“The fact is, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Nor does any writer.
The only real answer is to drink way too much coffee and buy yourself a desk
that doesn’t collapse when you beat your head against it.”― Douglas Adams
The most important tool for a writer is a cup of coffee.
Oh sure, you need keyboards and printers, pen and paper, ideas, and a reasonable (but not excessively detailed) grasp of whatever language you’re writing in. But it all starts with a cup of coffee.
Writers and coffee have always been intertwined. How can anyone possibly sit down to bare their soul and—as Hemingway said—bleed all over the page without the fortification of coffee?
In my experience, it can’t be done.
Now, I hear you saying don’t writers booze it up a lot? The honest answer is yes…but that comes later in the day. First, they need caffeine in order to release the demons and ego that fuel their work. The booze is for putting the devils back in the cage.
I’ve started every day with coffee for a very long time—ever since I was sixteen. (I’m now seventy-one…you do the math.) What was once a preference became a habit and eventually turned into—dare I say it?—a caffeinated moment of meditation and reflection necessary to the process of writing.
“I went out the kitchen to make coffee – yards of coffee. Rich, strong, bitter, boiling hot,
ruthless, depraved. The life blood of tired men.” ― Raymond Chandler
To get started each day, I first grind the beans. Good coffee is fresh coffee. Don’t go serving me a cup of something that has been sitting on a shelf in a warehouse for a year.
And it should be strong. Let me say that again: STRONG. The-spoon-stands-straight-up-in-it strong. I usually go for the dark roast I get from my local grocery. But some days I crave the chicory flavor of Café Du Monde coffee. Just smelling it takes me right to my beloved French Quarter. I also love a fine Italian espresso or beans straight from the mountains in Chiapas, Mexico.
Recently, I have also formed an addiction to the Coconut Bay Roast beans from a boutique coffee roaster in New Jersey called Beach Buddah Coffee Company. Boy, does that have my name all over it! I usually don’t go for flavored coffees, but this one has a subtle taste that carries me right down to the beach at Tulum…or the Baja…or Negril…or Maui.
A beautiful beach and good coffee. What more could one ask for?
“Coffee, the favorite drink of the civilized world.” ― Thomas Jefferson
After grinding the beans and starting the drip, I warm my milk. I hate cold coffee, so I heat the milk before it goes in the mug. At my age and with my heart condition, less dairy is better, so I use Nutpods—a nondairy mix of coconut cream and almond milk. It is the tastiest, healthiest substitute for Half and Half I have found.
However, I must admit during the December holiday season I have been known to sneak a little eggnog into my coffee when my wife isn’t looking. Please don’t tell her.
“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening.” ― Gertrude Stein
We are almost there. The coffee is brewing and the milk warming. All I need is something to pour it in. The first big decision of the day is which mug to use.
Luckily, I have many choices, because I’m an ardent collector of coffee mugs.
I almost always pick up a mug whenever I travel. I have mugs from Mexico, Hawaii, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and a special one featuring a photo of my beautiful bride at Fantasy Fest in Key West. (If you know about Fantasy Fest, you can imagine the mug. And no, you can’t see it LOL)
And I have mugs reflecting just about everything I enjoy in life. I have Zen Buddhist mugs, White Castle mugs, Disneyland mugs, and a Steve McQueen as Bullitt mug.
I have mugs reflecting my personal philosophy, like my Take the Last Flight Out mug. I have mugs about being an author (F**k Off, I’m Writing).
I have Disney mugs, bulldog mugs, and mugs from Marie Laveau’s House of VooDoo in New Orleans.
There are over forty in our cupboard right now, and I don’t even want to tell you how many Christmas mugs are stored in a huge plastic bin downstairs! (I may have a bit of an obsession.)
Choosing the right mug is an important business. The right one can set the mood for the day, inspire memories, or lift my spirits. So I ask myself, “What kind of day do I want it to be?”
“I just want a cup of hot coffee, black, and I don’t want to hear about your troubles.” ― Charles Bukowski
Once I make my choice and the coffee and milk go into the mug, I head for the couch, followed by an incredibly adorable English Bulldog. There I resist the temptation to start scrolling through social media and messages.
Before the world comes pouring in, before the TV starts yammering, and before the phone starts ringing, I like to sit looking out the giant glass window at the tree-covered hills of northern California. I sip my coffee, letting it warm the body and soul while I think about…nothing.
By the time the cup is empty, I am ready to meet life head-on and get back to work writing my next book. Well…maybe one more cup first.