Writing and Caffeine

Last January 1st, apart from embarking on writing a new novel, I decided to give up caffeine.

Some people might say “Ouch!” or “I bet that was one New Year’s resolution she didn’t stick to”. But nine months on, I proudly announce that I’ve not drunk any caffeine for the last eight months.

I spent the first month cutting down gradually, to avoid the headaches that can go with sudden withdrawal. First, I replaced my afternoon cup of caffeinated tea with decaffeinated, to add to my earlier rule of no caffeine after midday. Next, I cut out caffeine mid-morning. And last (this was the most painful of all), I gave up caffeine first thing in the morning.

Writing whilst fighting narcolepsy from lack of caffeine did cause slight problems, as my chin had a few close encounters with the keyboard, but I certainly didn’t miss having the jitters all day long.

Now I’m doing a read through and edit of my novel, I’m glad to say that my drowsiness didn’t interfere with my creativity at all: rather, it made me pace myself more sensibly and take time out for reflection.

Happily, the long-term effects of my self-imposed torture are all positive and I certainly won’t go back to drinking caffeine. There’s no more insomnia, which means I don’t lie in bed at night getting in a wind-up about publishers and agents; no more rushing to the toilet every five minutes due to the diuretic effects of tea and interrupting my flow of thoughts (not apologising for the pun here!); no more swearing at the phone for ringing too much, or the computer for malfunctioning, due to caffeine stress syndrome, and no more palpitations every time the postal delivery man comes to the door re possible manuscript rejections.

One note of caution. If anybody feels brave enough to follow in my footsteps and kick the caffeine habit, it’s important to buy a tea or coffee that doesn’t use chemical solvents such as methylene chloride and ethyl acetate to strip the caffeine from their product. Look for one that uses carbon dioxide instead, as it’s better for you and better for the environment.

An essential part of a writer’s day: afternoon tea with homemade cake 🙂

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