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BDSM in the Gym: Power Under Control

While some of this post is excerpted from the archives, it seemed really appropriate right now for a lot of reasons. Most of you know that I’ve always found physical activity an ideal way to access my creativity. One of my personal tag line has always been that I walk my stories. But walking is the foundation of so much more.

 

And NO! This is not a testimonial. It’s just observations of my own experiences. A bit of a naval gaze, yes, but I hope you’ll indulge me.

 

A year ago this past November, I made the decision to take off the extra weight I’d been carrying around for longer than I care to think about. I decided that if I wanted to achieve my fitness goals, I needed to jettison the extra baggage, as it were. And yes, that is a metaphor for a lot of things going on in my life then and now. By the beginning of April last year, I’d lost thirty-five pounds, reduced body fat and gained lean muscle mass. But that was just the beginning. I knew that the challenge would be to maintain my new weight and the habits that got me there as a way of life.

 

So, this post is a celebration of my first anniversary. I’ve maintained my weight for a year, and during that year I’ve continued to grow stronger and more fit. So I guess you could say that this post is a celebration of my body and the journey it’s taken me on so far, as well as those connections to my creativity. Please remember that these are my thoughts and my experience of the journey. Everyone is different.

 

I was asked once to write a guest post explaining what I thought the appeal of BDSM is in erotica. It’s a subject I still think about often, and every time I do I find myself thinking about my workouts at the gym and drawing parallels.

 

I work out with a personal trainer once a week. In addition she also trains me in kettle bells and Pilates. While the woman looks sweet and gentle, to those who submit to her training, she is anything but. She pushes me hard, much harder than I would be able to push myself, and I have a reputation for pushing myself hard. But the truth is that I don’t trust myself completely. There are boundaries I’m afraid to push on my own. I’ve had too many injuries from pushing in the wrong way and overtraining. Though I love working out with my husband, and we have a great time together whether we’re practicing martial arts or whether we’re swinging kettle bells, or even on a long walk, he can’t really push me like my trainer does because he’s not a trainer and because I’m his wife and he’s careful with me. Also he doesn’t want to be around the bitch I can be if he tries to push me too hard. I love training on my own. I love the creative process of it, but that doesn’t eliminate my need to be pushed by someone who sees me better that I see myself.

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Some days I hurt. Some days I even have a few bruises — mostly from mishandling kettle bells. I’m pretty proud of
those, actually, because they mean I’m learning new techniques, they mean she trusts that I can handle more difficult challenges and heavier weights. It doesn’t matter how badly my body hurts or how exhausted I am — I keep pushing, and I know that I can push because my trainer’s looking out for me; she’s in control.

 

What makes a situation that would appear to any outsider like torture something that I revel in is what happens inside my head. What I experience when I’m pushed to the edge of my endurance is somewhat similar, I imagine, to what practitioners of BDSM call subspace, which is the headspace in which submissives may find themselves when they’ve been pushed to their limits by their Doms.

 

I’ve been thinking about that training headspace a lot lately, about the place where I go during a hard workout, when I’ve moved beyond tired and beyond pain. Pushing myself to the limit changes much more than my body. It feels like I go through stages. First there’s determination, and when the pain sets in (I’ve learned the difference between good pain and bad pain) and my body starts to rebel, the emotions start to well up – sometimes anger at the intangible, at some nemesis I neither have a name for nor can define. Sometimes that anger morphs into a child-like state that brings me close to tears, a state in which I want to turn on my trainer and ask her why the hell she’s being so mean to me – even as I push myself harder, even as I respect her more for believing I’m worthy of this challenge. When I get past that ‘why are you hurting me’ stage, what happens next is the most amazing part of all.  Somehow my body pushes the pain back. Endorphins, adrenaline, and all the chemical soup flooding into my brain and body take me to a place that feels far removed from what’s going on physically, and yet also feels right there at the very centre of my body, right there where the part that makes me ME resides.

