The Morrowinding

Last week, I recognised the onset of burn-out. I was starting to dread working on all the projects that I normally love working on, I was feeling constantly tired, stressed, grumpy…I was snapping at Sarah Jane, not being particularly productive, and just generally unhappy.

So I gave myself the weekend off. (well, specifically all-day Friday, and half of both Saturday and Sunday.) My housemate surprised me with her delight when I told her I was giving myself a chance to relax, so it's possible that I wasn't hiding my fatigue as well as I'd hoped.

The original plan was to just watch through a heap of movies – I have around 700-odd DVDs, and I keep myself too busy to watch them as often as I'd like.

On Thursday night, while I was cleaning up the lounge-room (partially in preparation for my day of DVDs, partially because it was just messy) I spotted my old Xbox. I made space for it, set it up, and didn't expect to spend the next two days playing through an old favourite.

I've been subscribed to the Morrowind sub-reddit for a while now, and so when I was deciding what film to watch first, I decided to pop it in and take a trip down memory lane.

Over the past 3 days, I've spent upward of 20 hours playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and at least another 10 reading about it. It's been my favourite video game since a few hours after I first touched it – I'd guess that I've sunk more than 500 hours into it – and revisiting the world of Vvardenfell for the first time in 4 years (almost to the day) I was amazed to find the experience exceeded my expectations.

It helps that I no longer have the bizarre compulsion to complete every quest given to me by every stranger (no matter how uninteresting or unrewarding) and it helps even more that I've grown the patience to dive into the rich backstory. I sat down to play it for half an hour before watching a film, and 11 hours later I was shocked by how effectively I'd been completely sucked-in by this 10-year old game.

Morrowind is well-known as a game that will yield new rewards each time you play it – it's so hugely layered and beautifully crafted. My favourite element of Morrowind is the superb world that it offers – I only played a few hours of Oblivion (the next game in the series) but got so bored so quickly by the generic “medieval RPG” look and feel of it, and I've heard Skyrim isn't much better.

One project that I've been working on for almost 7 years now is called “All-That-Is”, a fantasy world that I build and play with on my down-time. While exploring Morrowind, and reading about the history of the world and the characters, my brain started popping with ideas that I wanted to explore, tropes that I wanted to reverse: the inherent racism in “cursed” races always going from light skin to dark skin; the idea of a pacifist race trained in combat, and how they deal with people who refuse to follow their pacifist laws…

In the next few days, don't be surprised if I make some ATI blog-posts. My mind is buzzing, and I'm excited to flesh out the races that I never really had much interest in.

Meanwhile, my weekend off worked – my batteries are recharged, and I've decided to slow down a bit. I'll keep working hard, but at least once a week, I'll give myself a day off.

I think I'll call them “Morrowind days”.

Down-time and stress

It’s funny what relaxes you.

There was a conversation on /r/AskScience about different body shapes Рwhy some people only gain weight around the mid-section, while for others the weight is evenly distributed around the body.

I’m one of those people who only gain weight on my torso – a personal trainer at my gym once told me that it was the worst kind of body-type to have, because the closer your fat is to the heart, the higher your odds of a heart attack. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but it’s handy in inspiring me to attend the gym more often.

(also handy is Gym-Pact, a website that my friend Mike put me onto. Pledge how often you’re going to go to the gym and your credit card details, and it’ll charge you a pre-decided amount every time you fail to go. If you hit your target, you get money from people who didn’t. It’s a clever little site, and I’m planning on signing up later this week.)

My Dad has the same body-shape, and so I had always assumed it was genetic. The comments of the reddit thread I was reading, however, suggested that where you put on weight was determined by hormones, specifically those produced when one was stressed. The more stressed you are, the more the weight focuses around the middle.

Now I haven’t independently verified this, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is, for the first time in my life, I stopped and went “Hang on, am I stressed?”

Turns out that I am! It’s not something that normally bothers me, but having attention drawn to it like that was a bit of a downer. Since then I’ve been thinking about it, and realised that I don’t really remember the last time I wasn’t stressed.

Things seem to feed into one another – this week was meant to be a chilled week for me, but yesterday I spent alternating between a rush editing job that I picked up and a Melbourne International Comedy Festival application for We Should Know Better; today has been a bit better, but I’ve had morning appointments almost every day this week and don’t really have any breathing time until Sunday.

Since learning that I’ve stressed, I’ve been feeling it (which sucks) but I’ve also become more aware of what I do to deal with stress.

I’m not good at time off. I can’t imagine not being run off my feet – as soon as I have time off, I fill it with more things to do. So my method of relaxing is to do something productive.

