If you’re new to Seedling you may not know, but every season I like to interject one interview with someone who can speak on a subject from a different perspective to myself. I’m very aware that Seedling is predominantly a solo podcast, so to avoid blasting you with my views and my views alone, I like to reach out to others from time to time.
This season I’m speaking to the wonderful Michelle Chai. I’ve been following Michelle in some form or another since my early blogging days and have loved seeing her blog and online presence evolve. Whether she’s writing about her experience being British Chinese, sharing petite joys or selling hand-poured candles on etsy, she does it all with poise and keen awareness.
Listen to our chat where we cover writing, creativity and coping with 2020 life wherever you get your podcasts or here:
Links and further reading:
- Daisybutter (Michelle’s blog)
- Follow Michelle on Instagram and Twitter
- & Chai etsy store
- Science of wellbeing course
- Support the podcast
Hello and welcome to season three’s interview episode! If you’re new to Seedling, you may not know, but every season I like to interject one interview with someone who can speak on a subject with a different perspective to myself. I’m very aware that Seedling is predominantly a solo podcast, so to avoid blasting you with my views and my views alone, I like to read out to others from time to time.
This season I’m speaking to the wonderful Michelle chai. I’ve been following Michelle in some form or another since my early blogging days and have loved seeing her blog and online presence evolve over that time. Whether she’s writing about her experience being British Chinese, sharing petite joys on her blog, or selling hand poured candles on Etsy, she does it all with poise and keen awareness. In our discussion, we talk about writing, creativity, and coping with 2020 life.
So grab a cuppa, sit back, and enjoy!
Hey, hi Michelle! Thank you so much for joining me today. And to kick us off, could you please introduce yourself and just tell us a little bit more about yourself and your work?
Hi Kat. Of course! So my name’s Michelle and I’m very much a Pisces. That’s how I always introduce myself.
Me too, me too.
I’m really into cozy, homebody living and I’m a digital copywriter and editor. I spend my days writing and editing copy and editorial features for e-commerce brands and by night I write a blog all about my blog as a British Chinese woman in the UK. And I’ve also recently launched an Etsy store alongside my sister selling cruelty free candles and handmade goods.
Yes, I love that! I’ve picked up a candle myself, I’ve got the Isabel candle going at the moment and it’s really lovely and it’s so cool to see. So, to go back from the beginning, I would love to know a little bit more about how you got started in the blogging world and how Daisy Butter has changed over the years and the topics that you now cover.
Of course. So I started my own blog back in 2009, I think it was? Back when I was at uni studying fashion and culture journalism. I really enjoyed the course but I really missed writing for myself as opposed for briefs and for assignments, which is what I knew I was going to come to expect later on in my career.
And so I started my blog. And Daisy Butter was one of those homegrown, personal style blogs back then. I’d get home to my halls, take some shoddy webcam photos of what I’d worn for seminars, for lectures, and for library sessions, and I would just write about my day.
So I’d document what I’d studied, why I’d chosen my outfit that day, I don’t know, about the new mascara I’d bought on offer, and it was really nice. It was such a lovely small community and there was little to no pressure to post.
Then soon I was quickly nominated for one of those infamous Cosmo or Marie Claire blog awards.
Oh yes, I remember those.
Wildly, I was signed to a bloggers’ agency and then soon after I began working on really fun, pinch myself lucky, brand partnerships. And it came at like a bit of a weird time where I basically had to pick whether I was going to blog full time and pursue that or go after a career.
So I chose to keep my full time job and then work on the blog on the side, which I definitely mull over a lot, but I’m happy I chose to do what I do now. And then these days, I try to retain that homegrown essence of blogging, but I throw in a couple more considered posts, like you see in the blogging community these days. So mostly I write about living mindfully, the books I recommend, and just everyday things that I’m up to. I’m so grateful to the past me for hitting publish on that first post because I don’t know where I’d be without it now.
