BDSM Burnout

Hi Everyone,

This is a really tricky topic to post about. I guess it could have some professional implications, and it certainly has some personal ones. But Ariel and I have been trying to be more forthcoming about the ups and downs of being kinky, so here goes. This is a big down, unfortunately.

I am burned out with BDSM and with my job as a bondage producer.

I think I can turn this around. I’ll describe later what I’m going to try to do about it, and why I am optimistic that this will work.

With Ariel finishing her book which has a fantastic happy ending of us meeting and living happily ever after, it feels cowardly not to talk about an unexpected road-bump: we’re suddenly not doing BDSM because I’ve got burnout.

I have, hopefully temporarily, lost all my “kinky inner life”, the lively fantasy existence that’s been whirling around in my head for literally as long as I can remember (my earliest memories are kink-related).

Having read up on the phenomenon of work-related burnout, I have self-diagnosed myself and I’m pretty damn sure that’s what I’ve got. I’ve been within a hair of walking away entirely, despite being hugely proud of the site and the kinky community we’ve built.

It is particularly tricky because kink is also one of the foundations of my relationship with my wife, as well as being my passion and my profession. I guess it is a danger that if you build a job around your sexual fantasies, if you burnout in the job, your fantasies might be annihilated in the fallout.

Before anyone jumps in with advice, and PARTICULARLY before anyone jumps in to crow or sneer or imply that Ariel and my relationship is on the rocks, I’d just like to say- bollocks. We love each other, we support each other, we’re having a great time on a working adventure in Ireland together and we will get through this together, as we have got through some other crises which have badly affected one or other of our careers before.

We’ve been finding it gradually harder to do wildly adventurous and ambitious BDSM scenes together without the impetus of a shoot. But we have still been enjoying our regular fun sliding into DS roles and doing impromptu spankings and little bits of play, so we’d just attributed the decline in adventurous scenes to us being busy.

It’s suddenly reached a crisis point for me and it is spilling out into making those things feel inexplicably disconnected from my inner life. That in turns has suddenly stopped them leading to hot improvised BDSM scenes together, and to me being devoid of ideas to shoot as well. Which is a bit shit, frankly.

I’m not looking for sympathy (although it won’t be unwelcome, especially if you have been through something similar).

I’m just trying to be honest and document a more recent part of our journey as it is happening to me. Maybe it will be useful to someone someday (possibly even if only to me).

The best parallel I can think of is an injury. A few years ago Ariel got injured at an art nude shoot and had to stop working for a while because of damage to her knee. The physical injury was bad enough but the mental and emotional fallout was horrid, especially so as I was away filming a mainstream movie at the time, because her identity and sense of worth is quite tightly wrapped up in her career, her ability to earn and be independent, and her devotion to being able to make shapes with her body. She’s already gone through one shattering injury age 18 which terminated her prospects as a dancer and this seemed like it might be the end of the one substitute she’d found which gave her some of the same spiritual and emotional satisfaction.

If I’d broken my leg and couldn’t shoot or do BDSM for a few months, we wouldn’t be thinking too much of it. It would be a problem to get past, and we’ve got plans in place to deal with such a thing were it to happen. (Indeed those same plans are the ones I’m going to put into practice for the duration of my burnout-induced shooting blackout).

But because I’ve broken my brain, we have a bit more cultural baggage around getting through the problem. Mental health problems are still health problems, and I want to be honest about mine. It’s shit, but no more shit than wondering whether Ariel and I were ever going to be able to go hill-walking again as I wheeled her around Bristol Zoo in a wheelchair on her birthday a few years ago.

Speaking from the inside, what I think has gone wrong is that a combination of low-level stresses has built up in my job over the last few years and has slowly slid me into a downward spiral of working harder but less efficiently. I’ve prided myself in working hard, but there have been too many days working until midnight to get the month’s updates processed. And most of all there have been too many attempts to extract water from the well of kinky ideas and inspirations that let me start a career as a bondage photographer and BDSM producer in the first place. The site has just celebrated its 18th birthday, and in the time I have been involved in creating over 5500 fantasy scenarios, each one brought to life with models, locations, props, cameras, lights, emails, production schedules, web pages, tweets, textural descriptions. Each one represents several hours work at the bare minimum. Add in general overheads and it’s not so far off one day per set.

