Writing and coffee


Smeerp of Wonder
Staff member
Oct 13, 2008
West Sussex, UK
It's a bit of a cliche that writers and other creative types thrive on caffeine, perhaps even find it necessary. But I wonder how true this is, and what other people's experiences are of this substance.

I came off caffeine a year ago on health advice, though I still drink decaff (which contains a little caffeine). But for an experiment this morning, I had a two-shot coffee, and the effect was striking. Within about twenty minutes, I felt more into my writing, and walking home from the coffee shop, I felt more inspired than usual; indeed, I had insights regarding two of my WIPs, one of which made me much happier about a certain plotline and made me much keener to crack on with it.

But this came at a price. My emotions felt heightened, but not really in a good way, and I felt a little nauseous. By the time the effect started to fade after four hours or so, I was tired with it. I couldn't go through it every day -- yet I used to drink a three-shot coffee every morning as a matter of course, without really noticing any effect at all.

Now, this ties in with what I read in my cycling days, which is that you become habituated to caffeine (addicted, really) to the point where it ceases to have any real effect. And if this is so, can those who claim to need it constantly to get anything done be right?

So as I said, I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts. How much do you drink, and why? Do you regard it as necessary? Do you think it has any effect on your writing, in terms of inspiration, energy or quality?
I used to be a coffee fiend and then I had a couple of run ins with severe anxiety and lost my tolerance for it. However, I don't like tea...

I take a cup of coffee about 11 am and really enjoy it. The rest of the time I take a mix of herbal teas and water (and wine, but that's another thread...) and find a midafternoon lemon and ginger picks me up nicely.
I gave up about 12 years ago after a kidney stone (wouldn't wish the pain on my worst enemy). Caffeine is a diuretic and so involved in dehydration and thereby kidney stones.

I'd got used caffeine and so didn't notice any significant effect any more. The only time I have it now is if I have to drive and I'm feeling a little tired. The jolt is quite startling.
I drink coffee. Usually 2-3 cups in the morning, and then I stay away from Caffeine for the day. I do like a beverage while I write but it can just be water...I don't feel like anything affects my writing though. I do never drink alcohol and write. That's a rabbit hole I don't want to go down, even if it made King billions!
Happy medium. I usually treat myself to a strong coffee or two (I'm of the same mindset as Detective Dale Cooper) on a writing day, but don't tend to have too much coffee on non-writing days, so my body is used to it (and thus doesn't suffer from the come-down), but I don't have enough to get addicted to it.

At least, I don't think I do...
Last edited:
Coffee morning, Tea lunch time, herbal hot drinks or carbonated water (unsweetened) in later afternoon and especially evening. Sometimes a cup of green tea about 4.30pm. On serious writing days I write 8.30 am to after 11pm (no later than 3.30am) with little breaks.
I do have a cup of tea at about 7.25am or earlier.

More important is having a working laptop. So coffee cup not too close. Also BBC R4 LW, RTE1 News, Clare FM or Radio Scotland in background. Sometimes TSF Jazz via satellite.
Long ago I drank two cups of coffee and two bottles of mountain dew during the day and I usually felt a vibrating hum when I'd try to lay down to sleep (And could hardly sleep). So I quit for number of years.

When I went back to coffee it was because I'd acquired a taste for room temperature or warm drinks. Eventually I reached a point where I was mostly immune to the effects of the caffeine and could drift off to sleep easily.

So I decided to start drinking decaf and now if I drink caffeinated coffee I can feel it right away.

I still drink too much coffee; but at most I only have one caffeinated during the morning some mornings.
It's mostly decaf because I need something warm-hot-or room temp and black.
Tea for some reason gives me the shakes if I drink too much.
At least, I don't think I do..

I guess the test would be whether you get withdrawal symptoms after a couple of days off it (I got a headache and aches in my knees).

Tea for some reason gives me the shakes if I drink too much.

I've never had a caffeine hit from ordinary (loose-leaf or teabag) tea, but the worst one I've ever had was from Lipton's iced tea, made from a powder. I imagine it's what they gave Marines in Vietnam before sending them into battle.

I do never drink alcohol and write. That's a rabbit hole I don't want to go down, even if it made King billions!

What specific benefit did he say it brought him? (Not that I'm going to copy him either!)
Coffee has no effect on me whatsoever, either plus or minus, so don't often touch it. Not sure if this is good or bad, but since Caffeine cannot be excreted from the body without linking with calcium, I'd say my bone density is unaffected. Weak Earl Grey tea is my tipple.
What specific benefit did he say it brought him? (Not that I'm going to copy him either!)

