. Here’s part of what Smith wrote:

My experience is that if you have a clear idea for a story, including a pretty clear idea of how it’s going to end, the daily writing is not the agony that is commonly imagined. There is no “blank page” to stare you down; there is a series of notes to follow. An outline is a far more powerful motivator than a timer.

I couldn’t disagree more. Writing is not all about the ideas. It’s about the diligence of sitting down in front of your computer, day after day, even when you really don’t feel like it. It seems clear to me that Menmuir would not have finished his book without some sort of accountability program. Good for him for doing that.