Put another way, for the last 18 years, I’ve demanded of my brain one kinky idea every working day. I’ve then pummelled and pulled each of those ideas into a commercial product. And the next working day, I do it again. I’ve had a few periods of lack-of-inspiration before but only ever very temporarily and it has never before affected my inner fantasy life.

Added to that were external stressors, and my responses to them.

Like most fetish websites, we hit our peak sales in around 2008-9. The aftermath of the financial crash, the rise of tube sites and the lack of disposable income for most people means that I presided over 8 or 9 years of seemingly inexorably declining sales. It’s only in the last 18 months or so that it is has turned around and got back onto a level-to-very-modestly-rising slope again.

This meant almost a decade of slowly taking all the jobs I’d outsourced back in house, including ones which I find disproportionately draining on me.

We’ve also been labouring under increasingly incoherent and irrational government interference in our business, starting with the corruption of ATVOD (literally corrupt- even the government spotted it and rolled the organisation up). Now we’re in the uncertainly of the badly-thought-out age verification regulations which are sufficiently bad that the government has delayed them multiple times. Brexit adds more huge uncertainty: as I write this on Wednesday, as EU citizens legally carrying on our businesses in Ireland, by Saturday the legal basis for all of this might evaporate along with our citizenship. It’s nowhere like as stressful a situation for us as for many of the EU-UK 5 million, but it’s still a fucking bad joke.

As a result of all this sort of stress, stuff which would have been a minor problem to resolve for me in the past can seem insurmountable.

Throughout it all I’ve been continuing to draw on the well of kinky inspiration for idea after idea, one a day, every day. But I’ve stopped giving the well chance to fill up again, and the well has run dry. Talking to Ariel made me realise it actually ran dry about 18 months ago. But I’d been coasting along on the water still left at the bottom. I’ve finally reached the point where the modest seepage is no longer sufficient to refill the bucket for one last mouthful for today and just hope there’s a trickle left for tomorrow.

Right now, I am completely done with BDSM, I have no sexy ideas, no kinky inspiration, and the narrative thread that usually takes me through those things is just… gone. Dead. There’s nothing there. The number of orgasms I have has plummeted, and it’s not physical impotence or anything, it’s mental. The story that I need running in my head to have a successful fantasy or play session, the narrative voice that’s been there since I was four years old and probably before is… just gone.

It’s a bit scary.

It reaches tendrils into a lot of other parts of my life. I’ve been struggling to get enough exercise, to force myself to go out into the hills. In the past I’ve had to hold myself back from bunking off work to do that; now I’m having to force myself to do it, feel guilty when I do do it, and check twitter and emails as soon as I get signal half-way up the mountain, and again as I eat lunch at the top, and feel guilty and hurry down to sit at the computer. Then I sit until midnight working in a hugely inefficient way to do work I could probably polish off in half an hour were I working at my usual level of efficiency.

It’s drained the pleasure from most of my other fun activities too – I twitch guilty in my seat at the cinema, I can’t concentrate on books the way I usually can and my reading speed has plummeted along with increased guilty inefficient attempts to do site publicity when I should be trying to fall asleep.

I’ll leave it your imagination how being in a state like this feels and how puzzling and potentially hurtful it can be for your partner to see, especially for the year or so when it was slowly getting on top of me without us really knowing that anything unusual or bad was happening.

Again, to forestall crowing idiots, it’s no reflection on Ariel or me or our relationship. It’s not like I’m fantasising about anyone else. I’m not fantasising, full stop. It is like that part of me has just shut off, which is entirely different.

On to the more hopeful things and the positive steps I’m going to take about it.

The most positive thing I know is that on reflection I *HAVE* been through this before, not once but twice, in somewhat different areas of my life.

The first time was actually what launched me into bondage photography- I was totally burnt out with physics at work. I’d achieved the ten-year goal of anyone going into science to do their PhD and achieved a permanent academic position. Job security at last! No more three year post-doc positions, having to move again. I could stay there in the department until the day I retired, if I wanted to.

