I met with a client recently to discuss her novel—we meet every week, and go over it, chapter by chapter. It's a thoroughly enjoyable experience, not just because it's a very well written manuscript and I enjoy talking about it with the author, but also because I meet so few of my clients in person! The face-to-face contact is definitely a welcome change.
When I arrived, she lamented the fact that she'd not done much work on the book since we'd last met. There were many reasons, all of them completely valid, but it bothered her.
"I love it so much," she said. "It's so important to me, and I really want to get it done, but it just ends up being pushed aside."
I told her I absolutely understood, and could fully identify with the sentiment.
"I have to work—we need to eat and pay bills!" I laughed. "And then there are the children and my studies. And when I get back to my own work, I feel the same way: I love it, but it has to come last."
Most writers go into writing knowing that it's going to be something they do on the side, or after hours. Or if they don't begin that way, they soon realise it! It's the rare individual who can be paid in advance for their first novel, and these days, it's even rarer to receive an advance you can live on. Unless you are in a position where you're independently wealthy, or you're supported financially in some other way, you'll have to work to pay the bills and write in your spare time. Even those of us who are lucky enough to write for a living are usually still writing for other people, and such jobs bring with them their own constraints and limitations. And that's not to say that money worries are the only thing that draws us away from our writing. Many of us have other responsibilities such as family or community commitments, and writing has to fit around them. It's a lot easier to say 'no' to your manuscript than it is to a demanding toddler or to the soccer team you're supposed to be coaching!
And so writing comes last, and when it does, that might feel like we're failing. But perhaps it helps to think about writing in terms of a race—any race, be it swimming or cycling or running or sailing—and think about those teams or individuals who come last. They might not win medals or the prize money, but remember: the ones who come last still finish the race. They might not be the quickest, but they don't give up, even though there are so many reasons to do so.
Even if you're struggling to write only a few pages a week, and you feel like nobody in the world could understand how hard it is to fit writing into your busy life, know that there are many, many others in the same position. They're putting their writing last because they have to, but they're not giving up, and they know that eventually they'll finish the race. And unlike an athlete, nobody who reads your work is going to mind that it came last. Who knows what prizes you'll get, if you just keep going to the end?