I don't think it brought him a benefit, other than getting hammered. He was an alcoholic from a fairly young age it sounds like from his On Writing book. He wrote many bestsellers drunk as a skunk and has little or no recollection of writing them. I wouldn't want to get into the habit of drinking and writing
Caffeine makes me burp, for about four hours so I stopped.
I used to drink a lot of coffee.
When I accidentally do now, the effect is amazing; shakes, nausea and an inability to stop moving, not unlike some other substances out there. It's a strong drug.
It is nice to touch base with it occasionally, but no I would never write on it.
Decaff is bloody lovely, there is nothing like the bitter taste of coffee. I defy you.
As a student (far too many years ago), I used to tank up on extra strong coffee to try to get through an essay crisis. As a veterinary student I had several essays a week, so I was pretty much permanently wired. Only problem was I could hardly keep my eyes open while writing, but as soon as I went to bed they would ping open and I wouldn't get a wink of sleep.

I gave up caffeine a few years ago for medical reasons. Like @HareBrain I have some decaffeinated when I'm out and about for a treat, but otherwise it's super-weak Earl Grey tea or herbal teas. Or hot chocolate (which is probably loaded with caffeine, but hey). Interestingly, on the very rare occasions when I do have a caffeinated coffee, I find myself writing like a demon. Not sure any of it makes sense, but I do get a lot down on paper.
Weekdays I write in the evening after finishing my day job, so I avoid coffee and instead drink tea. Weekends I might write in the morning alongside a cup or two of coffee. I haven't personally noticed any difference between the two, or - beyond being a bit more alert - felt different when writing.
For myself at least I don't think caffeine has too much impact; sure, I might feel more awake and alert, but if I get stuck then I find letting the idea/problem percolate (sorry!) for a while works best. Maybe coffee would speed that process along, but I'd probably get to the same end result with or without coffee just, well, a bit slower:)
I don't drink coffee, tea, or alcohol... If I'm feeling very adventurous and fancy something sweet I might have a sip of a bottle of coke or dr. Pepper if my partner happened to have one left open in the last day or two (or if I'm pushing the boat waaay out I'll have a hot chocolate, but that's only a couple of times a year:cool: ). On a normal day, for the last 10 years or so, I won't drink anything but tap water.

Obviously I wouldn't know what effect caffiene has on my body, Im not against finding out for the purposes of science. but I'd only do that if I felt I wasn't writing or thought it would have a good, positive effect. As it happens I'm writing fairly well, and have never had a writers block problem or anything along those lines.

*touches wood*

I've never been a coffee drinker. I hate the taste. When I was a great deal younger, the creative part of my brain did just fine without any sort of caffeine. There was a time in middle age, though, when I found that tea and chocolate would give the creative process a boost: two or three cups of tea in a day and a Hershey's bar or two. (I know, bad for me in all sorts of ways, but when I had a deadline to meet I didn't care.) Then when I would stop for a few days I'd get headaches for about a week. Now my stomach couldn't take that much tea, and the last time I tried it anyway (desperate measures for desperate times) it didn't work.
Caffeine is one of those things that is affected by my dyslexia. So it sends me off rather than perks me up.

I never did pick up a taste for it, as I didnt even try my first cup till I was what 30ish? Maybe a little less.

I'll take some herbal-black if I'm having trouble getting ready to sleep (sleeping always has been more and act of will than anything for me.) but as I can take the same teas throughout the day with out dropping off, I dont think it's so much the teas properties as what I want to happen.

My Partner on the other hand has been drinking coffee for ages. I have learned not to say anything of import till at least halfway through the second cup of the day, and to wake him with a well made cup or not at all. He drinks it throughout the day, and I've seen him drop off mid-cup come night time.

For those suffering from caffeine headaches I recommend aspirin. My x lived on mountain dew, and when he decided to quit it and other caffeinated sodas aspirin was the only thing that could shake them. Later I learned that caffeine and aspirin have similar effects on the blood, and that's why one works for the withdraw effects of the other.

For me, it's sugar. Sugar is to me, what coffee is to my partner. Sweet pastries, cocoa, sweetened teas, sweet cereals, candies... all work to wake up my inner love of life and desire to create wonderful things in it.

For me I'll drink two and quarter litres of diet coke a day and at least six cups of strong black coffee as well. (I won't tell you how often I have to make like the three little pigs - go wee wee wee all the way home!). Caffeine has absolutely zero affect on me. I'll drink it before I go to sleep. Hell I've got up in the middle of the night, drunk it and gone back to sleep!

To be honest though, once I did stop drinking it for a few weeks. Worst headaches of my life!

Cheers, Greg.
I overused coffee during my finals at uni, definitely made a massive difference in how effective my studying was, but it felt horrible. Developed a ridiculous tolerance. Went cold turkey for a month after my last exam and since then have only been having a cup with breakfast to get me to work. It's a slippery slope to chasing the black Dragon!

Similar threads