I know, it’s amazing. I’ve been – I think I’ve been following you since those early days because I started my blog in 2008 I think. I had just left uni actually and I was in that weird gap between trying to find a graduate job and that’s when I started blogging. And it’s just so interesting to see how the industry has changed so much over that time. And it’s just fascinating seeing how the bloggers who started out then, what they’ve evolved and turned into now. And I dunno, I really relate to the fact that you’ve kept it as a side thing to your day job, because I’ve done very much the same, and yeah. It’s just really interesting.
But I think for me, some of my favourite articles from you, especially recently, have been about your experience of being British Chinese. And I can imagine with the coronavirus pandemic and 2020 in general, in all of its glory, must have led to some difficult times both on- and offline. So I’d really love to hear how you’ve been taking care of yourself during this time and crucially how you’ve still found the energy to be vocal around social justice causes, because I see that you do do that a lot.
Aw, thank you Kat. Yeah, definitely, some of the kind of British Chinese posts are my favourite to write. I find them really therapeutic to write actually. And it lets me untangle my own thoughts. In a world where there’s just so much noise all the time, it’s just nice to sit down and write some of my feelings out, whether that’s in the blog itself or even in my journal I sometimes write.
So this year I’ve just mostly been giving myself some grace and some space. A little bit of time to feel grateful for what I have, which is a lot, given everything that’s going on, and also the space to exist outside the pandemic. I know that sounds a bit odd, but I think trying to remove myself from what’s going on has been nice, just to get back to who I am.
So I’ve read more, importantly more frivolous books, so not necessarily serious reading, like sometimes I like to just sit back and read, even graphic novels, all sorts of things. I’ve spent more time gaming, collecting things, and using my hands to make candles, embroidery, and get back to cooking and stuff.
So yeah, and whilst being vocal about social issues and social justice has always come quite easily to me, I’ve definitely learned this year how important it is just to let myself rest. Often it feels like more is more, especially with really important causes, but taking time for yourself to be an ally and not loudly be an ally all the time is useful too. So I’m firmly of the belief that there’s always more to be learned, and doing so means we can be more effective in our activism and our allyship. I’ve been really thankful to sit back and learn about some of these issues rather than have to go through them myself, well, for the most part, and yeah, it really helps me think about the best way that I can make an impact with the platforms and community I have and also myself as an individual, just going out there and being an ally, basically.
Amazing, yeah, it’s just so interesting to see how everyone tackles it in their own way and how they look after themselves. And I really relate to the getting busy with your hands and doing things that take you away and I’ve definitely been reading a lot more this year. A lot of, as you said, frivolous reads, and some stuff. But that, in turn with the learning as well, I think I’ve kind of switched between needing that escapism and sometimes needed to, okay, I wanna learn about more of these things so I can help and learn more.
And yeah, you mentioned gaming there, and I know from following you that gaming, and especially Animal Crossing, has been something that you’ve really been leaning into this year. And I can relate to that because I’ve been starting playing the Sims again – it was when the first lockdown kicked in I re-purchased it and I’ve been absolutely loving it. So I guess I just wanted to ask, what is it about gaming that feels so necessary right now?
I absolutely love the Sims! So I love Animal Crossing, the Sims, I love all of those little escapism RPG kind of games. So I’ve been active playing New Horizons for two years and I knew I’d be playing it a lot but I didn’t think I’d be playing it quite this much. And I suppose it’s a happy coincidence that the delayed launch came as we were all told to stay home and life went to shit and there’s been some truly awful things that have happened this year. I mean I’ve experienced some really pretty grim things in real life so it’s been a great escapism to plunge into the virtual reality. Especially where there’s just a cute little island, places that I’ve not been all year, that’s entirely mine and the villages like to see me, they call me whatever I ask them to, and yeah, I think gaming just lets your mind wander aimlessly, which is a breath of fresh air in a world where social media and society just seems intent on not letting you escape.