Sometimes it’s sorting files on my hard-drive: I find this to be very soothing. Often it’s working on All-That-Is, which is a nice form of “creativity without deadlines” that I quite enjoy. Very occasionally it’s playing a computer game, but I rarely find a game that doesn’t make me feel like I’m wasting my time. (puzzle games, that’s the trick. It’s so satisfying, finishing a puzzle.)

Recently, and this brings me back to the start of this post, it’s been organising my Kindle library. I’ve downloaded (one could say “pirated”) a bunch of books that I own in physical form (eBook piracy is surprisingly challenging) and I’ve been adding covers, correcting meta-tag fields…you know, all the stuff that one does on their downtime.

It’s funny what relaxes you.

Why I don’t secret.

There’s a big discussion in the erotica forum that I frequent (to follow trends, get opinions on covers, and be inspired by how well other people are doing) about keeping your choice of career a secret.

I’ve never been much for secrets. I had to keep a secret from SJ for about 3 months (more on that later) and it was horrible. I almost spilled the beans a number of times, and any time she was talking to someone who knew, I was on edge.

Never again, says I. It’s not fun, and I’m not good at it.

Pretty much as soon as I started making money from erotica, I started telling people. I didn’t broadcast it, or introduce myself to people by saying “me Peter, me write smut”, but if someone I knew asked what I was doing for money, I’d tell them.

A few people in my line of work just tell everyone in that they write romance; I do that on occasion, but mostly people I won’t interact with regularly – other extras on set, bored wait-staff, or my dentist.

Since I’ve told my family (who were all cool with it; all of them but my Dad asked if they could read a story or two) I’ve “come out” about smut-writing everywhere but Facebook. I didn’t want the wider world to know before my family did, simply because that would be a pretty crap way for (say) my sister to learn about it.

(Facebook is an interesting bag – I feel like I’m forcing it into people’s faces if I post about it on there. My extended family read my Facebook closely, and as most of them are religious, I suspect that they don’t really want to know about it.)

(If I ever start making serious dollars, I’ll post about it there, but until then I’m happy to keep it under wraps.)

I’m a big fan of Kevin Smith – I think he’s a great writer and an even better speaker. I’m actually a bigger fan of Kevin Smith the man than I am of his films – I’ve seen all his stuff except for Red State, and while I love Clerks, Clerks II and Dogma, the rest I can pretty much take or leave.

One thing that he heavily promotes is “owning your shit” (I can’t remember if that’s his exact words or not.) – the logic is that if you own your weaknesses (being fat or having a small dick or whatever) then no one can “dig it up” and try to use it against you.

I write porn. For years, it was just for fun – in the last few months, I’ve started making money from it. (about a year ago, I started writing for commission, but that was only ever spare change, and I’ve only recently begun trying to make a living from it.)

My best-sellers are what’s called “PI”, or Pseudo-Incest: step-fathers, step-siblings, adopted cousins etc. Consensual, fully-grown adult incest, I should specify. They sell well and I’m good at writing them – I have absolutely no attraction toward my own family, but I’ve always enjoyed the fiction of it – so that’s where most of my writing energy goes. They make up something like 70% of my income, with two books alone being about 25% of that.

I also have no shame about my body (except perhaps that I’m a little chubbier than I’d like) and so I’ve done a little bit of online porn. Nothing hardcore (though I don’t honestly have any objections to doing that either) – there are a few alternative erotica sites that pay you to do stuff like masturbate on-camera. I’ve done two videos so far, and they’ll be released in the next month or two.

But as well as all that, I’m also a kids’ puppeteer. For a while, I wondered if I should keep all the above under wraps (or even decide not to do it at all) – if I were to create the next Sesame Street, would it all come tumbling down when a video of me jerking off surfaced, or if people found the story “Backseat Fisting” amongst my catalogue?

If it does, so be it. Morally, I have no issue with the people behind “Play School” also being porn stars. I realise that I’m particularly liberal when it comes to these things, but as far as I know, there’s no connection between being filmed having sex and being dangerous to kids. If others disagree, that’s their problem, and if it means that they won’t buy my products (or the network refuses to air my shows, etc) then so be it. I’m not the kind of person who lives their life by the standards of others, and I don’t want to be.

You only get one chance at life, and it doesn’t make sense to me to make decisions based on what other people might think. If this attitude of mine results in bad things happening to me, then I’ll learn that lesson at the time.

Until then, I’m going to live my life as well as I know how to. And right now, that means writing chapter four of my latest commission (in which the adopted daughter seduces her mother to get her step-father’s attention) and then go home and redraft the story of the wizard who helps his owl work out how to best be an owl.

