One of the best things I got from last year was a deep appreciation for good gyokuro. Gyokuro is a shade-grown Japanese tea, rich in caffeine and antioxidants, and a golden-green in color. The taste is smooth and unctuous—nothing like butter, but with a mouth-feel that would trick you into thinking that somehow, fat must be involved.
There’s a tang of inherent greenness to the tea, as if you can taste the chlorophyll. It has become one of my favorite teas for cold mornings: a shot of energy to combat the lazy-I-want-to-be-in-bed feeling of winter, because this tea tastes like springtime: like the renewing of little shoots and the first tiny green leaf buds on trees.
It’s somewhat disorienting to look out the window at dry, dead plants and patches of snow in the places the sun doesn’t reach.
And the best part of gyokuro? After you’ve finished four or five steeps of delicious tea, the leaves it’s made from are so young and tender that you can eat them from the teapot with chop sticks, like a mild, tea-flavored spinach.
Why is this newsletter about tea?
So someone asked me why my newsletter was SO MUCH TEA, and why I didn’t do things in my newsletter like give…writing tips or other normal author newsletter stuff.
The short answer is because I love tea and writing about tea is not work.
If I wrote about writing tips, this newsletter would be work, and then it wouldn’t exist. If I write about tea, this newsletter is love. Love is easier than work.
There are a few things I could write about instead of tea. Tofu, for instance: I love tofu! There are so many things you can do with tofu, and so many kinds of tofu! But as much as I like tofu, I think I could sustain maybe a year and a half of a tofu newsletter. (“Courtney’s Weekly Tofu” also doesn’t have the same ring.) (If anyone wants to vote for the occasional “Courtney’s Weekly Tofu” please let me know. This can be arranged.)
Tea, though? Tea can go on forever. (This also gives me the perfect excuse to buy tea samples and minis.)
There is a long version, though. If you forced me to give writing tips at gunpoint, I would feel like a fraud while doing so.
If it hasn’t been obvious from the drastic reduction in writing output, writing has been hard for me since about 2016. There are many reasons for that, but one of the parts of it is that for many of the first eight years of my writing career, I went months at a time where I was only sleeping about 4 or 5 hours a night.
It took me several years after my peak to figure out that I was becoming less and less productive with every passing month, and much more time since then during which I have had to relearn how to sleep (still a work in progress) while necessarily scaling back on work with no corresponding increase in productivity to anywhere near 2011 levels. (There’s also been more general anxiety about the world we live in, which has not helped.)
One of the things that has helped me have patience with myself is beginning to understand how brains work: when I started writing, the act of writing (and the process of production) was formed in a fairly traumatic year of work. I managed to replicate that trauma by not valuing myself for years after I left the workplace where I learned those patterns. But brains are weird: they learn by connections. Once I started to disconnect the traumatic habits, the skills I had learned became harder to access, because I had built the connection to those skills through trauma.
Luckily, learning about this aspect of my brain has taught me that those skills are still there: I just need to give it time, and to trust that doing things non-traumatically on a regular basis will eventually help rebuild my old pathways based on joy in what I am doing. I have hope that at some point I might get back to prior productivity levels, but that is not the goal anymore.
At the moment everything takes more effort: I have to learn and relearn things that I already know, and when I do relearn them I feel a combination of relief and frustration.
I have no tips for writing. I am sure, that if I tried, I would come up with things, but I am re-figuring everything out myself. I recognize that a lot of this is a combination of imposter syndrome combining with Random Brain Stuff, but nonetheless it is where I am.
At some point, when I feel like a competent human being again, if I decide I want to talk about writing, I will probably do a series of YouTube live videos where interested parties can pay what they want (including zero, because I want to be inclusive of people who don’t have money).
But for now, my only writing tip is this: It is much harder to learn to work in a sustainable fashion than you might think, so treat yourself well from the beginning.
The Suffragette Scandal
I’ve had people tell me that romance is wish fulfillment, but usually when they say that, they mean that it’s wish fulfillment about the men, as if (a) romance novels are always male/female, and (b) women have always dreamed of a partner who would threaten her business or take revenge on her father or steals her family home whatever it is that creates conflict.
The truth is, romance is wish fulfillment in its own particular way. In The Suffragette Scandal, Frederica Marshall knows what she wants—equal rights—and she never lets herself get muddled. She never stops and asks “but what if the men are right?” She never has imposter syndrome about it. She stands up for what she believes against incredible odds with astonishing moral clarity.
So yes, unapologetically, this book is the ultimate wish fulfillment for a lot of people, including me. If I could fulfill any wish, it would be that I wish we all never doubted the best parts of ourselves.
One of the things I have been doing semi-recently is learning more about how my brain works, and a very recent discovery (passed on to me by a friend) has been Dr. Megan Neff’s series of workbooks on neurodivergence.
I recently went through her Sensory Regulation workbook and found it incredibly helpful. I knew I had some sensory issues (I hate the sound of eating so much that I can’t even eat watermelon because the noise! In my head! Inescapable!), but this booklet helped me lay it all out and realize ohhhh, this is what it means to have issues with sensory regulation! This is why I get so snappish at times like this!
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