But making the transition to being a lecturer isn’t plain sailing, especially if you got a streak of perfectionism and pride in your work. I’ve spoken before about the multiple competing demands on your time: being a line manager, being the breadwinner doing grant applications, writing and delivering good lectures, departmental admin, mentoring PhD students, pastoral care for students generally, writing and marking exams, and somehow doing all of that whilst keeping your own personal research (the thing that had got you there in the first place) alive.

What I now recognise I should have done if I wanted to stick with it is to be awkward, like the members of the department who just plain refused to pull their weight in some parts of the job. At the time I thought they were arseholes.

Now I recognise that it’s probably the only way to sustain being an academic long-term. You have to work out which parts of the job you can do really well and at reasonable cost to yourself, offer to do a good job of those, and refuse to take on tasks and roles which extract a disproportionately large amount of energy from you for the net good they do you, the rest of the staff and students, the department and the progress of physics in general.

What I should have done was said “Look, I’m a bloody good lecturer. My two lecture courses have the highest student approval rating in department history, and not by a small margin. I’ll take on a higher teaching load if you protect me from grant applications, line management and departmental administrivia, which I hate, I suck at and which cost me more energy than it takes me to write a kick-ass lecture. Give it to someone who’s actually good at it, or at least someone for whom it is a minor chore rather than a major drain on their mental resources.” Even Richard Feynman went through this, as he describes in his autobiography. He got over his by no longer taking anything seriously about his job (except teaching his classes) and eventually just having fun with physics again.

Maybe that’s what I would eventually have realised if I’d stayed in-post, rather than having a completely-by-chance second career already making me as much money which I was at the time doing and enjoying as a hobby at the weekends. Which was bondage photography.

Note that back in 2003 when I quit my lecturership, I was able to run Restrained Elegance in my spare time. It genuinely took less time- far fewer shots per update, I don’t know if we’d even started video at that point, and a single fantasy idea could make four or five updates. It’s not just that I’m older and less efficient- the ambition has really grown. Compare the workload of one fantasy split into daily updates of 30 shots in 1200 x 1000 pixels with the workload of delivering 4 sets of circa 100 shots plus a 15 minute video, all to professional standards, at 4K or 42 megapixels per week. Even with the help of all the regular RE collaborators, the workload is objectively much larger than it was in 2003.

Anyway, the tipping point of me leaving physics was getting through developing all my lecture courses, getting on top of all the admin and managerial duties, and FINALLY getting to the point of being able to restart my personal research – and realising I didn’t want to. The curiosity and love of physics which had driven me since I was about 4 years old and learning about science in books given my by my parents’ university colleagues had just gone. The well was dry.

But right now I am reading a graduate-level textbook on astro-particle physics by a previous colleague of mine from DELPHI for fun.

The well hadn’t really run dry. I’d just extracted too much from it, too quickly, under too much pressure from under stresses of the job. Given time, it refilled and it is now back to normal.

I went through a similar arc a few years ago with running roleplaying games for my friends, something which had been the basis of my social life and the other foundation of my imagination (along with kink, science and mountains) for over 35 years.

Running games had turned into a real chore which I dreaded, and I just didn’t have any ideas any more.

But I restructured things a bit, ran some low-effort commercial games and stopped trying to extract water too quickly from the well whilst under too many stresses from other places (ATVOD in that case). And one day an idea popped into my head and we’re now into our second sweeping new-world, new-magic-system campaign. The well refilled.

So what I need to do is to allow the well to refill. I am confident I can do so. What I’m not so sure how to do is to manage this without hurting the business side of things, especially now that the business has finally stabilised and seen some modest growth again.

Fortunately, I’ve always had break-your-leg contingency, and hopefully this will let me get through break-your-brain.

We have over a year’s worth of content already shot and on disk. Six months’ worth of videos are already edited and uploaded to the site ready for scheduling Ariel and I are currently powering through editing stills so by the end of this trip we will hopefully have a similar amount of them too.

Collaborators are still producing work for us which won’t need much in the way of imaginative input from me (technical stuff like doing the colour correction takes a lot less out of me, it turns out).

