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Author: camerynmoore

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Advice from a Phone Whore (a semi-occasional series): “Does my dream man have a case of death grip?”

Hi Cameryn:

So, I'm this picky millennial type who goes on a million dates but ends up going home alone because for me to like a guy, he has to be smart/cute/ambitious/local/liberal/friendly/clever and I'm beginning to suspect that there may be none of those within a half-hour radius of me.

Except for Nuri (not his real name), a dude I started seeing about two weeks ago. Ooh, he's cute. He's got these high cheekbones and that jet-black hair and that compact little body with a great kissing mouth just a few centimeters above mine when we're standing up. And he's smart! Medical background, job in finance, knows his politics, ambitious as fuck. He buys drinks for me and my friends and tells me I'm gorgeous.

I let myself get pretty damn excited about Nuri, which is why it was so damn disappointing when he couldn't keep a boner. Oh, he could get one, but unless I was jacking it so hard I wondered if it hurt, it'd wilt in my hands like an over-sunned plant. As soon as he inserted, after a few slow, anemic thrusts, we had to give up and lie together, defeated. Over three separate attempts, this happened nine times. Nine condoms (not cheap!) thrown away empty in my kitchen trash can, picked up from the floor the next morning.

I've tried to figure it out. I asked him how he jerks off. Maybe it's iron grip syndrome and he needs to spend the next few weeks/months/years using a fleshlight cuz he's calloused the shit out of his dick. Maybe it's his Muslim upbringing and he's got some weird shame spiral. Maybe he's secretly gay.

My biggest issue is that he's not keen on talking about it. "We'll figure it out together," he said. Not exactly comforting. I don't want my sex to be like a confusing jigsaw puzzle. I can work with bad sex. That's like looking in the engine of the Mercedes and finding a Ford engine. No sex is tougher. No sex is like looking in the engine and finding out it's actually a raccoon. Is there any forward from here? What do I do? Do I give up? This is wearing away my attraction to Nuri and it's all just so fucking disappointing.

Bonerless

(she/her pronouns)

*********

Dear Bonerless:

Let us set aside the question of what else can a straight couple do sexually besides PIV (penis in vag). You know those things, I’m sure, and that doesn’t seem like the point. The point is, you like being the party dip for the right guy’s tortilla chip, and that is not happening here. The chip keeps crumbling.

Obviously I can’t tell anything about this fellow over the internet; I’m not a doctor, I’m just a fellow cock-lover and a prolific potty-mouth. “Iron grip” is a strong contender for the armchair diagnosis; “death grip” is what Dr. Nerdlove calls it, and it’s a pretty common thing. (The Doc even has some advice right here.) Only your dude can tell you what’s going on, but it sounds like he doesn’t want to go there.

That’s your sticking point, you said, and it sure would be mine, to be honest. Two weeks is pretty early to be having to roll up your sleeves and spend a whole bunch of time rummaging around under that particular hood (to carry on your car metaphor), especially when he is not even stepping up to do the work himself.

It sounds like you’ve got a lot invested in this guy being a really good prospect—Dr. Nerdlove calls it “one-itis,” as in, “he’s The One," and it's usually paired with anxiety about being too picky and/or such a special weird snowflake yourself that you could never possibly find anyone. Let me reassure you: your standards seem pretty, well, standard. Like, there's nothing problematic in that list, but you sound worried about letting him go over something like this, as if these other factors you mentioned are more important than whether or not you are getting the thorough rogering that you crave. Ultimately, whatever he decides to do about getting and keeping hard for a lover will be on him. You are entitled to have sexual things on your checklist, and to prioritize them.

I personally believe that the highest priority in any sexual relationship (that you want to last longer than a desperate hand-job) has to be communication. Sounds like you've already asked, but if he's still around and you really like him, give it one more try. Sit him down and and have that conversation (not in the bedroom), letting him know that you're bringing it up because you really like him AND sexual compatibility and communication are important to you. Maybe he decides to get some sensitivity back and you just do other non-PIV stuff in the meantime (get him to steer your favorite silicone schlong, for example!). Maybe he goes to a doctor, physical, mental, or otherwise.

