Consider me to be firmly in the camp of “coffee is to the writer as gasoline is to an automobile.” That being said, I frequently go two to three days without coffee. On some of those days I don’t even have soda – when I do it is a can or a medium soda at the place we’re eating at. A while back some friends thought I was kidding. It was inconceivable to them that a guy who orders a quad shot latte or quad espresso wasn’t horribly addicted to caffeine.
While I am in the camp of coffee is the fuel that makes an author go, I also know there are exceptions to the rule because this is my rule – not the world’s. One of the writers in my writing group is Mormon. No coffee, no cola – the most caffeine he ever has is if I bring in one of my Devil’s Food based cupcakes. The rest of you can start breathing again.
Now that you’ve all started your hearts beating again after that scare, here’s another for you. Twice in my life I’ve cut out caffeine entirely. Once I was addicted to it and went cold turkey, during the years of Crystal Pepsi. The other time was several years ago when a virus gave me an open ulcer. Even though it was viral related, my diet had to be altered. Here’s a scary thought for you – I couldn’t even have decaf because it had a trace amount of caffeine in it. Chocolate too. For about 15 months. The saving grace of that was the three days in ICU with a morphine drip keeping the migraines under control while my body acclimated.
Last year when my wife and I sat down and looked at the budget, we found that coffee (as I write best in coffee shops) was a major expense. This meant limiting the time I spent in coffee shops (and thus writing) or limiting myself to a brewed cup each day ($1-2 depending). In this time I found that I could go without coffee for several days at a time. No headaches, especially after upping my water intake thanks to the Change Write Now challenge. This meant a savings of money and I could justify a latte when I did stop in for one. I started limiting it to days I really needed to get work done, or days when a migraine was coming on.
The reason this came to me today (instead of doing a blog post about the ending of Change Write Now, which was an awesome end game) is because this morning was one of those days where I say, “Yeah, I need a cup of coffee.” Which isn’t the only reason. A tweet from Lela Gwenn got me thinking about my need for coffee this morning which paralleled a discussion in college during finals week. Yes, this is how my brain works. Sit down, strap in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride, kids!
So back in college, I came home from a rather grueling final. Since we’re over twenty years past, I’m not even sure which it was. It may have been the one involving Heart of Darkness – the mere mention of that novel still make me pee a little. The content of the final is unimportant, just that is was the sonofabitch final that semester for me. I came back to my room where a friend was with his girlfriend, plopped in my chair and exclaimed, “Damn I need a beer after that one!”
This is a test of how well you know Zombie Joe (even though I wouldn’t be given that nickname for another 15 years past that point). What could happen in this instance to royally torque my chain? If you guessed having a friend’s visiting girlfriend tell me that I shouldn’t “need” a beer and that expressing a need for alcohol is a warning sign, you would be totally correct. I have lost family members to alcohol before, it was one of the main reasons I avoided partying all the time in school. One of the best ways to piss off the person who remembers favored family members being taken by alcohol every time they do have a beer (meaning even a singular one) is to rip open the scab of that never healing wound with indignant righteousness.
Now I don’t remember much what happened after that, which is a testament to just how pissed she made me. What I do know is that I kept my mouth shut better than I thought I would. I had lost a friend to mixing it up with his girlfriend in the past and didn’t want to repeat it. But it bears mentioning that sometimes words are just words. That scab still exists today, but you don’t see me hopping up on a soapbox every time someone wants a drink, do you? Hell, at Romantic Times I spent some time at Brothers extolling the virtue of the $2 vodka special with Juliet Blackwell – and we had just been introduced minutes before.
The end result is that sometimes you need a coffee, sometimes you need a beer – unless you’re Mormon or some other religion that bans the indulgence. If that need is every day, then there’s an issue. Every day coffee use isn’t that large of an issue and even some reports show that one to three cups a day is good for your memory. For my memory I was taken back to the fervor of a person who must have shared a similar scab to my own but dealt with it in a much more militant fashion. It also reminded me of some of the divisiveness that seem to be plaguing the nation these days, where people attack and condemn their opposition rather than open civil discourse.
In other words, have a drink and chill out – pick your poison. 😉