What We Can Learn From The Great Gods of Writing: Caffeine and Consumption

Addiction to certain foods and drinks is prevalent amongst working writers. Perhaps the act of eating or drinking helps these authors with the act of creating or imagining. For example, Truman Capote, the author of In Cold Blood, admits that he has to be “puffing and sipping” while writing.1 He starts with coffee, shifts to mint tea, before moving on to sherry and martinis, in that very order. Poet John Ashbery developed an addiction to Coca-Cola while living in Paris. He drank it copiously while editing various magazines and literature reviews. After he achieved fame and could devote his entire time to writing poetry, he switched to tea as his drink of choice while working, stating, “While I write, that is about the only time that I do drink tea.”2 Toni Morrison takes a more profound view of drinking as being an integral part of her writing process as well as her day, sharing “I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark—it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come…It enables me, in some sense.”3

It is possible that many authors feel a subconscious attachment to caffeine. Both drinking caffeine and the act of writing often cause spurts of frenetic and adrenaline-charged energy. Inspired, accomplished authors naturally gravitate to a drink that embodies the same sense of force and vigor with which they approach their writing. Practically, caffeine can keep the mind and fingers going. Philosophically, the act of making something to consume or imbibe can sometimes have an inspirational effect on your thought process. American novelist Rick Moody says, “Instead of saying that you’re getting up just now and making us tea is going to reveal you, somehow, we could say, metonymically, that it is this incredibly strong mint tea itself that renders your character.”4 Caffeine might not just help on a practical sense, it could reflect something of an author’s deeper character, one that influences and is also influenced by what they consume.

My Advice: The culture of coffee drinking while writing is a long-established tradition, one that students can easily partake in. The image of the impoverished Parisian writer scribbling out his drafts on napkins in a sidewalk coffee shop has been an evocative image in literature. Harry Potter author J.K Rowling mapped out the entire series in a café called The Elephant House. Embrace the culture of creativity and caffeine: visit Pi Café, Espwesso, and your friends’ kitchens for late night inspiration.

By Vernie Chia ’11

1 Capote, Truman. The Paris Review, Summer 1957. Interview by Pati Hill. Print. 14 Dec 2010.
2 Ashbery, John. The Paris Review, Winter 1983. Interview by Peter A. Stitt. Print. 14 Dec 2010.
3 Morrison, Toni. The Paris Review, Fall 1993. Interview by Claudia Brodsky Lacour, Elissa Schappell. Print. 14 Dec 2010.
4 Moody, Rick. The Paris Review, Summer 2001. Interview by David Ryan. Print. 14 Dec 2010.

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