Again, the actual steps taken aren’t as important as the if and how the two of you can talk about it. If you can’t even bring this up and get some forward action from him, then yeah, you need to think about how much of the emotional labor you are willing to put in, especially this early on in the game.

*****

Got a question about life, relationships, and/or rogering? Send it to me at littleblackbookproductions@gmail.com, or on Facebook and I'll take a crack at answering. Change names and super-identifying details, obvs, and let me know your pronouns, please!

OH, and remember to sign up as a patron of mine on Patreon! That support, gained from small pledges from fans, is how I can keep up the writing AND touring AND Smut Slamming AND all of it!

 

TERRIBLE SEX TIPS: “7 sex positions to make you more uninhibited in bed”

Sometimes sex tips aren’t uniformly bad. Sometimes they aren’t even that bad at all, except for the title, which manages in just a few words to shift one’s whole sexual psyche into a state of confusion and inexplicable angst. The title doesn't match the content, and worse, it casts a terrible shadow over the whole.

So it is with this week’s Terrible Sex Tips: “seven sex positions to make you more uninhibited in bed.”

Make you.

Did you see that? These positions will make you more uninhibited in bed. As in, do these positions and “poof,” you’re uninhibited!

Of course, no one would argue out loud that that’s what the author meant, but that sure is what it sounds like, and no position or activity can "make you" do anything or be anything other than what you are in that moment. You can look as though you're more uninhibited; that's acting, and I can tell you how that should look. But actually shucking your inhibitions, shifting them out of your body and your head, takes at least a little bit of focus, more than you can get in a half-hour of sweaty, semi-verbal shagging. I do happen to agree with the writer, that many sexual inhibitions stem from poor body image and/or fear of appearing ridiculous. But you can’t just do some really vulnerable position and flip that switch. Hell, if we’re going to use an electrical apparatus as metaphor, this is not a switch, it’s a slider along the whole goddamn body positive spectrum.

Yes, some people can bulldoze through discomfort, and for some things, “fake it ‘til you make it” is absolutely an awesome approach. I would like to humbly suggest, however, that naked sexing is a fairly advanced arena in which to start dismantling one’s body insecurities. What about the rest of us? How about some truly useful activities that can help edge us along?

  • Mirror gaze with self-touch. Start by getting comfortable in front of a mirror. Standing, sitting, reclining… your position is not important as long as you can see most of yourself. Beginning at the top of your head, look at your body in the mirror. Just observe it: the shadows, the dimpling, the hair, the texture of your skin, the coloring, the shape. If you find yourself avoiding one part of your body, or feeling a strong negative reaction to it, just make a mental note of it, say “I’m not comfortable, but I can come back to that”, and move on. As you view your body, trace the path of your own gaze with your hands. Observe what those shadows and dimples feel like, what the skin feels like where it’s rough or smooth, where the muscles lie under the skin, where the weight of flesh falls.
  • Fetishize my elbow! Prepare by making a short list of external body parts that feel relatively neutral to you, and writing those down on scraps of paper, which you put into a hat. Sitting across from your lover, take turns drawing items out of the hat, spending a few seconds appreciatively eyeballing that part of your lover’s body, and then lustfully describing that part or touching it, if they’re okay with it. Maybe it is what you can do with it or to it, maybe you focus on the visual aspect, or the tactile component, or all of it. Get super specific and stay positive. In fact, go ahead and get absurdly lavish in your praise! The person receiving this adoration of their elbow or whatever just needs to sit back and murmur “you know you want it” at regular and appropriate intervals.
  • O FACE! This is something for you and your partner(s) in the heat of the moment, when you’re about ready to come. (Do discuss beforehand!) Instead of what you normally do when you orgasm (sounds or faces), do something entirely different, something COMPLETELY wacko like, oh, I don’t know, bleat like a goat when you come, or stick your tongue out and cross your eyes. You may not be able to keep your erection or reach an orgasm like this, you may bust out laughing, but keep it up for a few times, and keep O Face in your regular rotation of sexy-time games. It’s an important and hilarious reminder that no O face that you naturally make can ever be as silly as goat noises.

I just made those sex tips up, but I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll be dramatically easier on the psyche than anything in the problematically titled article. You can work up to keeping the lights on. You can ease into body-part appreciation, starting with elbows and gradually ramping up to bellies. I do think most people will catch more hang-ups with silly games than with straight-up sexing.