Yep, that’s so true. And especially with games like the Sims and Animal Crossing, there’s like you said, you have your own space online. Like animal Crossing, you literally have your own island which, as you said, you can invite who you want to in, and you can keep whoever you want out and yeah, I just find it so interesting. I think it’s a crucial part of this year for a lot of us.
So aside from gaming, I know that cultivating petite joys is a big part of your life and your blog. So could you tell us a little bit more about this and perhaps some tips for us on how we can do the same?
Well I first started documenting the little joys in my life, after my friend Bee, who writes Viva Tramp and has a matching Patreon, shared hers. So often it feels like there’s no particular big joy in life, like I think for a lot of us things like buying a house are out of reach. At the moment there’s no huge holidays to look forward to, it seems completely out of reach, or even knowing what’s next.
But I’ve always felt like ths list of things add up to a lot, so it’s more about learning to be happy with what you have, be that a chance to watch a beautiful sunrise that morning because you had to get up for work, or that your friend dropped off your favourite chocolates on your doorstep because you can’t hang out together. I find so much joy in knowing that there’s more joy to be found, if you look properly.
So a couple of tips on how to find joy and make it part of your everyday life. Pick a day where you’ve got nothing of note on, perhaps. So lean into the little things that make you smile. Force yourself to look outside of your normal stuff, so whether you always sit down for a cup of tea at the dining table, sit somewhere else and see how that makes you feel. You’d be surprised at what you notice when you really lean into that everyday mundane.
Absolutely, I love that. And it’s something I learned a while ago on a science of wellbeing course that I took. They talk about savouring and how important it is to savour these small moments of joy and how, as you said, it kind of all culminates and it makes a big difference.
And I’m curious, because I know you’re quite active on Instagram and Instagram Stories, do you find that helps you to savour those petite moments and maybe document it in your journal? I’m -sorry, in your blog?
Yeah, I do. I think personally I think social media has got to a place where you feel pressured to talk about absolutely everything all the time. There’s so much going on and everything’s a fleeting moment, so your tweet won’t be seen after 15 minutes or so, your Instagram Stories, they’re done in a day.
But spending the time to write down my little joys has helped me realise how much I have and now I can look back on my blog or my bullet journal and be like, oh back in January I was really grateful for that time I went out and got to walk the dog on that big crunchy frosty grass. Little things like that.
Yeah, absolutely. And again, as we’ve said, I think this year when we haven’t been able to do the bigger things, we haven’t been able to necessarily go on holidays or even go out to restaurants and meet friends for a drink, you know, a lot of us haven’t done that this year much, so it’s more important than ever I think to, as you say, jut notice the little things. And when you start to notice them, you start to notice them more.
Amazing. So you are a person of many talents, and you have various hats from blogger to freelance copywriting, and, as you mentioned, you now have an Etsy shop with your sister. So I’m really curious to hear how you manage your time between these ventures and how you ensure that your creative tank remains full?
Firstly, thank you. Now that you listed all of those out I realised how much stuff I’m supposed to do! I always say that it’s easy to top up the creative tank because I genuinely adore and am passionate about everything that I do. I’m really big on planning and I always account for my time, which sounds really boring but I just sit down and make sure every step at the moment is accounted for, even if it’s two hours to sit and read or do my own thing.
At the moment, I work part time for a company and then I divide the rest of my time between personal writing and Etsy, so I do feel I’ve put writing on the backburner a little bit for now as the pandemic’s meant most of my clients have had to pull back on their resources. But it’s been good because it sort of pushed my sister and I to launch our Etsy, like we mentioned.
Previously it always looked like messy scribbled notes in a bullet journal of something we wanted to do eventually but just didn’t know when, so yeah. And in terms of keeping my creative tank topped up, I always like to make sure I’ve got an evening where I just lay horizontal, throwing popcorn in my mouth, watching Netflix.
Just little everyday things. Keeping your mind ticking over, doing not necessarily work things, but letting yourself do just leisurely activities. I’m inspired by the everyday and by life itself, so giving myself some time just to live helps to top up the creative tank.
