The Secret Routine

Writing with Coffee

Writing with CoffeeI have always had a secret writing routine.  When I was in college, it involved a bottle of beer, a cigarette, and my writer’s hat.  When I came to my senses, I swapped out the beer for Kool Aid Lemonade and the cigarette for a toothpick.  In moments of weakness there were quick prayers to the elder gods of rhetoric, and on rare occasions even a minor herbaceous sacrifice: a chopped head of kale.

Eventually all of these things fell away until all that was left to my secret routine was a hot cup of coffee and some instrumental music.  One for distraction, the other for concentration.  There always comes a moment–more often many moments–while writing when I require a beat to think.  At times like these, a quick sip of coffee is just what the doctor ordered.  In a strange way it alleviates the worry that I may have run out of things to say.  I’m not stopping work because I don’t know what to write, I’m stopping so I can indulge in a medium bodied Columbian roast.  Really.

If more than a beat is required, I may even stand with my mug and stare out the window, or go for a walk in the brisk cool of an autumn morning, the black ocean of java steaming as hot hits cold.

winter-season-82909_640I love these moments in between the work.  They’re reminders that there’s a world outside my illuminated box of words.  Almost as advantageous, the reader never suspects a thing!  Between the last sentence and this one, I left the room, took a short stroll around my property (enjoying the crunch of snow under my boots), came back, preheated my mug, and poured a fresh cup of Chemex-brewed coffee from my thermos.  And between the last sentence and this one, I stopped for a sip of said coffee.  Yet, the writing is seamless.  The ideas and words flow ever forward like a silent stream cutting back the ice of winter from the banks.

The ease with which I work, and the pleasures I take in this work are the secret advantages to routine.  It makes everything easier.  It gives me something to look forward to.  I want to write because I love writing, but when I consider that it also means I can enjoy a calming playlist as I drink rich coffee, it makes the act that much more desirable.

Take this secret with you.  Build a routine around those things you do which require structure and motivation.  You’ll be surprised how much more work you get done, and how much more you enjoy that work, with the simple inclusion of coffee, music, and any other addition you feel necessary.

Except booze.  That will come back and bite you on the ass.