Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Celestial Seasonings

Writing is slow and unexciting to the outside world right now.  So let's talk about something else.

An outrage.

An outrage committed in the name of progress-for-the-sake-of-progress--one of my favorite kinds of outrage to be outraged about.

So here it is:  Celestial Seasonings is CHANGING THEIR PACKAGING.

I like a lot of their tea.  They're at their best in the herbals.  I might even continue to consume Bengal Spice after this change.  But the packaging is really what makes this brand fun.  It's what makes trying new flavors fun.  And...  Well just look at this:

Old packaging:  White-tailed deer look on in wonder as preternaturally large peppermint candies come white water rafting down the river that flows from majestic pine-spotted mountains. 

New packaging:  Oh.  Ecchh.  Um.  I'm remembering that I actually like Twinings Peppermint better.  A LOT better. 

Old packaging:   AMERICA AT ITS LEAST UGLY.  HURRAH.  This tea tastes like freedom and nature (and, kind of, if you try really hard, coffee). 

 New packaging:  "Crud.  Just realized our old packaging was all about the landscapes.  But we're supposed to take out the landscapes and superimpose something from the old design on an icky shade of grey-beige, so here goes..." 

A group example:  

Old packaging:  We are in Santa's Workshop.  The tea tastes like peppermint and the kind of magical joy that can only be had when grinning polar bears are drinking from teacups. 

Old packaging:  LOOK LOOK LOOK THERE ARE BUFFALO IN THE CLOUDS LOOK.  This one's honestly just beautiful.  My little brother said he would buy a poster of it, and he hates most decorations.  

New packaging:  "Here is a complimentary mug.  We hope it will make up for the pain this causes your eyes."

Candy Cane Lane:  Why are there grinning polar bears???????!!!!!????  This is scary.  :'(

Morning Thunder:  Oh, look, a boring buffalo.  In front of a few totally fake and boring clouds.  

My personal favorite, also watered down...

And one more...  The cozy lion and his teacup get cut entirely.  </3

The tea is tasty.  My favorite flavors are Bengal Spice, Tension Tamer, their "smooth" greens, and the Sleepytime varieties.  (Thankfully, the new packaging did not obliterate Celestial Seasonings' unfailing and inexplicable association of bedtime with bears.)  

We'll see how much I end up consuming after this change, though.  Right now, I'm predicting Bengal Spice will endure in my cupboard and nothing else.

And now, since everything is a writing analogy if you try hard enough:  As I've been gutting and totally rewriting a novel, I've found myself hoping I don't get rid of good stuff.  The things that were my beta readers' absolute favorites.  The things that made me want to write this story.

My solution to this worry?  I pay attention to these things.  I've thought hard about what made me, and others, love the characters (etc.), and I try to be faithful to that--not for the sake of keeping things the same, but rather for the sake of making them even more lovable and admirable and great to spend time with when this draft is done. 

I also try to have a good handle on what is the central good thing I'm offering.  For Celestial Seasonings, it's the tea, so the packaging is ancillary.  For me, it's a good story, so this or that fun/quirky scene is (sigh) not always essential. 

Looking ahead, it appears that this problem faces a writer every time they write a new book.  Unless you find a way to successfully write the same story over and over again (which happens, but that doesn't sound very fun or worthwhile to me), you're going to have to try new things.  And trying new things means that old things change.

So, this is the risk we take.  For Celestial Seasonings, I may be the customer who got away.  I think the best we can hope, as tea merchants or writers or whatever we may be, is that those who leave are few, and those who like the new look are many.