We have shoots in the calendar, but because I’ve been aware that something’s been wrong with my brain for a bit they’ve been booked deliberately so as to maximise my chances of getting good stuff out without drawing too heavily on my inspiration. For example, finding the first five ideas to shoot in a new room is easy; finding the fiftieth is hard. So, lots of location shoots. Shooting with friends is easier than shooting with new models just because of the social energy it takes to meet and work with and tie up a stranger the first time. And having collaborative photographers and riggers around lets me set up the lights, help with the cameras, and then slink off for a sit down outside for a while as they develop the storyline without me.

So I’m OK to do the shoots I’ve got in the calendar, which added to the input from other collaborators means I’ll easily make it though the end of the year without needing to book anything else- and it won’t even run my stock of sets on disk down to a point I consider “perilous”.

I’ve got a few annoyances coming up which I will have to deal with – age verification, and a move to a new version of PHP on the websites. Hopefully I’ll cope although those sorts of things are feeling disproportionately difficult right now I think it is more because of the overall burnout than inherent demands of the tasks.

I’m going to step back a fair bit from online presence, keeping going more with scheduled tweets and similar for a while. What I REALLY need to do is to be able to leave my phone behind for a few days at a time- something I used to manage in the early days where a trip away might mean no internet connection for a week. I have to stop checking multiple times a day. I’m going to be much less accessible as a result but will of course still deal with customer service issues as promptly as I can.

I may institute an “I answer emails only on Fridays” rule while I get through the crunch part and start recovery.

I find writing the text that goes with the sets disproportionately difficult. I’m going to outsource some of this (initially to Ariel) and the text may get a lot more curt for a while.

I’m also not going to take on any more custom videos beyond what I have already accepted, as I find them quite a drain creatively at the moment.

Similarly, I’m not going to take on any tutorial or teaching activities beyond what I have already accepted.

I’m going to give myself as much space and distance from the business as I can, particularly in terms of the need to extract fantasy storylines from my brain. I’m going to be going to the mountains a lot more, and I’m going to try to have an actual holiday from contact entirely over the summer (unlike all holidays for the last 10+ years, which have included daily checks of emails, twitter, websites).

And by putting all this in a blog post I’m trying to be honest with you and with myself and commit myself to taking the drastic steps I need to do to get my inner fantasy voice back.

Hopefully, this will all work, and I will be able to reset myself and get the job back to the efficient flow it mostly has been.

I guess there’s a risk that I fail and that I have to make more drastic changes but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it- as I said I have at least a year’s grace from the break-your-leg contingency already filmed so I’m hopeful that as customers you’ll hardly even notice. But it would have been disingenuous of me to keep pretending everything was fine when actually I’ve had a bit of a meltdown.

Hopefully this might be reassuring to read (for you and me) and I’ll look back at it and think “well, thank goodness you took steps back then when it all seemed pretty bleak, ‘coz now you’re fine. Let’s not let that happen again, shall we?”

Urg. That hasn’t been the most pleasant of things to write. But here we go, maybe it’ll help someone, maybe even Hywel-of-tomorrow, and I’m nothing if not honest to the point of stupidity.


About Hywel

Particle physicist turned fetish photographer, producer and director. I run and together with my wife, who is variously known as Ariel Anderssen or Amelia Jane Rutherford, depending on whether she's getting tied up or spanked at the time.

23 thoughts on “BDSM Burnout

  1. I love you, honey. We’ll get through it. And your honesty is one of the things that makes me love you the most. Bondage and spanking and D/s aren’t the only things you bring to the table by any means. I love your integrity, and your endless ability to take in knowledge, and your optimism, and your kind, kind heart. I love how carefully you listen, and your angry left-wing-ness, and how slow you are to get angry with actual people. You are lovely, and you will be OK. J xxx

  2. Probably in a smaller way, I know exactly where your coming from HP. The loss of magic associated with the scene was one reason I sold Bars and although I still think about missing those days…do I, really…? Of course I kept busy with moving etc. and now in Spain I have embarked on 3D art would you believe! So the distraction made it easier for me.
    To be honest, I’m surprised you have lasted this long, you have so much passion in you and a desire to be perfect with your productions it must be very very demanding.
    Maybe you can swap the cold mountains for some Spanish sun for a while! LOL!
    Anyways, good luck matey, anything I can do let me know.

