Posted at 11:07 on 7 Oct 2013 by Pandora / Blake
It's something most of us try to do at some point. We find something that feels good and we keep exploring to see how far we can take it. We push until we find our boundaries, and once found, we might return to them every so often to test them, poke them, see if they've moved. Can I go further than last time, can I still do this at all? Is it easier or harder? How far can I go?
This summer I found my limit, and I didn't like it.
I'm not talking spanking, although this year has been full of that, too. What happened over the last few months is that I found my limit not in pain, or fear, or cane strokes or any of that fun kinky stuff, but in terms of how much I can do at once.
I'm a fairly typical over-achiever. Specifically, I thrive on implementation. Castles in the air bore me - daydreaming is fun, but what's the point? There's no point just idly talking about stuff, let's actually do it. One of the best feelings in the world, for me, is that moment in a new project where it becomes something that is actually happening, and the pressure starts to step up. You're committed now, deadlines are in place, there's work to do, go go go! I love the exhilaration and excitement as an idea starts to become reality, all those possibilities on the cusp of crystallisation.
The sense of achievement once you've finished is good too, although often I'm too tired by that point to appreciate it fully. But before I can really enjoy a good idea I need to have started work, I need it to be real. Words are cheap. Lots of people have plans that never happen and they're meaningless. Getting things done is what really inspires me.
So what's the problem? Well, it's not finishing projects per se. Far from it - I'm actually pretty good at finishing projects; I'm stubborn enough that I keep on plugging away until it's done. But I am far, far too good at starting them. I'm also pretty bad at saying no to people, especially when something I care about needs doing, and I know I could do a good job of it.
The consequence is that I take on way too much. I'm far from alone in this, I know. And to some extent, taking on too much is necessary for my happiness and mental health. A bit too much is good for me: it gives me drive, motivation, enthusiasm. Working from home, it can be tricky to find reasons to put on nice clothes each morning, avoid the lure of social media and stick to a routine. I solve this by filling my schedule to the point that every minute counts. I've got places to be, people to see! I've got an hour at home before dashing out again, no time to waste! It puts a spring in my step. The less time I have, the more efficient I am, and I love being efficient.
But as with all things, there is a limit, and this year I found it.
Running Dreams of Spanking is a full time job; it takes at least five days a week to stay on top of editing weekly updates, behind the scenes videos, tech support emails, newsletters, blogposts, twitter, tumblr, fetlife, etc etc. If I really try I can peel it back to a bare minimum of two days a week, but that's only by cutting corners and then the backlog mounts up. I've cut a lot of corners this summer, and now I have a lot of catching up to do.
I do pro-dom/switch sessions a couple of days a week - three days some weeks this year to earn money for travelling and business development. That's too much; I've just limited it to one day per week ongoing to free up the rest of my week for other things. Then there was the four-day event I helped run in August, involving two months of planning and eight days on site. Festivals. Weddings. Speaking at Gender Sex London. Directing and producing a custom film project. Project managing another feature film - which I've actually hired a video editor for because I didn't have enough time to do it myself. Web design contracts. Three shoots over the summer for Dreams of Spanking, including a week-long location shoot in collaboration with Nimue's World. That was a month ago. Not to mention emails (I get a few hundred a day), seeing family and friends, keeping on top of my fitness, the housework and gardening...
Don't get me wrong - it was a great summer. In fact the problem could be described as an excess of awesome. Parties, adventures and outings kept me refreshed and energised, as well as the occasional precious day at home in the garden. And the work is work I love - it inspires and excites me, it's a pleasure to do. That's why it's so easy for me to overreach myself.
I found my limit in July, dashing from shoots to sessions to social events, packing suitcases late at night, getting cabs because there wasn't time for the bus. Not having time to process any of the images from the awesome couple shoot I did with D, or write up the second half of the talk I gave on female gaze porn. (I'll find time at some point. The reason I stalled is that I ran out of time to finish writing the talk beforehand, so I gave it from notes and now need to reconstruct a usable text before I can post it.) I was doing so many things I didn't have time to enjoy them any more, to pause, to process, to reflect, to connect or network with all the cool people I was meeting. Just dump one bag, set another video rendering, pick up the next and dash back out again. In August it reached the point where I couldn't do things properly any more. I was seriously fatigued. At my Dreams of Spanking shoot that month I was so tired I accidentally deleted the footage from three scenes off my camera before I'd backed it up, losing it forever and wasting half a day's work. Major error and not one I ever want to make again. I started losing session clients as a result of getting critically behind with email.
In September all of this was true... and I still had the week long location shoot to produce for Dreams of Spanking, with four days of shooting, four new performers and my third week away from home in as many months.
Just as my career as a kinky film director and my campaign to raise awareness of porn production ethics are really starting to take off, I've overloaded myself so badly I've been missing key opportunities. I was invited to appear on a Radio 5 show on ethical porn, but I couldn't make it to the shoot. I was asked for a quote for this Vice magazine article, but I didn't get back to them in time. The What I See project invited me to contribute. I haven't had time.
I've known all summer this was too much, but by the point it became obvious I'd made some bad decisions, it was too late to do back out of my commitments. I had to follow them through. For the last two months I've been practising saying "no" to things. No I don't have time to meet for coffee. No I don't have time to build you a website. No I can't write you an article. Or: sure, I'd be happy to discuss your project, I'm next available in November. No, December. No, 2014.
Alongside all of this - and perhaps because of it - I've had to take a break from professional bottoming for the foreseeable future (and to be a lot more careful than usual in private, too). Cane stripes I collected in the spring have persistently not healed. It's not like I've been playing particularly frequently, or particularly hard. Maybe it's the constant stress and fatigue that's fucking up my body's normal healing times. But those three marks have been there for five months now, and playing again and again over visible scars is not good practice. In fact it's incredibly ill-advised: that's how you get a weak spot, a permanent area of scar tissue that bleeds freely on impact. I don't want that, I want to be healthy and spankable when I'm eighty, and so I'm taking a break for as long as I need to. It's a wrench. On top of everything else, I don't even get the catharsis and therapy of a proper caning when I need it. But it's the right thing to do.
So this autumn and winter, for me, are about consolidating, and settling, and finding a routine. Picking up all the balls I dropped over my crazy, brilliant summer. Cuddling my partners and my cat, eating well, sleeping well, exercising well. I want to catch up with my backlog and get on top of things again. So far I'm a month into the attempt and rather than relieved, I feel even more overwhelmed. The backlog is so huge I'm barely making a dent. In fact I feel like I'm doing more work now than I was during crazy project season. I have a list of projects waiting for my attention, work contracts that I've been delaying "until after the summer" since May. I spend hours at a time replying to email and I'm still seriously behind. I've dug myself into a pretty deep hole here, and I'm not going to dig myself out overnight.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, next spring, when new and exciting plans are dazzling me on the horizon, perhaps (if you know me) you could remind me not to make the same mistakes again. I need to learn patience - I don't need to do all the things now, some of them can wait until next year, or the year after - and to be more realistic in my expectations. Yes, adrenaline does wonders for my productivity and self-esteem; yes, I am happier and more effective when I'm busy. But there is a limit, and this year I found it. I don't need to go there again.
The exhilaration of a new project or adventure is a huge stimulant, one to which, I think, I am a little addicted. I need to learn to take a different pleasure in staying on top of my commitments, managing my time sensibly, getting enough sleep and having time to unwind. I love my enthusiasm and ability to be inspired, but as with all things, moderation is better than excess. It's about striking a balance. I failed to do that this summer, and I'll be paying the price for a few months to come.