 

The thing about the change that takes place when my trainer has pushed my boundaries and tested my skill level is that, even when the workout is over, the change remains. I’ve gone where I’ve not been before. The reservoir inside me that makes me who I am becomes deeper. I feel more real. I write this because I’m always seeking ways to understand what’s going on in the stories we writers tell. And when BDSM takes up such a large space under the erotica banner, why wouldn’t I seek parallels, why wouldn’t I search for ways to understand, ways to help my readers understand and identify. I do the same with all of the many components of erotica. Having said that, I hardly think it’s a surprise that gyms and physical fitness figure so prominently in erotic stories. Nor do I think it’s a surprise that for so many writers,
physical activity is closely  linked to creativity.

 

If I could put the experience I share with my personal trainer into a phrase, that phrase would be ‘power under control’ — my power, her control. And that power is power I didn’t know I had, power I would have been afraid to access without her control. I think we can’t overestimate the body as a teaching tool for knowing ourselves. Nor can we overestimate it as a tool to guide us deeper into our creative selves. We’re all our own biggest mystery — power unaccessed, depths unexplored –and most of us tend toward the path of least resistance. Moving off that path into the Undiscovered Country, accessing our power, is often easier when someone else, someone we trust completely, is in control.

 

In Anticipation of Seedlings

 

In a few days it’ll officially be spring. I’ve been anxiously waiting for it since February’s dreary beginning. It feels like I’ve waited forever for winter to end, for the sun to shine again and the daffodils to bloom. Spring, we NEED you! I can feel it coming on everywhere now, and that means it’s time to think gardening.

 

Raymond and I got our corn and tomato seeds planted last Sunday. We managed it in a drizzle of rain, but we weren’t about to wait any longer. I check them every day, even though I know it’s still to soon for anything to germinate. At the moment they’re all settled nicely on a pine table in the kitchen looking very much like little pots of dirt. But I know there’s something wonderful happening down inside those little pots. This is veg gardener’s Christmas. This is anxiously checking the packages every day waiting for the gift, waiting for the surprise. And no matter how many times I’ve watched that germination process, it always is a wonderful surprise.

 

Here in the Soft South, with spring teasing and titillating us with delicious glimpses, it’s easy to catch the gardening bug. The beds have been weeded and this weekend they’ll be ready to dig. I’m truly excited for the first time since we exhausted ourselves in an allotment too big for us and, after two years of hard labour, had to give it up because it was just too much.

 

While the allotment experience was a disappointment, it was really no surprise. I’m greedy and biting off more than I can chew is my signature move. But this year the little pots on the pine table and the familiar comfy plot in our back garden seem less of a chore and more of a labour of love. This year I feel the waxing of the seasons and the need to touch the earth in a way that I haven’t for awhile. Creativity is played out in so many different ways, and there isn’t a more powerful metaphor for the creative process than growing vegetables. Being a part of the process, seeing it, touching it, and taking it into ourselves makes me feel connected to something greater than myself, something as old as time and as much of a mystery. Even though we understand the science of it, that doesn’t diminish the magic of planting a seed and getting a feast.

 

Every day now it’s light earlier, and the Dawn Chorus has begun in earnest. Every day now I wake up to the black bird’s song, and I find myself wondering, anticipating, what will grow, what will be born in the lengthening of days and the warming of the earth. Growing veg has a way of reminding me of my own creative efforts and how tied they are to my own waxings and wanings. As the season advances I’ll probably share way more pics of corn and beans and tomatoes than you could ever hope to see. And somehow amidst the compost and pots and plants and veg, hopefully some of that creativity will find its way into me and into the stories I tell.