    • Thanks! That’s super kind – and I’m looking forward to seeing you in September, when I’ll either have worked this out and be back to normal, or will look forward to taking your usual producer role so you and Steve can drive things forward story-wise for the shoot while I get my shit back together 🙂

  3. I wish you much success as you work through this! I have no context for your current “brokenness” but I did leave physics in the 1980s for pretty much the same reasons you describe. There was a huge sense of relief I felt when my new career choice (IT) suddenly restored so much of my excitement and energy that had been missing. I think in my case it was not a case of refilling the well, but of not needing to draw on that well as much in my new career. Not sure if that translates at all to your situation – simply take it as a statement of sympathy.

    Again – my very best wishes!

    • Thank you! I think a big element of it for me is not acknowledging to myself which jobs take a disproportionately large amount of water from the well. I’ve just been telling myself to “man up” and not feel like certain jobs leave me drained for a day or two after doing them – after all, how different can it be sitting at the computer writing words or editing customs as opposed to colour correcting? A lot, it turns out.So I need to factor that in to my self-management a lot more and not be my own external shouty Gordon Ramsey telling myself to get a grip of my business!

  4. Wow, that was a lot to take in. While I can’t completely relate to your situation, I do understand what you are talking about. As a bondage artist, I go through the same thing. Especially since fans have come to expect more and more predicament bondage. The stress to keep finding new and unique ways to show your creativity can be exhausting. You’ve been doing this for 18 years. That’s quite a run.

    I agree with you, take a break. Spend time with your wife, go on hikes, watch a dumb movie. Get away from BDSM for awhile. You might realize after some time that you miss it. If so, great! Come back with a vengeance. If not, well so be it. Like you said you have a back up plan. You are a great photographer, one of the best. Maybe shoot something not related to BDSM, try to find you passion in the photography part. I don’t know, I’m just brainstorming.

    Good luck to you.

  5. Hello Hywel, not sure if you remember me for we only met one time at Fetish Con long ago, but I’m the guy they call Andre The Toon-Man. I draw damsel in distress cartoons and I shoot real ladies too. I’m not here to crow or anything or even give advice (lord knows I have a ton of issues with the BDSM world, myself). I have the opposite problem. I’m frustrated because I rarely ever get to shoot in the last 4 years or so. Anyway, just hope you’ll be okay. I’ve seen burn-out get to people in non-kinky professions big time. Sounds like you’ve got a good game plan going so I hope it all works out. You and Ariel do such amazing work!


    • Hi Andre,
      Of course I remember you!
      I’m very sorry you have the problem in the opposite direction. One of the reasons I *really* don’t want to retire as a producer is that I strongly suspect that I’d be very unhappy in your situation, with hardly any prospect of doing shoots to exercise my creativity (assuming mine ever comes back).

      I’ve often said that if I won the lottery I’d still shoot, I’d just shoot less often and put more into each one. Hopefully you will have a bit of a turnaround and be able to shoot a bit more if you want to in future.
      All the best, Hywel

  6. Good luck! You do sound like you’re due or overdue for a sabbatical. It feels selfish for me to write this, but I hope that it will be a sabbatical and not a retirement.

    As for free, overpriced, and unwanted advice 🙂 I’ll suggest that you *shamelessly* recycle old ideas from RE of 10+ years ago when you start shooting new sets again. (It should be a bit like your running some low-effort commercial games while waiting for your gaming well to refill.)

    But whatever you decide to do, good luck!

    • You’re absolutely right, I am overdue a sabbatical and I am going to take one this summer, possibly for the rest of the year.

      I’d very much like to make sure that it is a sabbatical rather than a retirement, too, which is why I think I need to do it properly – as much of a break as I can take, for as long as I need, and not come back to it too soon. If I *really had to* I could probably leave it two years before having to book another shoot beyond what I already have in the calendar.

      And I completely agree about the recycling 10+ year old ideas. It’s great to hear you say that actually – as possibly the longest-running fan and supporting member on the site. I’ve been telling myself that I should do that – I’ve even looked out the shoot plan emails from back then, many of which have ideas in them which we didn’t even get around to shooting on the day- and use those as shoot plans again. The stupid purist shouty part of me said that was just being lazy – but being lazy for a while is exactly what I now need to do.