If it all goes up in flames, I’ll have this to hold on to: while it was happening, I had fun.

Have an interesting life.

 

Ambition

I don’t think that I’ve ever been accused of being lazy.

I’m not (just) writing that to brag, I was genuinely thinking about it over the weekend, and I don’t recall it ever coming up as a descriptor. I’m ambitious, and I’m completely aware that nothing worth happening happens (especially not lofty dreams such as mine) without a lot of work going into it.

I’m also a big believer in doing things that I want to do. It’s my favourite part of being an “adult” – if I decide that I want to have biscuits for breakfast, I can. If I want to spend the weekend sleeping in, that’s entirely my choice to make. And if I decide that “batteries” are the best possible use of my money, then by golly no one and nothing is going to stop me spending my money on batteries.

(it’s 9:30am on Monday morning, and after struggling to wake up after a weekend of sleeping in, I’m now sitting at my computer next to a pile of breakfast-biscuit-crumbs and…batteries.)

Combine these two facts about myself, and things have a tendency to get a little hectic. I do things that I want to do, and work extremely hard on them. I decided a while ago that I wanted to make a panel show, and so We Should Know Better has been going for almost 6 months now – it’s getting better each month, largely because of the huge amount of effort that the team and I pour into it.

Similarly, the impro troupe that I run had two shows on at the Melbourne Fringe Festival this year, because someone in the group suggested it and so we put the effort in, and ran two shows (that I thought were actually quite successful.)

And for several years now, I’ve had the idea of running a comedy gala/variety night, with the intention of raising money for charity.

On my birthday.

This year, I found the motivation, said “hashtag you only live once” and assembled a team to get it off the ground. It’s on the 8th of November, it’s called Chocolate Coated Evening, and like all good events of this magnitude, putting it together is a lot of work.

Inevitably, work on all three of these YOLOs needed to be worked on at once – the impro shows were on at the same time as the gala needed assembling, and We Should Know Better needs to be put together afresh each and every month.

I like blogging for a lot of reasons; there are a lot of bloggers I really admire, I think it’s a nice outlet for putting thoughts out there, and it’s a nice warm-up “each” morning.

Another thing I enjoy about it is that I think you can chart how hectic my life is by how frequently blog-posts appear. I’m hoping to get a post up every day this week, simply because the storm has passed and this is my week of catching up on all the things that don’t get done when life becomes unbearably hectic. (also topping the list: going to the gym, and doing washing.)

I sometimes question my lifestyle, as a part of that “question everything” philosophy that I’m so fond of, but I always reach the same conclusion: being productive, sometimes insanely so, is genuinely what makes me happy. If I’m feeling burned out, I can move things around and take a break, but that typically only happens after something that consumes my entire life for more than a month.

Part of the reason that I am the way I am is a simple fear of death: I want to leave my mark, and productivity contributes to mark-leaving much more than sitting around and masturbating is ever likely to. There’s so much that I want to do in my brief time on this planet, and I like to spend my time doing it.

A lot of it is because I have no idea what I’d be doing if I wasn’t working on things. I sometimes wonder what other people do with their time (and then realise how patronising that sounds) – but I only know a few people who seem to output as much as I do (and not coincidentally, they’re some of my closest friends/collaborators.)

And I think part of it, in what seems like a contradiction to my friends, is because I believe in having no regrets. If I want to do something, I do it, and if doing it turns out to have been a bad idea then I learn a lesson from the experience and take solace in the fact that I used the best available information to me when I chose to do it.

That’s why I moved in with my girlfriend after only knowing her for a few months. (best decision I ever made.) That’s why I told one of my closest friends something she neither wanted nor needed to know about her ex (we’re no longer friends, and boy did I learn a lesson from that one – but not the lesson you’d think…)

As an atheist, I firmly believe that you only get one chance to stand on planet earth, and that it will be over all too soon. I plan to spend the years I have left working hard on things that I love, and spending time with the amazing people I know.

More often than not, those two are the same thing.

I like working hard, I want to work hard, and I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t working hard. I spend my time working hard, because I have no evidence to suggest that it’s a bad idea. If I eventually learn that I “should” have been spending my time doing other things, I won’t regret it – when I learn that lesson, I’ll adjust my behaviour accordingly.

So far I haven’t learned that lesson, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to any time soon. Two-and-a-half breakdowns and over a dozen failed projects later, I’m still going.

I’m going to follow my dream if it kills me, because the alternative involves dying anyway.