Yeah, that’s so important. I think especially when you’re writing about that kind of thing, and if your work is in writing, you do need to live to have something to write about., I’ve been doing quite a lot of Skillshare classes at the moment on writing and a lot of it is to kind of spark creativity is they ask you to look back on your childhood and your life so far and kind of mine that for ideas and it just makes you realise that you really do need to live that life before you can start thinking about it creatively. So definitely agree with you there.
Yeah, definitely. I always find it’s jarring to write about something you’ve not lived. I think you can easily fall into the trap of writing about what you’re working on or write a blog about blogging, for instance, and I’ve always been like, it’s more about the experiences than me.
Yeah, absolutely, I agree. I think I’ve been very much the same with my blog as well. So yeah. And I wonder, how is the Etsy shop going? It seems like it’s going amazingly.
Oh my gosh, it’s going so well! I’ve actually just been this morning writing a blog post about how it’s been going. Our goal was to have five sales in the first launch week and we had 100 by the end of January or something. So it’s gone really, really well, we’re really grateful for everything that’s come to us so far!
Aw, amazing! So finally, I know that you are in the midst of writing your first book. And this is just so exciting and I’d love to hear how you’re finding the experience of writing something longer form like this and how it differs from your other writing projects.
I am! I’m writing my first book! I’m actually just about to start querying properly, so I won’t be able to share too much about the actual book itself at the moment, but I’ve found the process surprisingly easy and tricky at the same time. It’s really hard to put my finger on what it is that’s so hard and easy at the same time.
So I’ve always been a writer. I used to write – I say novels – back in secondary school and I really wish I’d saved them. Long form writing is such a different ball game to what I’ve been doing, so I’ve definitely fallen out of the habit of writing long form, especially with work and blogging.
So at work, the longest piece I’ll write is only about 2,000 words long for a feature? 80,000, so the average for a book – that’s a little bit trickier! I was worried it would start to feel like the dark dissertation days.
But I haven’t missed those ones at all. But I really enjoyed the planning process, researching, and obviously the writing.
Yeah, and then I guess blogging’s always been my way of keeping up the habit of writing. So I found that getting back into long form writing for the book has really benefited the other parts of what I do, which is always a good thing.
Yeah, definitely. I think writing is definitely a practice, isn’t it? And it’s something you need to always kind of have your toe in and kind of always be doing, just to keep it up. And yeah, I can’t even imagine writing a book! I’ve done a couple of slightly longer form pieces – I recently did a slightly longer piece of fiction than I’ve done for a very long time. It was about – I think it was about 3000 words and I just didn’t realise how difficult it was to write something longer than the 800 words that I do on a blog. I’m so used to writing short fiction so it was a real challenge and I just can’t imagine what it would be like to write a book but I just think it’s fascinating to hear about people’s processes.
Yeah, it’s been quite a trip, I would say! Like I did a first draft, and then looking back on it I was like, the pacing is completely off with this. Because you’re right, with short form writing you realise quickly how easy it is to get your point across in 100 words for instance. But it’s so different when you’ve got 80,000 words to use up!
Yeah, absolutely! And like, how am I going to fill all of those words?! How am I going to fill them? Oh amazing. Well, best of luck with it and I’m looking forward to hearing more about it!
Thank you so much!
Perfect! So before we go, can you please tell everyone where they can find you online and where they can support your work?
Of course. So you can find me online at @winyeemichelle on all social media platforms and you can read my blog on daisybutter.com and you can shop my Etsy now at AndChai.etsy.com
Perfect. Thank you so much Michelle for your time today and yeah, hope you have a really lovely rest of your day!
Thank you Kat!
So, there we go. I hope you enjoyed listening to that conversation as I enjoyed having it. I just find Michelle’s approach to everything so interesting and I can relate to it so much, especially the being mindful and looking at petite joys and everything like that. So yeah, if you don’t’ already, please do give Michelle a follow. She’s a delight to follow on social media.
But that’s all I have for you this time. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks, going back to the solo episode format. But until then, please take care.