So in my list of Pretentious Sh*t That Works, there is little that is as cliche – or as essential – as my favorite socially acceptable chemical dependency: coffee.
There’s a lot to love about this magical, bitter beverage. It’s cheap, abundant, and has myriad physical and psychological effects. Moreover, coffee drinking is fetishized among the creative class, so much so that it spawns whole memes. (Like the ones I have peppered through this post.)
Now I can’t speak for you, dear reader, but I know that my entire life benefits from a cup of joe, and it’s an essential part of my writing ritual. Bluntly, I’d be fucked without it. If you haven’t discovered yet the magic of writing while the magical black steed that is caffeine, here are some reasons to give it a go. These are based on my own experience, but I’m not alone. The effects of coffee are well documented by science.
Coffee grants alertness.
What is a writer with the powers of observation? (Answer: A shitty writer.) Coffee has been shown to improve alertness. This is the general psychological state of alertness, not just waking you up in the morning. (As a night person who works a day job, a morning without coffee is like rain on a vacation.)
So not only will you be able to observe the couple in the booth over there, but you’ll be able to do so while avoiding oncoming traffic while you furiously scribble notes. Writing and not dying? Sign me up!
Coffee improves focus.
Let’s face it… Only special sorts of mutants have the insane drive and focus necessary to sit alone in a room and produce a book. I mean, a whole fucking book! There are large numbers of perfectly literate people who have never even read a book, and you’re trying to write one? If you can do that without at least a little light chemical assistance, you are a far better human than me. (Shameless plug time! If you’re working on your first novel and want a little help, check out How to FINISH Your First Novel.)
But on coffee, it’s like your mind becomes a focused laser beam intense enough to cut a British spy in half. You are able to concentrate on the task at hand better, longer, and get more words on that page.
Coffee boosts mood.
Let’s face it, us writers can be a pretty dark bunch. (“Grim” and “asshole” are often accurate descriptors.) And while a certain amount of darkness comes across as gritty and artistic, wallowing in our own misery is no way to live. And while I’m pretty curmudgeonly at the best of times, I prefer to be happy whenever I can manage it. Coffee definitely lifts my spirits so that they can soar with the eagles and create the uplifting prose I am so well known for. (Actually, I’m better known for crushing the dreams of writers and a stabby elf.)
But still, there’s a good chance I’d be a stabby writer without my coffee.
Together, the superpowers of coffee form creativity!
The total amalgam of all these psychological perks is a more creative me, which is the best possible version of myself. Thanks to alertness, I’m more aware of myself and my surroundings and not wanting to nap on my keyboard. Thanks to focus, I can actually get a few words typed out before getting distracted by Facebook, an actual book, or a shiny object in the middle distance. And the heightened mood makes me believe that what I’m writing is merely garbage, as opposed to a steaming pile of shit. Yay!
There are few things that bring me more joy than being creative, and I will be forever grateful to coffee for helping me get the creative juices flowing. Of course, there are other juices that coffee also gets flowing, but that’s just paying the piper. And it’s worth noting that there are some deleterious to this magical elixir.
Beware the Dark Side… of your beverage.
So coffee isn’t all gumdrops and rainbows, folks. No, sir. In fact, over indulging can lead to some fairly uncomfortable phenomena. Though it depends on the individual, and how much coffee they’ve drunk, there are a variety of deleterious effects:
But so long as you don’t over-indulge, drink a glass of water for every cup of coffee you drink, and keep yourself on a schedule, most of these effects are pretty manageable. And as addictions go, coffee is one of the lesser evils. (Now, if you try to take away my coffee I WILL FUCKING CUT YOU.) And my coffee drinking habt is a small price to pay for the creative and cognitive boost I get from it.
And let’s not forget, you can drink coffee and write. Or talk about writing. Or read. Or read about writing. Really, you can drink coffee while doing just about anything. Hot damn, I’m going to get myself a cup now and then get back to writing.
And so should you!
Does coffee have a place in your writing? Or is there some other beverage or snack that gets your creativity all juicy? Let me know in the comments below!