The World Is Better On Coffee (But It Won’t Make You Write Better)

Cup o'coffee, wikimedia commons. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cup o’coffee, wikimedia commons. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Many people claim coffee inspires them, but, as everybody knows, coffee only makes boring people even more boring.”

Honore de Balzac, On Modern Stimulants

Coffee won’t make you write better, but it might make you feel better. A large cup of coffee every morning, laced with cream and sugar and carried with me in a leak-proof travel mug, gives me just that extra perk to cross over from sleep to waking. It is the ever-so slow, ever-so steady infusing of euphoria into my veins. At its very peak, everything seems possible, every achievement looks within reach – and so I start my daily work. Yes, it is a drug, but not one I will ever feel bad about taking.

I have weaned myself off coffee for months at a time before, and I function just fine after an initial few days of blurriness. But it is not worth it. There is a spark missing in the world, a spark so close to imperceptible that should not make that much of a difference, but it does. The warm smell of coffee would drift across my nostrils, and I would know what I was missing. The first gulp would reinforce this knowledge even more.

Do I write better on coffee? Aside from performing a double-blind, randomly controlled study, I’m not sure how I could tell. But I know several tens of thousands of words looks like a lot smaller of a mountain to climb, after a cup of coffee. Stringing the perfect set of words into sentences that connect with throngs of people appears to be achievable, someday, if I just keep at it. Coffee brings confidence, and confidence brings out writing. So maybe it affects quantity more than quality, though confidence has been known to improve quality before as well.

Not all writers are coffee-drinkers, though many writers throughout history have been. All the same, coffee obviously does not work the same way on everyone, and not everyone should treat it like a wonder-drug. If you cannot write, coffee won’t make you better at it. If you wire yourself up into a hyper-caffeinated state, you might produce pages and pages of gibberish, but you might not be any better at writing. Balzac, in the midst of his own ode to coffee, realized this, and so do I – being interesting takes more than mere caffeine!

So take up that mug of coffee, especially if it pushes you a little farther outside yourself than you would normally go. Drink it if it makes the world glow in ways it never does uncaffeinated. Let it drive you actually sit down at that table and write. But beware, if you have nothing interesting to write about.

What does coffee do to you?

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1 Comment

Filed under On Writing, Quotables

One response to “The World Is Better On Coffee (But It Won’t Make You Write Better)

  1. Pingback: Two Impossible Things to Get in Life | Stories and Stuff

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