Guest Blog: Elizabeth Kyne
IF ONLY I DIDN’T HAVE A LOVE AFFAIR WITH SLEEP
Author Elizabeth Kyne dreams about what life might have been like
if she’d been blessed with more hours in the day
One night a couple of years ago, I was just getting ready for bed when the phone rang. “Who the hell’s calling at this hour?” was the general reaction in the house. It turned out to be Ian. The conversation went something like this:
“Oh hi Ian, I was just going to bed.”
“Bed? But it’s ten o’clock. Why are you going to bed now?”
“Because it’s bed time.”
He had no concept of a person wanting to go to bed at ten o’clock. To him, it was the middle of the evening and there were four hours until his bedtime.
I wish I were like Ian.
To clarify, I’m actually glad I am not like Ian in many ways (I’m not sure how I’d cope with being a teacher in Scotland, for example), but in the sleep department, I envy him. On the day he’d rung me, he’d spent eight hours at work, earned some lovely money, then come home, had some dinner and relaxed for a bit, and was just settling down to work on a script for a play he was writing and wanted to chat to me about it.
As for me, I’d spent all day writing and doing assorted things, earned very little money, had dinner, spent a precious hour relaxing in front of the telly and was about done for the day. If only I’d been able to stay up until two in the morning doing stuff, then I could have achieved so much more.
There is a piece of advice dished out to writers which, in many ways, is excellent advice. It goes something like this: Set your alarm for an hour earlier, get up and write for an hour, then go to work. Pretty soon, you will have written the first draft of a novel and – what’s more – you haven’t had to sacrifice any salaried time to do it. Which, if you want to eat and have a roof over your head, is a pretty good idea.
I’ve tried this. Really, I’ve tried it. Maybe it worked on the Monday, maybe I even managed to struggle out of bed on the Tuesday, but by Wednesday I was just beat. The other problem was – and this is the biggest problem, to my mind – is that by the time you get into work, you’re too tired to put your all energies into your job. That’s the job which is paying for life’s little essentials like food and housing. To put it at risk by coming in exhausted every day is probably not the best plan for continued employment.
Add to that the additional complication of the day job I foolishly decided to take on. My background is in radio journalism and, in radio, the most important time of the day is breakfast time. So, often my shift would start at 5am. I was already getting up at 4.30am. The prospect of getting up at 3.30am to write… well, let’s just say that wasn’t going to happen.
One advantage of shifts like this, you might think, is because you start early, you finish early too. Although this is the case, my ability to function in the afternoon when I’ve been up at 4.30am and worked the equivalent of a full day, is vastly reduced. Exhaustion is total. I’ve tried using this time to write or to exercise and it’s generally been a failure. It’s hard enough just staying awake in the afternoon to make sure that when I go to bed at night I actually sleep.
I’m such a wimp at sleep, that after a week doing shifts like that, my stamina for going out at the weekend was very low indeed. So much so that I got a bit of a reputation for going to bed early at parties. There was one party I remember in which I was so sleepy by the time I got there at 8pm that I decided to nip upstairs for a quick lay down on the spare bed. I had fully intended to get back up and do some partying, but fell asleep instead and only emerged some twelve hours later to find a handful of people downstairs nursing their hangovers. Yep, I’d slept through the whole party.
If only I wasn’t a slave to sleep. If only I had the stamina to write at either end of the day and still earn a crust at a regular job. But that’s just not me. In the end, I’ve had to accept that if I want to write, I have to sacrifice a regular salary. For me, that has meant going part time at my radio job so I work weekends and write during the week. It still means I can’t go to parties without going to bed early, but at least I’m writing.
I have great admiration for the authors of this world who get up and write before going to work, or burn the midnight oil to get that manuscript finished. They are amazing people. Some of them even manage it with a young family or a baby in the house. They are truly heroic; I wish I were more like them.
My point is, I guess, that we all have limitations to what we can do. For me, it’s sleep; for others it maybe family or business commitments. But, in our heart of hearts, if we want to write, then we will find a way. Because a writer who doesn’t write is no writer at all.
Rachel re-invents herself when she moves back to her home town of Aylesbury; with a new job, a new house and a new haircut. But people’s eyes glaze over when she tells them about her life as a forty-something singleton who works in accounts. So why not spice things up a bit? Why not tell her new hairdresser and her new friends about her fantastic husband? Everyone wants to hear about Darren, the man who cooks her amazing meals, cleans the house and takes her to bed for orgasmic sex three times a night! What a shame he doesn’t exist…
…Until she comes home one night and finds Darren sitting in her lounge. And everything she said becomes true: from his sensuous food to his skill in bed. So real, that she believes it.
Not as if living with a perfect is man is… well, perfect…
She can’t find anything because every time she puts something down, he tidies it away. Then there’s the shock of the credit card bill from buying all that gourmet food. Not to mention the sex! Three times a night is great at first, but sometimes all she wants at the end of the day is a sandwich and some sleep.
Then Rachel decides that Darren has to go – and that’s when her troubles really begin.
Elizabeth Kyne takes the absurdities of the modern woman’s quest for love and turns them into an enjoyable romp. She finds the comic in everyday situations, from buying a dress to experimenting with hair dye at home. While, underneath, she comments on the pressure to find the perfect husband and how that quest is doomed for us all.
Elizabeth Kyne trained to be a radio journalist and spent her early working years reading news bulletins and writing for magazines. Later, after learning the meaning of “mortgage” and “gas bill”, she decided to do the sensible thing and drop the freelance lifestyle to get a proper job. The job, however, all went horribly wrong and she returned to her first love of writing, and worked on several novels before finding success with “If Wishes Were Husbands”.