      After all, if an idea was a fantastic success with Charisma Cole or Petra Morgan 15 years ago, and I’ve not shot anything especially like it since, it’s going to be fun to see it reinterpreted by Chloe Toy or Zoe Page or Lucy Lauren.

  7. Well, I don’t have any advice to impart. Just to say that I am in awe of what you have achieved so far and I am genuinely honoured to call you a friend. Thanks for the low-effort commercial games and especially thanks for the wonderful journeys you have taken us all on when that particular well is full.

  8. I think you may want to look up some of the American material on “disthymia”,
    You don’t meet all the DSM IV/V criteria, but some of the cognitive/behavioural conditioning concepts might be helpful if you’re self-diagnosing and self-treating.
    Since you mentioned self-diagnosis, I’m feeling compelled to give this “advice”: whether the NHS funds such things or not, consider getting a referral to a psychiatrist (not a physiologist or therapist) – some hormonal changes can really aggravate situations like you describe, and you can’t really self-diagnose or self-medicate for those.

    Been there, done that, still struggling but coping. Good luck

  9. I was away on holiday when this first appeared and am only now getting around to replying.

    Really sorry to hear that you have been struck down with this. Kudos for your honesty in sharing this (I understand not always the case – particularly amongst us chaps).

    First, I have zero experience of burn outs or wider mental health issues in general so will spare you any ill informed armchair psychotherapy!

    I really hope that you take the time you need to ‘recharge the batteries’ and gain the distance it sounds like you require to find the magic again. I can think of no one better for you to share this with than Ariel, both in terms of the insight she has of the industry (living bdsm 24/7 as an occupation and in your personal lives) but also because of her wonderful, supportive and caring nature. I wish you both all the very best.

    As I said regarding the sites birthday, 18-years of original content is a testament to, you your (perfectionist) vision and clearly your being a nice chap that the beautiful models you shoot with keep coming back to you. I am heartened that you have a reserve of shoots in the can to keep going for a bit (I think you called on this once before?).

    With regard to moving forward (with the site) I echo Sableswords comments above – reusing ideas seems perfectly reasonable to me, those were the ideas that first drew me to the site and will surely stand the test of time – not to mention that with the advances in photography equipment, 20-years of experience and new models these old ideas will surely look fresh! I suddenly find myself wondering if that pink pvc catsuit is still around?

    Slightly controversial this, but I am not sure if I would mind if the sets lacked much text description – I tend to read the Hywel/Ariel notes bit to get a technical description or a bit of an insight what was happening that day but rarely read the stories these days.

    As I say, I hope through time and the company of friends and loved ones that this becomes manageable again. Keep us updated (as you feel you wish) and if there is anything that we the fans can help with (as a group or individually) then please just shout.

    All the best to you and Ariel.


    • Thank you for the kind words!

      Sadly the pink PVC catsuit fell to bits a decade ago, and no-one seems to make PVC clothes cut for model-sized girls any more. But latex is a bit more common and more affordable than it was, so maybe a revisit with a variant might be in order.

      I feel better having been open about the problem and now have a plan of action, which I’ll probably post about in a few days.

      Cheers, Hywel

  10. Taking a breather sounds like a very good idea. The only life-time commitments you need to really pay attention to are those to yourself and Ariel. Restrained Elegance is my favorite site and has been for many years, but if your well stays dry, I’ll make do. Perhaps you should take on a totally new hobby for a while. Have you considered knitting? Ariel would probably love to model your creations. 😉

  11. “I love you, honey. We’ll get through it.” +1

    I’ve just deleted a random post full of ‘good advice’ because frankly my half-arsed advice is pointless, you know yourself, you know your strengths, you know your weaknesses. Sounds like you know what you’re going to do and fuck it if you’re able to park RE for 6-12 months and wander off to do other stuff then GO FOR IT what could be cooler than that?