 

Smut Manchester: Community Inspiring Creativity

IMG_3808If I had to describe Smut Manchester 2015 in three words, those words would be community inspiring creativity. Whether it was the laid back, cozy atmosphere of The Bangkok Bar and Restaurant or the delight of spending time with Brit Babe Street Team members – some of them we were meeting for the first time. Whether it was the open Dungeon and watching the lovely Cara Sutra spank Janine Ashbless or the joy of brainstorming with, listening to, and encouraging other writers; whether it was the workshops or the readings; whether it was the opportunity to make our own floggers with Kink Craft or the delightful evening at Dr. Sketchy’s drawing the lovely performers, who posed for us, I feel as though I have been totally immersed in creativity for the past thirty hours, and I’m still buzzing from it. It’ll be days before I can actually absorb all that happened this weekend, and the really stunning thing about Smut Manchester is that technically it began at 11:00 Saturday morning and was over by 8:30 Saturday IMG_3713night. How such a short time can be so crammed full of creativity, community, random acts of kindness, inspiration and shenanigans totally boggles.

Victoria and Kevin Blisse continue to astound me with their gentle, contagious, enthusiasm completely underpinned by more hard work and passion than a small army could muster. It’s a total delight to have been a part of Smut from the very first Smut event in Scarborough three years ago and to have watched it grow and evolve to the majorly exciting force for erotica and all things smutty. I would like to offer a huge and very heart-felt thank you to these two lovely, fearless people. Victoria, Kev, you are my heroes!

This Saturday has convinced me that we writers need to get out more! IMG_3698I know! I know! We’d all rather be holed up in our ivory towers tap tapping away on our laptops. BUT the pump has to be primed and sometimes we find the Muse in the strangest places; very often we find her in community. Sometimes she’s waiting with a pencil and a sketch pad, or with a mad attempt at a group selfie that ends is hysterical giggles, or the quiet chatting together crafting one’s very own, very beautiful flogger, or the incredibly thoughtful gift of a pumpkin pie totally made from scratch. Thank you Ian Haynes! Your name is spoken in hushed and reverent tones at Grace Manor! And yes, I did, indeed, practice delayed gratification and got said pie home to share with Hubby.

IMG_3677But, I digress. My point is that sometimes the things that inspire most have absolutely nothing to do with writing, and yet everything to do with story. Julia Cameron in her book, The Artists Way, suggests that creativity can be cultivated by having what she calls ‘Artist’s Dates’ on a weekly basis. These are little snippets of time in which we creative folks treat ourselves to a wander through a museum, to a play, to a movie, to a dance class, to a walk, to something, anything that will get us out of our usual headspace and cause us to see things differently. A writer’s date seems completely frivolous and a waste of precious writing time, BUT, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s neither a reward, nor a holiday, but an essential part of keeping ‘creatively fit.’ With that in mind, what can I say but that Smut Manchester was one big gigantic artist’s date. And, while we all know, few things can put IMG_3878you farther outside your comfort zone than a date, sometimes a date can be life-changing.

I spent a good deal of Saturday comfortably outside my comfort zone, in the company of other creative folks who were equally comfortably outside their comfort zone, with all of us encouraging each other. From being put on the spot by Kay Jaybee about what I would do with a tin of pears in heavy syrup out through the back door of the Sainsbury, to making my own flogger, to my very awkward attempts at drawing at Dr. Sketchy’s in the evening, I was always a little uncomfortable and always delighted by the Mr Sketchy winend results. Being outside my comfort zone inspired story ideas that I would have otherwise never managed. It’s not just the inspiration, but being gently forced outside my comfort zone seems to have left me feeling as though my whole creative self has had a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend at The Creativity Spa.

I won’t give you a blow by blow of the days events (though I do promise LOTS of piccies on Face Book over the next week or so) because even as I live them over in my own head and delight in them, I realize I would sound like an excited child telling her parents what she did on her first slumber party. What I do want to share with you, though, is what I took away — not in my head, but in those deeper, more visceral places where writers transform events into meaning and then into story.

I’m still reeling from the fact that I actually won one of the prizes at Dr Sketchy’s! (pretty sure it was a IMG_3861sympathy win. I was totally out of my element) I am now the very proud owner of a lovely pen and pencil artist kit that is so exquisite, I’m almost afraid to touch it. At the end of the allotted sketch time, with each awkward sketch I did, I scribbled a quick sentence underneath it of the story idea the sketch inspired. And while I sat making my flogger and IMG_3633watching other people make theirs, my mind was buzzing with a story. As for Kay Jaybee’s tin of pears in heavy syrup, well I reckon you’ll be seeing that in a story in the near future. Thanks, Kay!

