You are a writer. You are addicted to caffeine. It’s one of life’s certainties. The sky is blue, cows give milk, and writers love coffee. Next time you’re downing your Starbucks—or a local cup of joe—think about what that coffee can teach you.
1. You will get high on writing. Then you will crash.
Just as we always somehow believe that burst of energy from our sixth cup of coffee will never fade, we believe the high of a new story will carry us through the entire project. A new place, new characters! The initial excitement consumes us, and we can’t imagine the story ever becoming work. But it will.
We’re tempted to have another cup of coffee, but we know that caffeine is a temporary fix. We need something real, something substantial. That first writing high is great, but when it wears off there should be something left to carry us through the story. For me, it’s usually a deep-seeded obsession with my characters. Whatever it is, it needs to run deeper than excitement. A reader knows if the writer was in love with the story.
2. Some people like it black. Some like it with cream and sugar.
Short sentences. Straight to the point. No metaphors. No messing around. Some people like to get in, get their caffeine, and get out.
Others like a little flourish, some cream, sugar, a pinch of nutmeg and a nice allegorical statement. You do your thing. Some may scoff at how you take your coffee, but no one can judge because everyone has their own style.
3. No matter how hard you try, you will burn your mouth on the first sip.
That first drink of coffee. It tastes bitter, and you burn your tongue. You don’t understand why anyone would drink this, and you swear you’ll never taste it again. But it calls to you, and sooner or later you relent.
That first story, that first novel—it hurts. You feeling like you’re dragging the words out one by one, and even when you finish the damn thing, there’s rewriting and revising and editing, and you swear to all the writing gods you will never touch another pen.
But the writing gods and the coffee gods both know you’re lying. You wouldn’t have your coffee any less bitter, and you wouldn’t have your writing any less difficult. Where’s the fun in that? [Click to Tweet]
4. There are a million specialty drinks—lattes, macchiatos, frappes, cappuccinos—but you can’t make any of them without coffee beans.
Let’s be honest, the Starbucks menu looks like hieroglyphics. There are a million different drinks, all unique. Some hot, some cold, some with coffee, some with espresso, some even (shudder) decaf. But they all begin with coffee beans (except the tea, but you knew that).
Be poetic. Be different. Develop your style. But start with a good foundation. Start with strong grammar and a good vocabulary. Don’t neglect lessons from your high school English teacher just because you’ve graduated from book reports to novels. No matter how great your milk and syrups are, your latte is going to suck if you start with bad coffee beans.
5. When the cup’s empty, you can always fill it back up.
Coffee’s great that way. There might be a bit of despair when you see that last drop slip away. It might feel like the coffee’s gone—and it is. You can never get that coffee back.
But you can refill the cup! And you can refill it with whatever your heart desires. Try hazelnut, this time. Or add cinnamon. Or make it a nonfat iced caramel macciato with two shots of espresso and peppermint syrup and a magical piece of rainbow floating on top.
When the story’s over, it can feel like you just lost a friend. But there is always another story to be told. [Click to Tweet] Sometimes it might feel like you’ve used all the words you have. But that’s never true. Inspiration and words will come as long as you keep your fingers moving. Keep writing. Keep typing. And keep drinking coffee.
Does drinking coffee teach you anything about writing?