    A roadtrip conversation I’ve had with Steve (probably more than once), is, just, how?? I don’t mean how do you produce the photographic work, or how do you do all the processing, or how anything else besides HOW do you find the kinky inspiration for thousand after thousand of sets. I’m not sure you’re aware of this but we’ve ABSOLUTELY no fucking idea where that comes from. Seriously, none. I’m sure I can speak for us both in that we’re not new to kink but after a location shoot our kink-brains are frankly tired, in a way I’m kinda relieved you’ve got to the bottom of that kink reservoir as you’ve kinda become a mortal to me 🙂 yay! Hywel’s human!

    So whats the next thing you’re devoting that brain to? There’s a flying club down the road.. just sayin..


    p.s. I’m thinking about all the ‘great’ bondage producers of the last 30 years.. some have died early, one or two have killed themselves but as far as i can tell ALL the others have burned-out of kink pretty bad. An exclusive club!

    • … I know there’s a flying club down the road, and the view from helicopters over the area is just AWESOME (Ariel and I did that for my birthday a couple of years ago). There are even members of the flying club who go to one of my Welsh classes. Now if only I had a bit more spare cash… 🙂

      In all seriousness, mega-thanks to you and Steve and Kate and everyone else who has contributed to RE in general and RE location trips in particular. They are a big part of the “how” I managed to sustain it thus far!

      And you’re right, it is pretty cool that I can park RE (mostly, if not completely) for a few months to recover, so hopefully I’ll actually manage to enjoy it once I start to get over the guilt burnout feelings, like right now when we are ostensibly on a day off in Ireland but Ariel is writing her book and I am twitching guiltily and reading emails and posting this because relaxing isn’t relaxing enough!