*****

Testing out more non-terrible sex tips soon on my financial supporters. You can be in that select group by becoming a patron of mine over on Patreon!

 

 

My world has many paths

Compersion, in poly terms, is the happiness one experiences watching their partner being happy in love/sex with another person(s). I feel like there must be a parallel concept/word in the performing arts, for when one is genuinely happy watching other artists succeed. What we call it doesn’t really matter, I guess, because I usually experience the opposite: I wrestle with professional envy, all the time.

Don’t get me wrong! I am also happy for my successful friends, I am! People are fucking talented and giving, and I am fortunate to have these folks in my life. I also intellectually know that success is not a finite thing. Success is actually an infinitely replenishing pie, and in theory it is possible for everyone to have a slice. But lurking right there in the background of my happiness and my intellectual understanding, there it is: envy.

I get it looking at people’s line-ups at Fringes, or media coverage, or Facebook photos of audiences, even though I know full well that what goes on Facebook is slanted heavily to sunshine and rainbows. For me, envy is like depression, in some ways. It’s a jerk, and it makes me think jerky thoughts, and it’s just there.

I used to feel really bad about it, like, not only was I a shitty colleague, but I was also a shitty friend. When my envy crept in, an oily dark stain on my soul, I could feel myself retreating further and further into a shadowy corner. I peeked around at all of the happy faces—some happy because they were having big successes and others I guess happy because they did possess that ability that I lacked—and I felt even shittier. I forced my face into an expression more friendly and welcoming and happy, because otherwise I was in danger of turning into a malevolent troll. Or I just went home and got my grump on in private.

This is not ever a good space for me to be in, but given how financially rough this past summer’s tour was, I was in it all the time and it was eating my heart out from the inside. Fortunately, I recently found a mantra that will hopefully—over time, as I get better at it—lead me out.

“My world has many paths.”

It’s a short sentence, but I really thought it through. It involves three concepts or beliefs that feel important to me:

  • I own this world that I move through. I don’t mean literally, just… it’s mine, the way that I perceive it is uniquely mine, and I have some power—often more than I think— to change it.
  • There are many ways through that world. Sometimes I just have to clear away some of the underbrush, and sometimes the paths don’t even exist until I lay down the cobble stones, and sometimes I’m trotting along on someone else’s path for a while, but I get to choose the ways that I go. There’s no judgment attached to any of these paths, either; they are all just ways and means to get to where I want to be.
  • Success means many different things, and I get to decide the metrics.

I say this mantra now, when I’m feeling fragile and envious, to remind myself that I am actively creating my life, and it will be different from other people’s lives. The way that they are working is not going to be the way that I work.

Our successes will look different, because surely our visions are different too. I am aiming for different goals, some of which may not come to fruition for a while, slow-burn projects. I am diversifying my income streams, a literal application of the “many paths” philosophy.

I don’t ­think this is me making the best out of sour grapes. (I mean, maybe it is, but if that’s what I’ve got, I’d rather make some nice balsamic vinegar, you know?) I choose to think of it rather as reframing my place in the spaces where I thought I had to live. If I do not succeed in that particular way, it is not the end of the world. I have other ways of surviving and thriving.

It also helps me remember that the work I bring to the world is unique and needed. I will probably not ever have a blockbuster hit in indie theatre, or be running an intense route of workshops and sex-ed conferences, or whatever. But that’s okay. I know how to write the work that sings for me, and teach the workshops that feel important. I write blog posts that resonate for some, and create erotica that makes people jump for joy, and host Smut Slams that are rowdy and replenishing at the same time, and I do many other things that no one else can do.

<inhale>

My world has many paths.

<exhale>

*****

One of those paths, darlings, is Patreon. If you agree that what I do are important things to bring to life in this world, you can show your enthusiasm by becoming a patron of mine. Your small per-piece pledge merges together with other people's pledges, and then it winds up making it possible for me to, say, concentrate on my book projects or move the 2017 tour up to a higher level. Go on! Put your money where your heart is!

Recalibrating my privacy settings

While touring nerdfucker this summer, I noticed how much people expected autobiography from me. People kept asking, “Does that actually exist?” that is, are there people who play chess on other people’s backs? Or, “Did that really happen?” e.g. have I really, somewhere in my colorful past, allowed someone to play a game of chess on my back?

