Coffee & Writing

I have written about coffee before, ever since the inception of my blog on August 5, 2010. I should be a real coffee expert, but I am not. I just drink the stuff. For pilots, coffee is part of the takeoff and landing rituals; more so for the landing after drinking it before departure. It seems as if you always have to land for relief.

When it comes to writing and coffee, the coffee cup full of steaming coffee, half-empty or half-full with lukewarm java, or empty, has always been a part of the writing. It is there in the morning, helping me to wake. Coffee is also useful in the evening when I have to stay alert keeping my adjectives clear, the conjunctions correct, and my participles from dangling. Sometimes when I wake from late night writing, what I find on the paper or computer screen the next day can surprise me.

This is why I prefer writing in the early morning – better results. I have scored more “A” term papers in college than “B” papers when written in the early morning, as opposed to late night.

Coffee seems to have always been the mainstay of writing, whether for class, the newspaper, a freelance gig, or for personal writing. I believed writers were primarily responsible for the financial health of the coffee industry until I joined the Navy. I do not believe a readyroom on any of our carriers or other ships could operate without coffee poured into the personal cups (with individual call signs) of aircrew and maintenance officers.

I periodically thought I drank too much coffee. Sometimes I think about it seriously, most of the time, not. The scientific community responsible for the study of our coffee drinking habits has said it was bad to drink too much coffee. Then they said it was healthy. My conclusion is that the scientific community does not know what they are talking about when it comes to coffee. I’ll bet they drink too much of it also. I think we need to stick to the idea that everything in moderation is okay for you.

When I think back on my consumption habits, there was only one time in my life I may have drank too much coffee. That was in the newsroom of the small daily paper where I first started my writing career.

As with every new reporter, I got the choice assignments. My day started with a fresh cup of coffee and I would settle in at my typewriter (yes, typewriter, IBM Selectric to be exact). My first task started with the previous day’s crime reports – not the stories, just the reports. Then I would list all the farmer’s news. Our paper was in an agricultural area and the farmers needed to know what was in season, what crops needed planting, what fertilizer was best for the time of year, what the corn crop yielded in price at the market, and so on. Exciting stuff!

Then I would start with the obituaries.

Most reporters today probably don’t write obits anymore. That is a shame. If there was one thing a new reporter could count on, it was death, every day. Writing obits is a way in which new writers can refine their writing skills.

It is also important in refining a reporter’s humanity.

Every obit is a story. Each is a life. The obit is only the story of the end of a particular life. But, there is so much more to every life. By writing obits, it gave me a chance to refine my skills as a writer as well as get to know each individual as a person, if only for a moment.

Some of the stories were very interesting. A few were incredible. Most were stories of people just working to get by in their lives. All were loved by someone.

By the time I would finish up with the obits, I would have downed about eight or nine cups of coffee. It was a lot, even for me. I don’t write obits anymore.

And I drink a lot less coffee.

-30-

©2012 J. Clark

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One Response to Coffee & Writing

  1. Joe, I enjoyed this entry. I believe you’re right re: “all things in moderation.” I’ve never been an extreme coffee drinker, but a pretty consistent one–maybe a cup or two a day. When I have skipped having any coffee at all, I generally end up with an outrageous, hardly-worth-it, caffeine headache. And certainly when one feels like having a cup, there is nothing more soothing than thereby indulging.

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