On a change of scenery (or tell me what you like)

Hi friends,

In the past 3 months, I’ve written 14 posts and a little over 22,000 words for this newsletter. I don’t know about you, but that’s impressive for me. I’ve also met interesting people who’ve supported me and cheered me on and who are genuinely interested in what I have to say (and write). You know who you are, so thank you!

That said, I’ve learned some lessons during the past three months. One, I cannot please everyone. Two, my readers are my “customers.” The beauty of an online platform like Substack is that I can write about whatever I want. But I also can’t write about whatever I want. I want to write about stuff that interests me but also interests my readers, because without you, I may simply be writing into the void. And who knows if anyone’s reading?

The third lesson (although not the final one) is that I want to make your time valuable. While writing consistently creates a strong habit and helps me (and you) become a better writer, I had also (mistakenly) believed that consistency also means showing up in your inbox every week. I’ve always believed in quality, and some of the people I follow on the internet seems to be able to churn out newsletters week by week, most of which is good and interesting. But at the same time, this newsletter is not my business. I’ve thought about making it my “business,” but realized that it will take away the joy of writing for me if I have to treat my personal writing as a business. Then I would be more inclined to focus on metrics like open rates, subscriber numbers, promotions, and advertising, and spinning the wheels every single day to make sure I provide the best value for you, my “customers.”

Honestly, I am not ready for that. Nor do I think I will be in the future.

Along with that, I also think I might just be valuing the internet a little bit less. I know that’s a bold statement to make, but it’s true. The 90s is calling; it wants its fashion back. People are getting distracted with so many things, one of which is the breadth of “quality” content on the internet. I do believe that there is an immense amount of quality content on the internet, and I’m privy to a lot of them, but I also believe that we can certainly take a step back and reunite ourselves with the natural world, the one where screens don’t dominate. Taking long walks. Going hiking or camping. Knitting. Swimming at a local pool. Reading physical books. Going to a library and talking to people. Having brunch with an old friend. Sending that friend gift packages in the mail, or flowers for their birthdays. Those little things you simply cannot do on the internet. I mean, sure you can send people an e-card, or “a gift card” for Amazon, but it’s not the same thing, you know?

In my hometown, people are slowly coming out of their hermit holes. For two years, we’ve been ensconced in our homes, protected by the elements. I love staying at home – I’m a complete homebody myself, but I also enjoy a change in scenery. That, along with my desire to read more books means that I’ll be taking some time off in the next two weeks (possibly more) to recharge and give myself a break after spending three months writing a novel that might possibly never go anywhere.

But that’s okay.

I’ve written about time before, how it’s more valuable the older you get and the less of it is available. I guess this is a long way of saying that for my own sake and for yours, I’ve decided to bring this newsletter to a bi-weekly status. I’m still going to focus on food and family and Vietnamese culture. Here's what I’m thinking:

First email: an original essay by me, on something that’s related to culture, food, family, etc. basically what I’ve been writing, except it’ll be a little bit shorter.

Second email: a longer, deep dive into a food-related topic with a modern connection. For example: food and trauma, Vietnamese American chefs, Asian American coming-of-age stories, oldest cookbooks in the world, to name a few.

I want to know: what makes you open an email? What do you want to know/learn about? Do you like recommendations or original essays or long form? Reply and let me know!

Leave a comment