My answers to the first question varied along the spectrum between I have no idea, but it’s possible to some people have more money than sense. The second question is a little more interesting, because while I have never gotten painted up for the purpose of using my back as a playing surface for any game, I have certainly been in situations with nerd and geek men where I gave freely of my gifts and my love and support, and got utterly used in return.

I’m not going to go into the specifics, because it’s not useful and it’s still too close to home, way too close, if home is the place where my heart lives with reasonable expectations of just being able to feel feelings without having to write an award-winning play about them just yet. I’m allowed to have that space.

No one will give that space to me, of course, not when I’ve built my performance career up to this point using see-through walls and almost total lack of boundaries. I mine my life for the stories I tell. That’s what people have come to know and love and expect, if not actually demand, from me.

This is fine. These are important stories to tell, exploring significant areas in internal and interpersonal psychology, things that don’t get discussed, and I have been happy to use my own experiences as an entry point for larger discussion. But it’s probably no coincidence that my interest in exploring fictional situations and characters has increased at the same time that my own life has gotten increasingly more complex, and different from what it has been. My excavations are more challenging, and I am not operating on my own anymore.

For example, I am in an astonishing, deepening relationship with someone whose parameters around privacy preclude using many of our sex stories for Smut Slams. I could easily say, well, but those are my stories, too, as I have in the past, for smut slam stories and my plays as well.

But these are not parallel situations. My past stories are past, involving people whom no one would any longer connect with me. Those stories are over; they shaped me and they’re done. This lover now, we are still going, we are still shaping each other. I hope that we always will, and I don’t want to fuck up that process by telling about it.

This is part of the dilemma with which I have been wrestling from the beginning of my career as a playwright/performer: when is it okay to write these stories, and how, and when do I hang on to them, for a later release or never?

For Smut Slam stories, well, since I have decided to go “mono” (monogamous) on all y’all’s asses—this has been true for over a year now, BTW—this means that my new stories at slams are no longer from the here and now, but mined from the time before. I've already decided that I will need to dig back through my sexual history, even more than I did while writing slut (r)evolution, sifting for useable stories with distinct narratives that rely on something other than immediacy for their impact. (Dammit, I wish I hadn’t black-out-drunk so much in college. My slam bank would be spilling over.) The current sex, the filth of the moment, I will continue to explore full-out, but only with my lover. These are our stories to learn from and laugh at; these are our private smut slams.

And for plays… well. These too require more thought lately. Sometimes I will hold off because the story is not done yet; as I noted before, observing a situation or a dynamic can be enough to change it, in unexpected and occasionally problematic ways. Sometimes I need distance and perspective to be able to write and convey what really happened. And sometimes I will hold off, or write a fictional piece, because I can if I want to. I don’t have to give it all, if I’m afraid or confused, or if I want to go deeper with it than I feel safe doing with the real situation and the real name of the real actual person. The stories from nerdfucker, for example, the main story, that is how I chose to tell it, because it really was too damn close to my own stuff.

So instead, I chose to explore that story in metaphor, in expanded or exaggerated form, limning the outlines of feeling-truth as best as I could with something other than the complete and actual, factual truth. There are actually different kinds of truth and feelings, and I am bringing them home.

In this home space, I get to keep deciding how to tell the stories I want to tell. Just because I used to tell everyone everything before, doesn’t mean I’m going to keep doing it, not in the way that my fans might always recognize. I think you’ll like it; those of you who have seen my new works already do. But I don’t want to get caught up in that too much. More important than how you like these new directions and dynamics is how I like them, how they feel on me, in me, around me.

I’m resetting, recalibrating, renovating. This is my new home.

*****

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TERRIBLE SEX TIPS: “How to Dominate Your Man in the Bedroom (He REALLY Wants You To)”

I want to see more information about female dominance in the land of sex tips, not because I want to do it myself, but because I am highly suspicious of the fact that the most promoted sexual dynamic—that is, female submissive—dovetails so neatly with the way things actually ARE out in the world. Like, how much of this is just a naturally gendered occurrence, and how much is collective grooming? (Am I paranoid, or paying attention?)

