Coffee Project: Day Twenty-Four

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.

I went looking on the web for any other writers who are struggling with this, and found just about zero of them.  But certainly there was writing before coffee!  Europe didn’t get the stuff until the 1600s, so any earlier English literature should be reliably coffee-free, right?

According to my research, William Shakespeare probably would not have tasted coffee or tea until late in his lifetime.  (It existed in the Arab world, but wasn’t being imported to London in any volume.)  I don’t believe he ever wrote about it, whereas he had lots to say about wine.

Some sources claim that the pre-coffee Westerners began their days with a mug of ale.  Beer for breakfast strikes me as pure alcoholism.  But still, I relate to the motivation: give me something to make me go!  Put a tiger in my tank!  I am very suspicious of our general tendency to try to fix ourselves by ingesting weird substance after weird substance, but the appeal is obvious.

I guess what I’m hoping for, searching for, is the inner coffee, or at least the inner mug of ale.  Motivation to get me going.  Perhaps it would be easier if I was a dark-ages serf with twelve screaming kids and not enough millet in my sack.  Terror, guilt and hunger are great motivators.  But in my cushy life — the middle-class Portland existence that epitomizes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — it’s just too easy to sit around.  Nothing is life-threatening except old age.  Nothing is worrying except the news, and who reads that?  There’s just no struggle here.  We can’t get worked up about anything.  Which is beautiful, but at times strangely crippling.

Maybe that’s why they drink so much coffee in this town.

8 Responses to “Coffee Project: Day Twenty-Four”

  1. misuba Says:

    Beer used to be much lower alcohol. It was essentially just preserved dissolved grain in the days before coffee.

  2. Bradley Sands Says:

    I cannot drink coffee anymore and it is the greatest regret of my life. It opened up my brain for writing like an electric drill. Now it causes me an immense amount of physical pain. Coffee, not the drill.

  3. mykle Says:

    Sometimes I wonder if coffee is responsible for the last 400 years of history …

  4. jesse wolfe Says:

    Is there any reason to believe that human beings can have a healthy emotional life without chemical aid? Are there any cultures, historical or contemporary, which have entirely eschewed self-medication?

  5. Cassidy Says:

    There’s a Greg Egan novel set a couple hundred years in the future, where you can ask your personal psychopharmacological nano-implants to dial up different states of mind on demand, one of the characters tries coffee for the first time, and is appalled. He muses something to the effect of “Wow, back in the 20th C this was most people’s only way of focusing. No wonder they made so many terrible decisions.”

  6. Cassidy Says:

    And run-on sentences.

  7. Elyon Says:

    “inner coffee” – love it!

  8. Ním Says:

    Re: inner coffee — I think it’s time you read this:

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