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Posts Tagged ‘psychology of writing’

Urgency V Bluebells

There are deadlines. There are rewrite, there are new stories waiting to be written. There is housework – ironing, vacuuming, dusting. There’s gardening – sweet corn to get into the bed before the weather changes, weeding to be done, bulbs to get in. There’s the pile of stuff I never got done that comes back to kick my “good girl” conscious in the butt in the middle of the night. Every damn thing is urgent! And the older I get the more urgent it all seems.



Urgent is easy to confuse with doing it all and doing it well. Urgent, in my head, is my failure to do just that. Urgent all too quickly can lead to feeling completely overwhelmed.



Urgent, however, is at its best when it’s lived out in the moment, lived out in the present, lived out in only this glorious second. And there’s no better place to be reminded of that than smack dab in the middle of a bluebell wood.



Mr. Grace and I did our first long walk of the spring on Friday and went up to the Chantry Wood to check out the bluebells, which are gloriously early this year. Yes, there was gardening to do. Yes, it meant I left the ironing undone and the read-through I was working on unfinished. Yes, we did it anyway. We took a picnic in our rucksacks and a flask of tea and off we went – for the entire day.




We were more than well-rewarded with bluebells and bird song and a soft breeze through the trees. We feasted our eyes on downland views that we’ve seen a million times, and yet every time we see them, they’re different. For a whole day, nothing was urgent. Everything was present in a single moment in a bluebell wood.



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.



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.


Spiralling Down

The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing: isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.

— Robert De Niro


the-screamTruer words were never spoken. I call it the Spiral, and it mostly happens at night, mostly. I’ve written before about the neuroses of being a writer, and more specifically about my own neuroses. I can write about it and snigger in the daylight because it all seems so silly and insignificant, but in the middle of night, in the wee hours, the monsters really do come out. I mean those personal monsters all of us who write as our vocation face. Some of them might be different, though I would guess De Niro probably hit on the generic list that most of us could give a nod of agreement to.


For me, the Spiral usually begins after a good day with fairly high word count, a day that has been creative and a day in which I’ve been focused and centered. I go to bed tired with that good kind of tired you get from a job well-done. For several hours, I sleep like the dead – deep, dreamless, blissful. And then it happens!


For whatever reason, I wake up, usually groggy and still feeling the peacefulness of restful sleep. But then it begins. Just as I’m trying to drop back to sleep the parade of monsters begin, and it’s a long one. Suddenly everything I failed to do that past day and sometimes going back for years, will begin to cycle through my head – all the things that I’ve left undone because I wrote instead. I’ll wonder why I still write when it’s such hard, often unappreciated, work. I’ll wonder if I’ve made poor decisions in my writing career. I’ll wonder what life might have been like if I’d chosen a different path, a more sane path, one that didn’t involve the all-consuming passion of the story needing to be written. And then all the things I’ve put off because I’ve focused on my writing will parade across the screen in my head – the work on the house, the clearing the garden, the clearing away of too many years of clutter, the joining of more groups, the participating in more activities that would force me to be more social. I’m not very – but I think most of you already know I’d rather be in my writing cave. Anyway, it all devolves from there, spiraling down to my future as an old and lonely woman living in a cardboard box somewhere, with everything I care about and everyone I love gone.


I know! I know! It’s almost laughable when dawn comes, when I’m sitting at the breakfast table telling Raymond I had another Spiral. He’s always sympathetic. He always asks why I didn’t wake him. He always reminds me that he’s there for me. I know that, and I tell him how much that means to me. We get on with our day and I forget all about the dark and lonely night I just had with the one I love most lying right there beside me, and me unable to wake him up and tell him how frightened I feel, because in my heart of heats, I know in the morning it’ll all seem so stupid. For a few weeks, sometimes a few months, I forget all about the Spiral. Most of the time I live in the present. I’m happy, my life is full and good and filled with wonderful challenges and good people. And then, for no reason I can put my finger on, it happens again. The thing that’s most horrible about the Spiral is that I know it’s happening, I feel myself being pulled in, but no matter how hard I try to think myself out of it, to remind myself it’ll be all right, I can’t seem to break free, not until the whole parade has run its course and I fall back into an exhausted raw sleep.


Why am I sharing this not so happy slappy part of my life? Maybe because I know I’m in good company. I know that sometimes the difference between being honest with ourselves about ourselves and spiraling down into helpless despair is very hard for us to distinguish. Last night, when there was no getting out, I made a game of it, I tried to Sleeping woman reading181340322466666994_IswNAb85_bexaggerate even what my fertile imagination could come up with to worry and angst about and to view as what would be my bitter end. I don’t know that it helped, but it did remind me that this too shall pass, and that the monsters in the darkest hours seldom hang around in the daylight. In the daylight I feel empowered and able to fight back, to take control. In the daylight, I can see the differences between honest failures and short comings and a life that has no meaning. And even more importantly, the rawness I wake up with is a reminder that now is what I have and it’s good and it’s sweet, but it’s not always easy, and it’s not always a gentle way forward. Still it is a way forward. And even from that dark place, when daylight comes, I can take those dark places in myself, those places of despair and fear and translate them into story, into places of power. Though I seldom remember that when I’m in the dark. What I do remember, what helps me move beyond it is the knowing with certainty that no matter how lonely it feels when I’m in it, I’m not alone.

© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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