Whatever it is, girls and women aren’t really taught that things could be any other way, and I have to wonder how things would look if D/s dynamics were brought up more in adult sex ed, if not actually included in sex ed curricula at a much earlier age. I want this to be explored in mainstream outlets decently, something beyond just “ride him, cowgirl.” I want this to be a real thing, as thoroughly deconstructed and articulated as female submission was at the height of the 50 Shades of Gray frenzy. I want this option taken seriously. But alas… we just get more crap from my arch-nemesis in sex tips.

Today's Terrible Sex Tips do not start out well:

Chances are, your man wants you to take charge in the bedroom.

NO. You don’t leave power dynamics up to chance, nor do you do what Jameson seems to prefer, which is passively-aggressively trying things without doing any actual verbal discussion or negotiation first. Any fem-dom 101 piece should start out: “Ask your man if he wants you to take charge in the bedroom. If he says no, then you can close this window in your browser and go catch up on current news or whatever. Hopefully both of you will have been using your words, so your man will feel comfortable about letting you know if he changes his mind and wants to try it after all. In the meantime, there are some very good classes running down at the sex toy store, where you can go and find other ways to enhance your sex life.”

Let’s continue on, using the numbered list order that Jameson provides:

1. There is both a physical & mental aspect to dominance.

This is certainly a whole lot of fun when dominating your partner, but it's not always necessary and is actually on the extreme side of domination.

That phrasing, “not always necessary,” is so oddly cautious, but actually, it’s NEVER necessary. I mean, whips-n-chains are an obvious stereotype to debunk, but there is a whole world of impact and bondage play out there, involving so many other pieces of equipment, and some requiring no equipment at all. Spend some time in that rich in-between, Jameson.

2. Start with a dominant sexual position.

Probably the easiest way to introduce a more dominant side of yourself in the bedroom is through new sex positions.

This may be true, but the author once again displays his utter lack of imagination. Whether cowgirl or straddling, it’s STILL ABOUT THE DICK. Honestly, female dominant should be about the pussy. Where are the oral-fem-dom positions, like sitting on his face, or standing legs wide for being eaten out while he kneels?

3. Start to command.

One of the biggest hurdles to dominating your man is that he may feel emasculated. If this is the case, then he may try to rebel and try to regain control. The best way to prevent this is to take things slowly and build up your dominant behavior.

Oh my god. Don’t just “start to command.” Anything less than full discussion about in the parameters of power play is emotional manipulation. If you’ve talked about this, and you’re both on board with experimenting, NO ONE SHOULD BE FEELING EMASCULATED. This needs to be a joyful exploration for you both, not something you’re trying to slip under his radar. The example commands aren’t even mostly related to sex or bedroom dynamics, which, holy crap, if anything is extreme in relation to the current state of power play, it’s controlling someone’s wardrobe choices or what they eat. That is advanced-level shit.

(Another major omission occurs here: the author doesn’t talk about positive reinforcement, which is a useful tactic for any relationship but practically mandatory for power play. How do you reward your partner for actually doing these things? The writer is silent.)

4. Domination games.

At least we finally get at some potential fun-times activities, beyond P-I-V, woman-on-top sex, like controlling your partner’s verbal responses during sex (but again, what’s the punishment and/or reward?) or actually tying up…. <screeching noise of car brakes> Noooooo. No no no. Tying up isn’t a game. That needs its own post, if not one of the books or videos out there, plus some safety scissors.

To be fair, I knew this particular sex-tip article would be terrible. The author is incapable of creating anything else. But it really underscored the necessity for couples to be talking about this shit. You don’t actually know whether your man wants this at all. And if he doesn’t know whether he wants it, how are you going to test the possibility? The “domination games” could have been their own special blog post. Instead, it all left me feeling like, stay on the radar, for the love of god.

Stay talking, and stay on the radar.

*****

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Where are you from? (thoughts from an itinerant artist)

Where are you from?

My shoulders creep up to my ears every time I hear that question, a common conversational gambit. It’s an opening salvo in most small-talk skirmishes, one that is mostly about figuring out one another’s places, one’s clan, and setting up parameters and expectations for subsequent cultural references. As casual as the question sounds, it is PACKED with significance, both for the person asking and the person being asked, so I rarely know how to answer, because I don’t know what the question really is.