      Cheers, Hywel

  12. Hi Hywel,

    I had a chance to read your recent blog post and the current feeling of burnout you’ve hit. Given your description of the pressure you have put on yourself in terms of how often you want to pull a idea from the “well” as you put it and push it through to a full blown shoot plan and how perfect you want things for your membership it is easy to conclude you have set your own performance setting too high but really only you can make that determination. At least it is very easy to come to that conclusion as obviously this practice has served you and RE well for 18 years. And obviously with health issues with you and Ariel, the piracy issues, the knock on the door about the site being “obscene” before that panel fell apart, the uncertainty of the pending age verification program and the whole Britxit fiasco it is remarkable you both have not completely lost it.
    I’m also facing a bit of a burnout condition with respect to something in my life. I’ve been officiating both adult and kids events for the past 16 years in a sport I’ve been a part of for 50 years. Every four years I had to be recertified by the national governing body of the sport and had to do a certain number of events each year to maintain that certification. Over that time period I have seen things change from bad to good and now they seem to be going back to bad. Early on I stopped doing certain kids events because of if their child had to be disqualified for all or part of the event because they broke the rules I had parents yelling at me about how they were going to sue me because their kid might not get into a given college on a scholarship for the sport. Like I needed that nonsense. Over time that got better and I started doing kids events again. But over the past two years I’ve noticed that that things were eroding once again. After 16 years of officiating you can tell when someone is lying to you and that has increased. I’ve also had an increasing number participants, parents and coaches tell me I don’t know definitions of certain concepts of the sport and yet when I have them read the definitions in the rule book they almost never say I was in fact correct and they were sorry they doubted me. Most acted like they were annoyed I called them on the point. While health and work issues also contributed to the decision, I decided to step aside from officiating for at least a year. I could have pressed forward and tried to do another four year cycle but felt that I would be doing a dis-service to myself first and the sport second. No clue what I’ll do next year. Just too soon to tell yet.
    Not what you are facing is rather more involved particularly since what I’m doing this is not my main revenue source or a part of the attraction with my spouse. Obviously it would be much harder to walk away for good in your case. It would an obvious first step would be to take a little time off and try to decompress as much as you can. Back off the emails and Twitter as much as you can. Sounds like your working trip to Ireland (Britxit aside) would be a help along those lines. You mentioned you had nearly a year’s worth of material in the can already so obviously you could fall back on that for a time and you could potentially stretch that out even further by dropping the number of new photo updates from 3 to 2 per week.
    I would have liked to get this posted a week or so ago but circumstances get in the way at times so it gave me a chance to read through the responses. I concur with pretty much everything that friends and members said and particularly with the comments of Sablesword and CavalierDriver. I doubt there are too many that have been active members as long as I have but they are so you certainly have some friends that are here for the duration.
    For what it is worth I’ve throw out a couple of ideas to sort of nibble around the edges that hopefully might provide a bit of relief. Some of these have already been offered up.
    • You have said that doing the story lines that accompany each shoot are as taxing as the shoot at times. So stop or greatly simplify the storylines you generate for each photo set and video for a while. If you want to continue with other than simply introducing the model and crew then keep it to only a sentence or two.
    • You have some talented people that have often helped with some of the location trips such as Temptress Kate, Merlin and Steve. Although I understand Kate will potentially not be available from early June to the end of the year for some film work. It seems like they can all both rig and shoot so perhaps, if the logistics allow, see if they can help generate some more of the content. They all know the RE style and would be able to tailor their ideas to fit within the RE context.
    • Obviously Ariel has become an accomplished rigger in her own right so perhaps she can contribute more of the concepts over the short term, at lease while she is not on a modeling tour or you are both on holiday.
    • You indicated that one of the popular series over the years has been scenarios where Ariel has interviewed a model while tying her in a favorite position of the model. There are a number of current models that you have not done an “Ariel bondage interview with X” yet so that might provide some new content since the model is dictating the position, gag and probably the attire.
    • You could even repeat some of the earlier interviews if the model is still active and get an idea of how the model’s views and interests have changed since the original interview.
    • Even if it is not in an interview situation perhaps ask the models if they would like to generate a scenario as part of a given shoot.
    • You mentioned that it was easy to come up with the first 5 scenarios in a new room but much harder to do the next 50 which clearly makes sense. Obviously a solution to that is more location work but certainly that needs to be balanced with the added expense, particularly if you are just now starting to see the income stream from the site rise again.
    • I don’t know how the logistics would work but I gather there are at least some commercial “dungeons” and / or BDSM play spaces in the UK. I know many of them this side of the pond can be rented for personal shoots so perhaps that might supply some new territory to work with though some things might be a bit kinkier than normal for RE.
    • You have done a number of custom photo sets and videos over the past 2 – 3 years, including some for me. I know you have commented that some times these can almost be more trouble than they are worth so you might not want to try to take on more of the type you have been doing. But perhaps a RE custom photoshoot “Lite” or a photoshoot suggestion box might work. Put a form on the website that would allow members to suggest only a couple of options on a limited number of topics. They could perhaps suggest the model, the basic position (standing, sitting, laying down, hogtie, frogtie, spread eagled), basic attire (formal, casual, lingerie, nude), basic restraint (cloth, tape, rope, leather, metal), type of gag (none, cloth, ball, ring, plug, tape) and hand position (in front, at sides, overhead, behind back) and basic model attitude (actively enjoying, uncertain, mad, scared). No extra charge for this, just one of the scenarios done as part of a shoot with whatever model you have scheduled. If the suggestions for that model doesn’t work for you then skip them. Just a small way of asking the membership to help contribute some content.
    • Perhaps, and this might only work with some of the models who have been with you for a number of years, but reach back into the archives and redo a previous scenario with a model and show original and new side by side in terms of how the model, bondage technique and photo quality have changed over time.
    • If you and Ariel are going to BondCon this year could you take a camera and some bondage equipment along and book some time with some of the model’s there? The locations and scenarios might be a bit limited to what you can do in a hotel room but you could get a fair amount of content out of a fairly small shooting window with one model after another. Or you could book several models together at the same time and build a short series around each one getting tied in turn till they are all tied up at the same time. One or two partially escaping and having to be retired would add additional content. End up with four or five models all tied up at the same last part of the series.
    Ok, this has dragged on long enough for the moment. I hope some of the suggestions might be of use to you. Obviously, like all the long time RE members, I hope you can work through the issues and we see a lot more RE content on the other side while at the same time you do what you need to do to keep the well full and, more importantly, keep you passions up your wife.

    Cheers and all the best,


    • Hi Jeff thank you for the kind words and the ideas- many of which echo my own thoughts so I’m going to try to put those into practice!

      And hope you can have a bit off time off from the competitions to get your own mojo back with the sport.

      Cheers, Hywel

  13. I wish you all the best in dealing with this challenge. For what it’s worth, I think your plan is definitely the right one.

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