CWM: You have written more than 40 books, making you a prolific writer. The writers and readers here might be interested to know: have you ever suffered from writer’s block? And if so, do you have any tips on combating it? If not, what do you think on the subject of writer’s block?
Crystal: Yes, more than 40 – about 120 now, actually – though it all depends on what one counts as a book – not just large authored works, but edited works, short books for schools, second editions, and so on. This is where my blog comes in handy, as predicted above.
Writer’s block? Never. Early on I developed a strategy of working on more than one thing at the same time. (I had no choice, actually, as there was so much demand for books, articles and reviews on language.) This meant that, when I got fed up with project A (or couldn’t think how to take it forward) I could switch to project B. After a while, an idea would surface about how to handle the problem in project A, and I’d go back to it. Fortunately, language is a subject which allows that kind of approach, because it is so varied and is always changing, requiring fresh appraisals. The more diverse the tasks the better, I find – which is where the Internet is really helpful, as one can get the writing wheels moving even by the simple task of sending a message to an online forum.
The other thing I do is not allow myself to stop writing. If I’m faced with an apparent impasse in what I’m writing, I carry on writing anyway. It might be rubbish, but out of that rubbish something will come which revision will hone into something acceptable. Revision is crucial, and the more the better. I once kept a tally of the number of times I revised a chapter for a book I was writing (by keeping every draft electronically), and found I’d produced over 200. For a poem it might be much more. Remember Oscar Wilde, spending all morning poring over a proof of something he’d written, eventually taking out a comma – and in the afternoon putting it back again! I’ve done that too.
Thank you very much for the interview and for sharing your thoughts here on Cecile’s Writers.
[First published on our Editors’ blog on April 14, 2012.]