Where is your accent from?

I don't really know. All over, I guess. They sure don’t talk like this where I was born and raised. They don’t talk like anything there. I’ve been told that the native Pacific Northwest accent is one of the least inflected accents in the US. Frankly, after traveling around North America and the UK, I find myself liking inflections. I want some for myself, which is good, because I tend to absorb surrounding speech patterns quickly.

I’ve lived on and left both coasts, but still carry traces of each. I speak too quickly for the West coast; they look at me funny. I absorbed a slight Bostonian drawl, can put on a hard, fast New York shtick that is convincing enough for everyone except New Yorkers, those suspicious fucks, they can tell I’m not from there. And then there are the pesky Canadianisms that have crept in, the question tone at the end of sentences, the “eh” (it’s a real thing).

Where is your home base?

Sometimes people ask me this question outright, and then it’s easy to answer: “my car.” Hopefully they’ll laugh and I’ll laugh and we’ll just forget this tangled branch of the conversation. Any other answer, the real answer, leaves me stumbling along through a geopolitical swamp.

I get my mail in Massachusetts; I have clothes and cookware still in Montreal, which is where I’ll be returning to at the beginning of December. I’m relocating my base of operations to Manchester at the end of the year. All of those places have legal ramifications and sometimes hardcore paperwork challenges for me to keep my connections there. You don’t want to hear the boring, stressful details, and I don’t want to relive them every time I hear the question.

Where is your fan base?

On Facebook.

Where is your community?

Whether that’s a performance community, a kink scene, or a city where I know the best place to buy produce, as long as I travel, I will never have this. I get over it; I have to. I join the groups on fetlife, stay in touch with locals as best as I can, but I will always be the carpetbagger. The one community I most consistently have had is itself composed of transient parts—Fringe artists touring Canada—and it disbands at the end of the summer, and I’m older and not up to or interested in all the late-night shenanigans, and I missed three summers before coming back this year and BOY can I feel that the divide has grown. Besides which, did I mention I’m moving to England?

You see why I don’t like to think about this question, and all the variants of it: The answers are there, but they are dissatisfactory in one way or another. They take too long to explain. They are something that I’m trying to change. They’re highly personal, inappropriately so for most conversational environments, in the same way that most people don’t really want to hear how you’re doing when they ask how you’re doing.

Where am I from? It’s just too messy and weird to get into sometimes. Besides, right now I’d much rather focus on where I’m going.

*****

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CALL OF THE DAY: too many thanks for the wanks

I’ve said before that good phone-sex clients, in my book, say “thank you” at the end of their calls. Bad clients hang up like I'm an automated phone system; good clients say "thank you" or some other kind of acknowledgment that a) I am human and b) I just gave them something that they needed.

Now I feel I have to clarify. A good phone-sex client says “thank you” briefly and then moves on.

Unlike the Gusher.

Now, I know this word is most commonly used as a nickname for women who squirt a lot, but if you were to hear the Gusher for even at few seconds, you’d understand both the moniker and my motivation for giving it to him. He only gets seven minutes, and usually only uses 5 or 6 of them, but nonetheless the Gusher can spend up to 20 percent of his time on the phone with me, THANKING me for what I just said.

Because I want clients who thank me, this was at first a great boost for me when I talked with him. After a while, though, the Gusher’s closing approach has started getting under my skin.

I just don’t understand his excitement, quite. It feels disproportionate. I mean yes, hooray for getting off, but his fantasies aren’t that extreme, not to me and not even statistically. Probably they feel pretty extreme to him, especially if they’re some of those deep, dark, sexual secrets that many people don’t even tell their partners, apparently.

I can tell that the Gusher feels a little weird and/or bad about having these fantasies; his voice trembles quite a lot the further we get into it, and that’s only partly related to his age. Yes, he’s definitely an older gentleman, possibly from the Midwest, with a formal style of speaking and some pretty Victorian notions of corporal punishment.

After nearly seven years of talking with him, I have a pretty good idea of his spectrum that he’s going to be choosing from when I ask him something like, so what’s tickling your fancy today? I really do know his hot buttons; hell, at this point I can touch-type on that control board in his mind. To him, of course, it’ll feel magical, because I can drop us into it vividly and right away, but that is merely a function of familiarity, and also the fact that he has told me this stuff, in various forms, all the time.

