A truly indissoluble bound: writers and coffee–and what it means for literature

coffee and writers

There’s nothing like a cup of coffee to start your day. That cup looks suspiciously like a teacup tough…

The link between writers and coffee has a long standing tradition. As detailed in Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, many among the most famous and accomplished writers in the world drink coffee, or used to, to fuel their creativity.

Søren Kierkegaard, Voltaire, L. Frank Baum, Margaret Atwood, Honoré de Balzac. This is just a handful of names. The list could go on practically forever.

Legend has it that Honoré De Balzac drank as much as 50 cups of coffee a day. Instead, Søren Kierkegaard used to pour into his coffee a staggering amount of sugar. This wasn’t exactly the most healthy of the eating habits. But, apparently, that sugar rush sharpened the philosopher’s mind beyond belief.

However, when we stop a second and consider how writers have always been particularly susceptible to addictions of one kind or another, this reliance of theirs on coffee looks far from unexpected.

After all caffeine offers a series of interesting perks, and only few minor drawbacks. For sure nothing as severe as any other kind of drug addiction, or alcoholism.

Writers and coffee: coffee quotes

These are just some quotes about coffe I find particularly enlightening. But there were so many more I could have chosen that I debated quite a while with myself about which ones to include in this post—of course, I debated while sipping a cup of coffee.

writers and coffee

So many different doors, or quotes. All leading to the same place: coffee!

Conscience keeps more people awake than coffee. — Unknown

Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee? — Albert Camus

Good Coffee – Cheaper than Prozac! — Unknown

Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after. — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless. — Napoleon Bonaparte

I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now. — Louisa May Alcott

I am very efficient at work. In fact, I have never once missed a coffee break. — Unknown

Coffee and me

Coffee helps me focus on the task at hand. Not only because it boosts my concentration, but also because drinking even a small cup of it works as a sort of mental switch for me. It helps fight procrastination.

I mean, when I drink it it’s like I’m telling myself I mean business.

I like my coffe hot, black, and with no sugar. So I can drink it without having to worry about stuffing myself with extra calories. In fact, while a cup amounts to just five calories, a single biscuit can easily exceed 60 calories,

Coffee machines can make coffee in a matter of seconds. But I don’t like using them.

Instead, I prefer preparing my coffe in the traditional way. I use my old and trusted coffeepot.

It’s a matter of five minutes. And for me that is just about the right time to turn the preparation of my coffee into a ritual. It’s also just about the right time to prevent such a ritual from getting too laborious and time consuming.

Coffee is great also for those occasions I find myself writing in a bar. In fact when, after a while, I stop to take a pause, I can simply order a coffee, calmly savor it, and then go back to my writing. All in a matter of a handful of minutes. Of course, tea is just as handy. But my body doesn’t particularly appreciate it.

Finally, for me coffee is family. The characteristic noise the coffeepot makes when the coffee is ready, and the aroma diffusing in the rooms bring me pleasant memories of my childhood.

Back then I was fascinated by the coffeepot. To me it seemed like a sort of science fictional equipment. A mechanical animal with its own personal voice. And a hot temperament. An animal that you had to feed adequately to make un buon caffè—a good coffee.

Besides coffee was also the typical drink my mother offered to relatives and friends when they paid us a visit. Coffee and some biscuits, in particular Lingue di gatto — Langues de chat.

Caffeine-fueled masterworks?

If coffee is so important for so many writers, then it stands to reason that if such writers hadn’t had any access to coffee they would most likely have produced a lot lower number of works.

This means that many shoddy works would have never seen the light of the day. And, at least in principle, it looks like a good thing. But then we should consider that also some of the finest masterworks would have never been written.

Now, just like I prefer having a criminal running free than an innocent man behind bars, I also prefer having to delve with a lot of mediocre works if this means somewhere someone is bound to come up with one more masterwork. A masterwork I can then find and read.

Because even if quantity is no substitute for quality, to some extent it is necessary nonetheless to make sure genius has the opportunity to express itself.


Pictures: LubosHouska – qimono – CC0 Creative Commons – CC0 Creative Commons

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