The thing is, while most of our creative effort takes place in solitude, while we shape and refine our stories in isolation, what happens in community is a vibrant, fiery, mash-up that comes to us unexpectedly and out of nowhere from the shared experience. Sketching with a group of people, most of whom are no more comfortable with drawing than I am is commonality, and I can relax and let what happens happen because I’m not doing it alone. Doing crafty things with hands that are more comfortable on the keyboard of a laptop, while chatting and laughing and sharing the IMG_3775experience opens the creative floodgates in a very different way. It’s a much more gentle way, a way that doesn’t require the discipline and the focus that our day-in-day-out crafting of story does. Our encounters with the Muse in such circumstances are more playful, more laid back, and we toy with story and ideas in a way that we never can when we’re facing deadlines, when we have our heads down, still doing what we love, but so tunnel-visioned that we don’t look up to be inspired in the same way.

Smut Manchester was a beautiful chance to be inspired in playful easy ways. By being comfortably outside our comfort zone, we didn’t take ourselves so seriously and we were reminded in exquisite ways that creativity is a playful thing, and it often comes when we’re not looking for it. It often comes when we’re not looking for anything at all, actually.

 

The Shameless Selfie!

Me and the Battle Rope bondingI love taking selfies, don’t you? I’ve taken tons of them during our trip to Scotland and since. I have an iPhone 6 Plus, so my screen is big enough I can take a really good, really shameless, shameless selfie. Though I do find that with group selfies my arm’s not quite long enough, so whoever has the longest arm – usually Hubby, gets the honours. I’m still not up for carrying around that extra piece of kit, the selfie stick – and really, doesn’t that sound just a little bit rude? Come to think of it ‘taking a selfie’ doesn’t sound much better, though I suppose it’s better than asking the person with the longest arms to do a selfie for you.

Let’s face it, we all want to see ourselves and, as cool as photos are, 2015-09-19 15.22.31they’re either a good view of ourselves, in our opinion, or not, and then … well that’s just too damn bad because they’re a done deal and they’re out the for the world to see. But with selfies we’re in control of the view. We can take piccies of ourselves doing interesting things with interesting people in interesting places whenever we want. And if we don’t like the way they make our ears stick out or our teeth look big, we can simply press delete and try again. In writerly terms, we get to edit ourselves!

2015-08-26 15.57.48I’m not even talking about sexy selfies! That’s another matter entirely, although I seriously think my selfie with the battle ropes is pretty sizzlin’. J Did you check out those guns??? Me with the sea, me with an ancient yew tree, me with my sister, me with Hubby, me at Glen Coe with the icy breeze tossing my hair. You get the picture. In fact, if you’re my friend on Facebook or a follower on Twitter, you quite literally get the picture! Everyone gets the picture. That’s the point! Selfies give us all a chance to put our best face forward for the whole social media world to see. It is a bit exhibitionist, sharing selfies with the world, but it’s easier than a trench coat and the iPhone is considerably easier to stuff in my bag when I’m done with it. Plus the self-editing capabilities with a trench coat are pretty much non-existing.

I take most of my pictures – selfies or otherwise – on my iPhone now 2015-06-30 10.33.06because it takes such great shots, and because it’s always handy. I find that being able to take a photo in an instant is a great way to ‘collect’ story inspiration. I just snap the shot that inspires, bring it back home with me and file it away until I need it. But the selfie is the best bit. I now have an amazing tool that always puts me in context wherever I am and no matter what that context may be. Everyone needs to be reminded of their context from time to time and, frankly, I think it’s even more essential to writers, who are so often living in their heads in another context entirely.