That doesn’t really matter, though, the actual facts about how I got all of that information about his fantasies. The only thing that matters to him is that maybe this is the only place where he gets to wallow in it. These few minutes every other week is all the time he has to ask for the lacy panties, to beg to see my tits. In light of that, yes, thanks are in order.

But the effusiveness … it’s a little off. The strength of his gratitude tells me how much he needs it. His fervor leaves me feeling uneasy and sad, because he is clearly not getting this kind of psychic release out in his own world. I don't know what his circumstances are, and I never will, but it’s not just a wank when his thanks are that fucking thankful.

*****

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Creating on tour, aka planting seeds and filling the well

Usually the idea of creating new material while touring feels a bit … high-pressure? Over-achieving? Hell, I’m banging this out over the shitty wi-fi on the last possible ferry to get from Victoria to Vancouver in time for my tech rehearsal this morning, with no breakfast and half a cup of Charbuck’s finest, and that feels like enough of a stretch. The thought of trying to work on a new script or memorize lines or have a skype call with a director, it feels like Too Fucking Much Already. (Although I have seen plenty of artists do this, and mad props to them, WTF people, you art-making MACHINES.)

On the other hand, there is something about being out on the road that both blows things open and focuses my creative vision into something like a laser. There are more aspects to creating than just writing a script.

For starters, being out and surrounded by so many other creators helps me see myself and my work in the context of what other people are doing. I wind up being able to define the art that I want to do more clearly by watching others and dividing their shows up into two categories: stuff that I know I would not be any good at or show to my advantage, and shows that teach me something applicable. I can also see, huh, not many people write solo shows like mine, which is a double-edged sword sometimes, but mostly I manage to use that edge to my advantage.

Out here I see what topics and trends and techniques are popular, and decide for myself whether I want to jump on board or not, wholeheartedly or picking and choosing.

I am constantly inspired by seeing how other solo performers make scene or character shifts, for example, or how they choose to portray internal states or dialogues. Even something as simple as pre-show handouts—doodle pads for a kids’ program or question slips for a mentalist session—invite me to reconsider my own physical materials for the audience Some stuff I don’t have the training for, like puppetry or acrobatics or what-not, but there are plenty of other genres—storytelling, poetry, multimedia, even song or dance or a fucking cooking show—that I can access and store up for my own works.

(Specific example: at the Edmonton Fringe this year, I was so jazzed watching my fringe friend Sharon Mahoney use both outdoor and indoor performances to reinforce attendance at both, that I came up with an idea for a new character for possible street performance purposes and also emceeing. I had the name of this character three years ago, but it didn’t get any traction in my imagination until I saw what Sharon did, and then got a chance to sit down with her and brainstorm.)

There are even opportunities to experiment out here, at various late-night cabarets or special events. My new character got two chances to play around in Victoria; I also developed a feminist phone sex sketch with another PSO/fringe artist that almost certainly has legs for other performance environments. With these showcases, there is the constant pressure to use them as sales vehicles for one’s productions, and experimenting can be messy. But fringe is also an okay place to take those kind of risks.

Beyond seeing other performers at work and testing new stuff in bits and pieces, being out on tour gives me the “water-cooler” experience that is otherwise severely lacking in my life. Artists who mostly stay in one place, they develop creative community there. For me, my creative community is online, and tour time is when we finally get face time. It’s not much, little bits and pieces grabbed here and there between shows and flyering and special events and all the rest of the festival frenzy.

But occasionally it’s there, a precious half-hour where I get to hear what people are working on next, and I get to hit them with my titles and ideas and half-formed glimpses of posters for the show that’s coming out in 2018 at the earliest. We don’t have to do anything with those ideas. We all understand the pressure out here. These are simply the moments when I can let down my guard with a chosen few, share my vision, get some broad-stroke feedback, dig into the larger issues—beyond back story and narrative arc into “really, though, THIS is what it’s about” territory—and then, well, jot those notes into a notebook and wash it down with a pint.

You were there for the birth of it, I joke at those moments, but that’s not quite right. I don’t know when my projects will be born, their world premieres or whatever. They were there for the conception.

*****

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