I love interviewing other writers, and I especially love taking to them about how they make the best use of their time to fit in writing, plus work, plus family, plus everything else that they do to live a full and fun life. Every writer I’ve ever spoken to for this interview series has slightly different tips to share, but I always learn something. This week, I’m talking to the lovely Vanessa Carnevale.
Vanessa Carnevale is the author of The Florentine Bridge, a book I was very privileged to read in manuscript form, and which is like the best holiday to Italy you’ve ever had. As usual, I recorded our chat on video for you to watch, which I recommend to get the most out of Vanessa’s tips. But I’ve also summarised some of our conversation below. Enjoy!
PS – Sorry about the delivery driver who arrives in the middle of the video!
1. What kinds of writing and writing related tasks do you have to do each week?
The minute you get a book deal and you move into that phase that your book is going to be published, it all becomes a lot more serious, and you can’t joke around with deadlines anymore. I really feel like there are seasons to my writing. You write, and then you move into the editing phase, and then you’re getting things ready for publication.
I had spent last year writing and revising, then went through edits. Once everything was handed in for that, I had the proofread, Also during that time, for most of the year, I’ve been juggling writing the second book. Now I’m overlapping finishing off revisions for the second book so I can send it off to my publisher, plus moving into working on the promotion side of things for The Florentine Bridge.
2. How do you break up your week?
I have set writing days, where I really try and not schedule anything else in except for writing, and that’s when I work on the actual book. But I’m the kind of person who really hates a messy house.
For example, I start off the day during the week where, by the time I drop the kids off to school, I’ve vacuumed, I’ve washed the dishes, and the washing is on so that, when I come home from dropping the kids off to school, I walk in the house and it’s like I’m starting a job – like walking into the office.
I don’t have to glance over to the kitchen and think, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to do all of that”. I do take breaks and go and hang out the washing and things like that, but for the most part I try and have that done so that I’m not worrying so much about the kids being picked up from school and me still having to take care of all the house things. I find I work a lot better when I can reduce the stress and the things that stress me out.
3. How do you prioritise all of the different tasks you have to do?
I’ve tried the online apps because I love technology and stuff, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’m getting better at using a diary. Although, I’m one of these people if I schedule in a date with friends or something, I’ll put it in the diary and then I forget to check the diary!
But, really, what I use is a notebook – just a traditional notebook – and I’m a serial list maker; I’ll make a list, and then just cross it off. If it doesn’t happen in that week, I’ll flip it over to the next page and incorporate the stuff that wasn’t done last week.
In saying that, I think as a parent you have to fly by the seat of your pants. What I do is I don’t leave things till the last minute. I take deadlines seriously, and, if I know that something is due on a certain date, I’ll give myself plenty of time to know that I won’t be late on that. Sometimes it means I do things super early just to know that it’s done.
4. Have you changed the way you manage your time based on what you’ve learned over the past several years of juggling?
I think things have changed a little bit over the years because I have these deadlines to work to, and before it was different. It wouldn’t matter how long it took me to revise something. Whereas now, there’s a lot more planning involved, and more concrete goals.
Before it was more a pleasure thing; I would just do it and see where it went.
5. What about social media. Do you find it can be intrusive or do you have a way to manage this?
Social media plays this big part in our lives if we choose to be on it. I try not to be on it too much on those set writing days.
I have a separate app on my phone for Facebook, which is only for my Facebook page. So, I’m not getting distracted by the general friends feed. I find that that’s a really good way to manage that.
Usually in December I go offline. Even during the year, if I feel like I’m getting a little bit overwhelmed with all the obligations that I’ve got or the workload, I find that taking a step away from the social media, even if it’s just a week or two weeks can really help.
If you really want to write, you just find that time to do it.
6. Any final tips for mums who are working and trying to fit writing time in as well?
I would say just be really realistic with the expectations. When you’re a parent, there are always going to be curveballs thrown at you. My son got stung by a bee this morning, and I thought I was going to lose the whole day. These things happen. Try to manage those expectations and go with the flow.
If you really, really want to do it, if you really want to write, you just find that time to write. So, maybe have a look at the sort of things that you’re spending your time on. And just know that everything takes time and you’re on your own path, you’re on your own journey, and you will get to where you need to go.
Thanks so much Vanessa! To find out more about Vanessa Carnevale and her book, The Florentine Bridge, please take a look at her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter here, Facebook here, or on Instagram here.