A couple weeks ago, I committed a cardinal sin for writers: I quit drinking coffee.
It wasn’t a hard decision; while I enjoy coffee, it’s never been something I felt I needed, even first thing in the morning. My morning routine is something like this: wake up and think about what I’m about to go write. No coffee, just straight to the desk.
Writing wakes me up much better than caffeine.
The First Cup
I can’t remember the first time I had coffee. I’m sure I tasted it on a camping trip with my parents, or maybe while visiting my father after my parents went their separate ways when I was young. But this is my first definite memory of coffee: my great grandmother’s house on Sunday afternoons.
After lunch, coffee was served in delicate cups that looked like something plucked from the gardens in her backyard. Coffee served with cannoli, sfogliatelle, and Napoleans always followed a lunch that was more like a dinner comprised of some recipe she brought with her from Sicily. Because of this, I usually preferred coffee in the afternoons or evenings to mornings.
So why would I quit something I enjoyed? I realized, recently, that coffee and my stomach do not get along. While I can consume hot peppers, tomatoes, and other things people say wreaks havoc on a stomach, for me — it’s coffee. I can eat a bowl of cereal before bed, lie down, and nothing. Burritos at night? Done that; no issue. But a cup of coffee, and my stomach protested.
So I stopped and things got much better.
The Image that Comes with Coffee
I know coffee and writers are synonymous — some would claim you cannot have one without the other. I get the humor in it and believe those who take that kind of thinking seriously are probably not the kinds of writers worth reading. Image has never been important to me as a writer. I get it, I really do…the importance for some to sit in Starbucks and tweet on and on about how they are writing in between Instagram photos and Facebook updates. Whether writing is done or not, it’s the image of what it is to write that’s most important to some.
Coffee plays a vital role in that image.
In my case, writing matters more than image. While I love the thought of the perfect office with the mahogany desk, I write in an office that doubles as hobby storage space at a desk that’s more functional than fashionable. Hell, as I write this, an empty stick of deodorant sits beside me as a reminder to put “Deodorant” on the shopping list for the morning.
That’s not very writerly.
Coffee was never a fix for me — writing is why I wake up 1 or 2 hours before I must wake up in order to make it to work on time.
Even if I don’t get much sleep, once I wake up and think about what I’m about to write, I’m alert. If I’m sleepy, I make it through the day and get a decent night’s sleep. For me, that always worked better than coffee; I’ve never been one to believe that a person can run themselves well on 3-5 hours of sleep a night as long as there’s caffeine. If your body’s saying rest, let it rest.
But back to coffee: “Do you miss it?” a couple people have asked me. I miss the concept of a cup in the afternoon after lunch or in the evening after dinner. But what I always liked best about coffee is the smell.
Should my wife ever decide to quit drinking coffee, you might find me searching for an olfactory fix. You might even find me in a Starbucks, seated alongside all the writers telling the online world they’re writing while I breathe in one of the best smells on the planet and trudge along with the task at hand. But until that day comes along, I can be found in the dark of morning, at a desk bought at Office Depot tapping away at a keyboard with no other sounds…and no coffee.