Guest Blog with Melanie Chisnall

12 Aug

Welcome back and Happy Tuesday to you all.  I hope your weekend was rewarding. I know mine was, even though we had two of our quail die in the heat.  Such is the life of an urban farmer.

Today I am proud to introduce you to Melanie Chisnall, my dear online friend from South Africa.  Mel has graciously agreed to share some of her thoughts about finding balance in writing.  You can find Mel by following this link.

And now, as Ed McMahon was fond of saying….HERRRRRRRRRRRE’S MELANIE!

melanieFinding daily balance as a writer

Working from home and being a full time writer has to be one of the best jobs in the world. But of course, with anything that good – there have to be a few downsides… Just to shake things up a little.

One of those things is learning the art of balance.

I struggled with this a lot when I first started writing two years ago. It felt like whatever I did was never enough. I guess I felt guilty for having the luxury of working from home.

I convinced myself that I had to work like a mad person to prove to myself and others, that what I was doing was proper work – and not just some sideline hobby.

 

I’d start working some days at 6.30am and forgot what lunch breaks were. Somewhere along the road writing stopped being fun and became an unwelcome schlep instead.

My work-life balance was completely out of sync.

Anyone who works from home will tell you that trying to switch off from work and get into ‘home mode’ isn’t as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of will power – especially if you’re a perfectionist or over ambitious like I am.

Everyone has their own ways of finding balance with writing, and although I’m still finding some of that balance, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better at it.

The most difficult thing for me to get into the habit of doing was – and still is – to continue trying to do less.  And telling myself that’s okay.

And to learn how to deal with those bad or depressing days we all have – you know, the days when it feels like we’re invisible, or like nothing’s happening and we’re wasting time.

 

But there are other things that I’ve started doing that have helped me a LOT with my writing-home life balance. Things like…

 

  1. Exercise. To stay motivated, focused and stress-free I try and do two quick online workouts every day. One before the work day starts, and one to end off the work day. I do yoga, kickboxing, cardio, toning, walking – whatever I’m in the mood for. It’s great and lots of fun.

 

  1. Lunch. I force myself to take 30 minutes to an hour lunch every day. Even when I’m swamped. I’ve stopped watching TV and have asked family not to call over lunch so that I don’t get distracted and can keep that momentum going for the rest of the day.

 

  1. Time blocks. I read a great article earlier this year that suggested blocking your day into four 90-minute blocks. This has helped me so much. When I need to, I also use online timers so that I stay more productive with each writing project I’m busy with. Whatever I don’t finish gets carried over.

 

  1. Tea breaks. I take two 10 or 15-minute breaks mid-morning and mid-afternoon. This is a great way to get the blood flowing and move around – away from the computer.

 

  1. Family time. I make sure I finish my work day just as I would if I was in an office – by 5pm. Some people might not agree with this – especially if you’re freelancing or running a business, but I find that this is what I need to do. For me, family is way more important than anything else, and that quality time together is more important than marketing my blog on social media or trying to squeeze in a few more words.

 

  1. Weekends. I hardly ever work on the weekend. It’s almost like an unwritten rule in our house. Some Sundays I might spend an hour finishing up some things I didn’t get to on  Friday, but that’s about it. I need my weekend down time – especially as I don’t have a car during the day. It’s my time to escape “cabin fever” and get out into nature, catch up on series, bake something, or visit with friends and family.

 

I think the most important thing I’ve realized this year is to stop being so hard on myself and to stop comparing myself to others. I think that’s why I used to get so tense, frustrated or down in the dumps about my writing. Writing is a job. So I feel like it’s important to treat it as such and set realistic boundaries that are going to work for you. But writing is so much more than that – it’s a passion too. It’s got to get me excited about doing it. Staying balanced with my writing helps me keep everything in perspective.

How do you find balance as a writer?

 

And thank you, Mel, for sharing some great thoughts.  I’m sure we can all relate to this article.

The offer is open. If you want to share on my blog just get in touch with me and we’ll work it out. 

I’ll see you again on Thursday.  Until then, knock ‘em dead with your writing.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

 

 

 

 

 

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24 Responses to “Guest Blog with Melanie Chisnall”

  1. susanzutautas August 12, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    I’m still having a hard time finding my balance between writing and running a family business both of which I do at home. I do really need to force myself to stop for breaks and to eat more than what I do.

    • Billybuc August 12, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

      Susan, that is a full plate for sure. I have it lucky…for others, like you, this is much more difficult. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Janine Huldie August 12, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    Melanie, you know that you are preaching to the choir on this and I, too, learned the hard way to find that balance as a freelancer and writer myself. I also worked weekends and through lunch and later int he day many times in the past, as well. I now don’t work weekends, end my day at a reasonable time and even do take a break during the day for lunch and other things, as well. You are so right about this and even last week, I dropped two blog hops that were late in the week, because I found they were invading a bit of my time off on weekends. I agree against hat we have to do what works for us and our families, too. thank you for the awesome guest post and reminder here today!! 🙂

    • Billybuc August 12, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

      Thank you Janine. Your input is always right on and valuable.

  3. Graham Lee August 12, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    All good advice.

    • Billybuc August 12, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      Thank you Graham my friend.