There surely has to be some serious psychological implications about
the urge to snap a selfie, especially when you consider that everything a writer writes and shares publically is, at least to some degree, a selfie. As I said, the advent of the smartphone making the selfie possible has Scribe computer keyboardMG_0777allowed us all to nurture that little bit of exhibitionist inside each of us, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think the selfie allows us a more effective navel gaze into ourselves, into the lives we live, what we like, what makes us laughs, what we especially want the rest of the world to know about us. A selfie is a way of telling a story about ourselves in an instant. But even with the exhibitionist factor and the
immediacy of the medium, I still get to choose whether or not to share the shot in which my nose looks like Mount Blanc or whether or not to delete the shot in which the hips look like tug boats or, more importantly, whether or not to share the shot that’s, quite frankly, just too raw, just a little too much context.

How amazing is that? The selfie! We can tell an instant story about ourselves in an instant, but we get a little psycho-analysis in the process in seeing what we choose to share and what we choose to delete. Selfies! Good for the creative process, good for socializing and good for our mental health too!

 

The Scribe: Letting the Characters Tell the Story

Scribe computer keyboardMG_0777We writers of fiction often play god creating both characters and plot and setting that created world in motion to see what happens, to even control what happens. We actually get to look inside the heads of our characters and see what’s going on there, what motivates, what inspires, what frightens, what excites. In a lot of ways that’s the norm. That’s what the writing life is supposed to be like, that’s supposed to be our experience as we plot the story and shape our characters.

But in every good writing experience I’ve ever had, in almost every novel I’ve ever written, there comes a point when I stop being the creator, when I stop telling the characters what’s going to happen and how they’ll react to it. There comes a point, a certain threshold – usually when I’m most deeply into the world I’ve created, when the characters rise up and rebel. They stop being my puppets and they start telling me exactly how it’s going to be. They make it very clear to me that I have been demoted from god, creator of the fictional world and all who live in it to … well … to a glorified secretary and little more. They tell me what to write and I don’t argue. I just write, because at that point, they know what’s best.

OK, the position is actually a bit more glamorous than that of a secretary because my characters now drag me along, whether my bag is packed or not, to wherever the plot takes them and through whatever twists and turns unfold in the process. I become the war correspondent reporting the action on the front. I become the Scribe, responsible for recording the facts, responsible for writing the truth as my characters see it. I also become their advocate. It becomes my job to speak for the character to the readers, to make sure the readers ‘get them’ and their plight.

The Scribe! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what that means, especially as I work on a new series in which the roll of the scribe becomes a lot more important. I’ve been trying out that position, opening myself to the idea of being prepared for anything. The result has been several stories I’ve shared with you on this blog, as well as some highly imaginative incidents that may or may not have involved strong drink, too little sleep, and a sense of humor that is most active when the imagination is stimulated. The story of the storyteller is another story within itself. The storyteller, the novelist, the war correspondent, the reporter, are all quite often used as plot devices that frame the story. In fact the story within a story, the plot within a plot, the play within a play is as old as Shakespeare and probably older. It’s old because it works. It works because it give more dimension and also allows the Scribe a little bit of distance, a little bit of space to say, while pointing the finger, ‘Hey, it wasn’t my idea! They told me to say it! It’s their fault, not mine!’ If ever there was license for a writer to misbehave with abandon, I’d say the Scribe is it. So, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. In The Flesh is another of the Scribe stories as is Encounter in a Dry Canyon and the encounters with Alonso Darlington as well as the lady in the sunglasses, who’ll be putting me through my paces for Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020a long time to come.

Being a Scribe for the characters and events of an intriguing story means that I, the writer, gets the hell out of the way
and let the characters tell the story, let them guide me through the events as they unfold. If I’m not in the way, the story is one step closer to its purest form, coloured by the characters views of events and experiences rather than my own, and that has to be the difference between Nescafe and a freshly made, triple espresso with whipped cream on top!

I hope to spend a lot more time getting out of the way and letting the characters dictate the story to me while they drag me right on into the middle of the action. I think that’s the very best place for a writer to be, and when it happens, it’s a heady experience! It’s also an experience that affects the writer in ways too much control over a story never could. So, bring it on, I say! But I don’t say that without a certain amount of fear and trepidation as I settle my sweaty fingers onto the keyboard and take a deep breath.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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