Archive for the 'coffee' Category

Coffee Project: epilogue

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

A puppet of coffee

I owe you all an explanation.  Didn’t I quit drinking coffee?  Why am I now spotted every day with a mugful of the stuff in my vibrating hands, or a headful of it in my erratic behaviour?  (More than one person has busted me on this — which is funny, because I didn’t think anybody reads this blog.)

Yes, I’m back on the sludge.  All day, every day.  It’s been like this since I began work on my current novel in April.  I found I simply couldn’t get work done without it.  How sad is that?

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Coffee Project: Day 137

Monday, January 4th, 2010


For the last two months I’ve held to a strict schedule of drinking coffee every other day.  I can’t decide if this represents a laudable achievement of self-discipline or just a new format for an old habit.  Probably both.  But I’m definitely in a way better place than when I started this Project. Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee Project: Day Eighty-One

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Latest observations:

The feeling coffee gives me is a lot like terror: my heart pounds, my chest tightens, my muscles clench.  This makes sense, because caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline and stress hormones — it’s like a cup of artificial stress, basically. (Read that link: it’s kinda scary.)

But my life is artificially low on stress: I live in Portland.  And this month I’ve really gotten to know the positive side of coffee, too.  It can give me focus and motivation, but it’s not a sure thing.  I have to want to focus, and have the time and space, before coffee can help me. And I can still focus without coffee … sometimes.  The long and short of it is, I wrote almost nothing while I had no caffeine in me.  I am a professional writer, and that is a real problem. Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee Project: Day Seventy-Two

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

(Sorry if this is getting tedious, but I continue to observe and experiment with coffee, and continue to assure myself that this is all good science and not just well-rationalized backsliding.  You judge.)

This week I’ve had three more cups of coffee.  That’s one cup every two or three days, which feels moderate.  But this takes discipline, because I crave a lot more than that, and my neighborhood is a minefield of coffeeshops.  Abstinence was easier.

Today, during lunch with my daughter, I had a 12oz latte.  It was delicious.  It kicked my linguistic lobes into overdrive; I talked my mom’s ear off, talked my wife’s ear off, spent a productive afternoon clearing my inbox and replying to correspondence, plotted several upcoming pieces of writing, read Cometbus, read Facebook … soon it was eleven PM. Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee Project: Day Sixty-Four

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I had a cup of coffee on my birthday.  It was a latte from Stumptown on SW 3rd, downtown, and it was wonderful.  It’s hard to separate the coffee-feeling from the immense hangover and sleep deprivation I had from the night before, or with the euphoria and validation from all 300 of my Facebook friends wishing me happy birthday.  But I felt wide-eyed, imaginative, gregarious, festive and happy.  All afternoon I visited bookstores and bought tiny presents for myself with my gift money.  Happy birthday to me!  I stayed up a bit late but had no real trouble sleeping, and the next morning I did not feel any ill effects of withdrawal.

Two days later I had another cup of coffee — a latte from the Fresh Pot on Mississippi — and it totally sucked!  That was with plenty of rest, no hangover, and a strong need to get some writing done.  It’s hard to separate the coffee-feeling from my deeply ingrained procrastination problems, but it didn’t inspire me or improve my concentration.   I just felt twitchy, dehydrated and scatterbrained.  Walking down a sunny street I felt a layer of excess perception seperating me from the sights and smells around me.  And even though that coffee tasted just like I remember wanting coffee to taste, it still tasted terrible.  My favorite coffee from my favorite cafe.  WTF? Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee Project: Day Fifty-Eight

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

I feel fine now.  My mind is in a good place.  I’m getting things done, I’m working, I’m even writing a little.  Life without stimulants isn’t so bad.

But Monday will be the sixty day mark of this experiment, and also my forty-first birthday.  I’d like to celebrate with a really good cup of coffee.

Abstinence is easier than moderation for me.  But moderation is what I want.  It would be great to enjoy a cup of coffee over lunch with a friend, every now and then, and not feel crippled without it.  To use it for what it’s good for, and then leave it alone. Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee Project: Day Thirty-Nine

Saturday, September 26th, 2009


Over a month without coffee and I still feel sluggish.  Perhaps I just am; perhaps sluggish is the real me.  But I had hoped that by giving my body a break from the caffeine I would find some secret store of energy and motivation in myself.  Apparently it’s not so simple.

Since I quit coffee I’ve been going to bed earlier, and rising earlier, but I don’t feel any healthier, wealthier or wiser.  In fact, I have been waking up for no reason in the middle of the wee hours, anywhere from three to six AM.  I don’t think it’s because my body’s done sleeping — I feel groggy and miserable when I wake up like that.  Usually if I go downstairs for a glass of water and then climb back into bed, I fall right back to sleep.  But if I lie there trying to sleep, I’ll be awake until dawn.

I miss coffee.  No matter how long I do this, I always will.  I am beginning to doubt this whole project; I still remember why I quit, and I still agree, but the whole experience seems like an absence.  It’s brought nothing new into my life, it’s only taken things out.  I need to fill that hole with something. Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee Project: Day Twenty-Four

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Slowly, slowly, I do feel myself climbing up out of the pit of no coffee.  I am less depressed, less confused, more able to function.  Initiative and motivation are still fleeting, and I’m still tired in the afternoons, but I’m able to make myself do things that need doing.

But writing without coffee is still very hard.  Nothing bubbles up from inside, nothing just occurs to me.  I am visited by long pauses in which nothing happens, inside or out.  I have lists of things to write about, facts I believe important to report, but finding the words is like hauling heavy buckets of water up out of a well. Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee Project: Day Eleven

Sunday, August 30th, 2009


Coffee wants me back

I’m tired.  Sluggish, drowsy.  I’ve been sleeping a lot but still in the daytime I feel fatigued.  I’m going to bed really early and waking up way too early, but I don’t feel any healthier, wealthier or wiser yet.  I’m definintely less irritable and anxious, although the recent mysterious failure of my home internet gateway has me dreaming of smashing it to bits. But I think that’s normal.

It makes sense, I guess, that my body will need time to adjust back to a normal level of wakefulness after having leaned on caffeine for thirty years.  Whatever the body’s natural coffee is, I need to learn how to make some.  And certainly I owe my body some sleep at this point. Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee Project: Day Two

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Wow … I feel so much better than I did yesterday.  The headaches have mostly passed.  I hope I’m over the worst part.  Now the problem is the interestingly-shaped hole in my life that coffee used to fill.

I slept oddly last night: woke up at six with a bit of headache, had breakfast, went back to bed, then slept until ten.  I’ve been browsing the various abstracts related to coffee research at Science Daily (awesome site, btw) and one thing that several studies have shown is that caffeine diminishes the quality of sleep, as measured by depth & length of the R.E.M. cycle.  So I’m looking forward to some really awesome, delicious, organically-grown sleep. Read the rest of this entry »