  4. Shauna L Bowling August 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    Melanie offers some great tips. I’m fortunate in that I don’t have to juggle raising children or tending to a husband’s needs, but I still need my downtime. After all, I am a homeowner so it’s not like all I have to do is write.

    I take breaks throughout the day. I call them think breaks and they’re always taken outside. They may not be for more than a few minutes at a time, but they get me away from the computer and allow me time to formulate thoughts the old fashioned way. Often during my think breaks I’ll pull some weeds, tidy up my star jasmine, or just pace the driveway. (I find I do my best thinking while pacing!)

    I, too wiggle out of work mode at 5:00. In fact, I shut my computer down at 7:00 every night. I think being online and subjecting my eyes to the glare of the monitor for 11 or 12 hours a day is more than enough. Probably too much, really.

    Weekends are mine. I may do yard work, but most often I sit out back and read for hours. I find that very enjoyable and relaxing.

    Great post, Melanie. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Billybuc August 12, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

      Sha, thanks for sharing your thoughts…very helpful when other writers share their work day and tell us what works for them. Great comment.

  5. Clear-eyed Sky August 12, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    It’s true, we often win the award for Worst Boss Ever when we work for ourselves. We make unrealistic demands, expect skipped lunch breaks, and compare ourselves to those who seem to be making a killing in the writing business. Your organization skills are inspiring . . . I need to create a schedule and stick to it. Thank you, Melanie!

    • Billybuc August 12, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

      Thanks for always being here, Lizzy.

  6. Denise Anderson August 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    I have struggled finding balance as a writer as well. I work at a full-time job but my work is very seasonal. During the summer months, I have a lot of time for writing, even while I am at work. During the winter, however, there is much less time. At first, I told myself I could only write at work when I had time, but that meant I went for months without publishing. That did not bode well for me. Now, I take writing breaks. I work at my regular job for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour, then take a writing break. It has worked out well for me. I can do both my regular job to the satisfaction of my employer, and still have time to write and publish.

    • Billybuc August 12, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

      Denise, it is a huge struggle for most writers. I like that you are taking breaks…you are learning my friend…slow and steady will win this race.

  7. Melanie Chisnall August 12, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    It’s a huge honour to be featured on your blog, Bill! Thanks again for the opportunity to share some thoughts about writing and what I’ve found to work for me 🙂 It’s an ever-evolving process… sometimes things work, other times they need a little refining. But I guess that’s the beauty about working for yourself. You get to set the rules and change them as you go along. Hope you’re having a wonderful day and sorry to hear about your two little guys. I don’t think I’d be cut out to be a farmer anytime soon!

    • Billybuc August 12, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

      Mel, I’m the one who is grateful. It was a great post and thank you so much for it.

  8. Deb Neyens August 12, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Really good suggestions from Melanie. I often skip lunch or eat at my desk, which I know is bad. I really like the idea of 90 minute time blocks.

    • Billybuc August 12, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

      Thank you Deb. I work in 90 minute blocks myself, and one of them is over right now…time for a break. 🙂

  9. Lea Tartanian August 12, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

    Billybuc, thank you for this great post from Melanie. She offers great advice and suggestions…Especially about the 90 minute blocks. THANK YOU MELANIE. I could feel your heart and your sincerity throughout.

    No matter how long we write or how much we read, we NEED consistent suggestions, encouragement and advice from other writers…

    Thank you so much…and Billybuc, thank you for YOU.

    PS: I can’t keep my mouth shut about this but I am very sad for the loss of your two quail, my sincere condolences…and please tell that to Bev, I know it must have broken her heart. God bless always,

    Sparklea/Lea

    • Billybuc August 12, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

      Lea, thank you…yes, Bev took the loss hard, but she is a trooper and we’ll learn from the experience. You have a heart of gold my friend.

  10. Ruchira Khanna August 13, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    Good pointers, Mel
    I always appreciate how you balance your life and exercise i can also vouch for 🙂

    Bill great to read the views of awesome writers/bloggers via your site…thank you!

    • Billybuc August 13, 2014 at 12:59 am #

      Thank you Ruchira. I am lucky to know a number of excellent writers and quality people.

  11. Leslie August 13, 2014 at 4:19 am #

    Nice to meet you Mel.
    I’m a libra – balance is very important to me, and i feel it physically when life is unbalanced or i’m not doing what i’m supposed to be doing.
    I love several of your ideas – i’m quite OCD – once i start something – i have trouble stopping. Lunch? maybe later, ya know?
    i find yoga very helpful in just learning to breathe…
    Bill-bro, thanks for the opportunity to get to know this interesting woman!
    namastexx

    • Billybuc August 13, 2014 at 4:22 am #

      My pleasure, Sis, and as a fellow Libra I totally get it. Thanks, and good luck with that OCD. 🙂

  12. Dee August 13, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    Melanie is a role model for all writers. She has overcome many obstacles to become the balanced writer/person she is now. I just read her blog post, very well designed. I enjoyed your sharing this writer’s background and profile today. Keep cool up there in the heat, Bill.

    • Billybuc August 13, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

      I agree with you, Dianna. Plus, Mel is a quality human being, and that means a great deal to me. The heat is gone, thanks…blessed rain today. Have a great Wednesday my friend.

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