Belly-Button Gazing Does Not Cause Writer’s Block.
I’ve noticed a lot of written naval-gazing lately. Pages and pages of belly-button angst: Is it an Innie? Outie? Too round? Too small? Too much lint?
The other day someone shared the ultimate naval-gazing angst: “An Uncertain Belly Button is the cause of my Writer’s Block.”
Now, you can maybe blame a cavity or back-ache on Naval-Gazing. It’s a stretch, but maybe.
But Writer’s Block? No way.
BBG (Belly Button Gazing) is another word for Chewing the Mental Fat of Procrastination.
It doesn’t cause writer’s block. It’s a symptom of Writer’s Block, a catch-all excuse for not doing the tough work of applying butt to chair and laying down word tracks on paper.
I’ve done it. Profoundly procrastinated. BBG. Frittered away my time on senseless errands which that have taken on a certain Urgency.
Like cleaning the oven (but first making a trip to the market to buy Oven-Be-Gone).
Or rushing out to buy Peanutty Suet Cakes because one of the backyard Cardinals is refusing to eat the Berry Galore suet cakes.
Or re-joining Fitbit and meticulously logging your food intake: Was that 2% in your coffee this morning? Or Half and half? I rush out to recycling bin to check the discarded carton. I see a hole. I need a new bin. I rush to Lowe’s, only to return with a bag full of Urgent House Repairs: Replacement Drawer Latch. Wire brush to clean glass door slider tracks. Even a stop at an auto supply store to buy overpriced restorative cream that was recommended by a video I just watched entitled “How To Make Your Aluminum Screen Door Look Like New,” which I stumbled upon while researching no-wax tile online only this morning.
All of this frittering crap is a symptom of out-of-control BBG, brought on by my sheer damn laziness: I don’t want to apply butt to chair and write.
Why? When I love the process of writing? Let’s drill down.
For me, it’s first drafts that cause BBG. Deciding plot and action and characters. I love editing and tinkering and polishing and rewriting. It’s the First Spew that requires me to fire up the old brain and get into the Zone, where I love to be, except that getting there is scary and frightening and full of self-doubt and the certain knowledge that what I’m writing is crap. I know rationally that crap can be edited and polished. Still. (Should I make cupcakes?)
First, find a mirror.
Then smack yourself upside the head.***
Say (to your reflection): “Thanks. I needed that.”
Apply Butt to Chair. Write.
“But I can’t think of what to write,” you say.
Just write. I have a folder of what I call BBG STARTS, which are things I write to myself after I’ve forced myself to sit and write when I think I can’t. Here’s an example: (I had yet another convo, sort of, with my first typewriter, a blue 1963 blue portable Smith Corona, who looks at me from the shelf).
“Diana. You need to write today. You are now going to sit down and put your fingers on the keys.
Yes, Typewriter, I am. I am writing, although I am itching to do a little seasonal cooking. I am writing. I am turning on my brain. Thinking about the chapter I’m in. Should I kill the cleaning woman, or let her live to mop another day?
Well, Diana, what would happen if you killed her? You’d feel happy to get rid of a character you hate. On the other hand, who will clean the office of the murderer and discover a clue? Never mind killing her now. Kill her later. Right now, she’s unlocking the door. Her back aches. She’s pulling in the heavy mop wringer bucket. No, don’t look up the correct name for the Mop Wringer Bucket. You can do that later. So she’s in the office and the first thing she sees are peanuts in the wastebasket.”
I laugh. I can’t take my BBG seriously anymore. It’s ridiculous. I’m off and writing.
Try it when you next think you’re “blocked” and decide to clean the oven. Sit down and:
Praise yourself for NOT cleaning the oven: Oh, Diana, you are the best at dirtying the oven. Beside,s everyone loves it when your oven smokes, so let it billow! Let that Damn Oven Burn! DOB!
Or, Question yourself: Why does my backyard Blue Jay sing? For peanuts.
Peanuts what? Peanuts. Peanuts are the clue. Peanuts were in a bowl on the desk of the office the cleaning lady is scrubbing, the office of the murderer. Now they’re in the wastebasket. And a peanut shell was found in the victim’s pants cuffs.”
And you’re off.
You certainly are.
(***I had a friend who lived up in Waianae, Hawaii, a guy originally from Puerto Rico who spoke Hawaiian pidgin English with a Spanish accent. He trained horses. His advice to me about ornery teenagers was taken from his vast wisdom that came from dealing with ornery horses: “Sometimes you have to hit ’em upside the head with a 2X4. You’ll see. They come good.” Note: When you smack yourself in the mirror, don’t use a 2 X 4.)
This is my second Medium Post. Having a ball. Always wanted to do a watercolor of a belly button. If you can tolerate any of this, clap. Or go to www.dianahansenyoung.com, where there’s a link to free art images. You don’t have to sign up. No emails. No bank transfers. Yes. Free.