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“Should I Kill Myself, or Have a Cup of Coffee?” – Albert Camus

Calliope, Muse of Eloquence and Epic Poetry just highjacked my blog for the second time. Last time she led me to scandal when I wanted to write about washing machines. This morning I expected to write about the social ritual known as “Morning Coffee.”

“No, No,” Calliope said wagging her finger and pointing at my desk. “That’s much too dull. First you must write about writers and coffee.”

My Desk
She gazed at the sprawl that is my desk while writing, shook her head, and disappeared. I suppose she has a point. Reference books, notes, and pencils surround my computer. And next to the mouse, a mug of coffee growing cold.

Coffee & Writers

Coffee has a long linkage with creativity. (So does alcohol, but we won’t go there today.)

In 2013 Michael Koh referenced a study by the National Writer’s Association that concluded 110 per cent of poets and authors “have taken or take this certain easy-to-obtain mind-enhancing substance to complete their work or get through the day.”

Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, claimed “Coffee: Induces wit. . . take it without sugar—very swank: gives the impression you have lived in the East.”

I ran across one reference that reported Ludwig van Beethoven, composer of Ode to Joy, breakfasted on coffee he made himself at precisely sixty beans per cup. I hope it was a large cup.

J. S. Bach, another famed composer wrote, “Without my morning coffee I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat.” This led me to wonder how much roasted goat Bach consumed.

Coffee House, Sheridan ORLest you think creative coffee consumption has waned since the nineteenth century, Michael Koh reported that Americans consume an average of three cups of coffee daily, with writers doing their share to keep the numbers up by consuming four to five cups of coffee a day.

Honore Balzac, a prodigious French writer, explained the phenominon. “Coffee glides into one’s stomach and sets all of one’s mental processes in motion. One’s ideas advance in column of route like battalions of the Grande Armée. Memories come up at the double, bearing the standards which will lead the troops into battle. The light cavalry deploys at the gallop. The artillery of logic thunders along with its supply wagons and shells. Brilliant notions join in the combat as sharpshooters. The characters don their costumes, the paper is covered with ink, the battle has started, and ends with an outpouring of black fluid like a real battlefield enveloped in swaths of black smoke from the expended gunpowder. Were it not for coffee one could not write, which is to say one could not live.”

Which leads me to believe Albert Camus should choose coffee over death, because as an Unknown source wrote:

“Life’s too short to drink crappy coffee and cry over boys who don’t care.”


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Photo of Writing Desk by Author.

Other Illustrations from Wikimedia Commons.

Calliope, extracted from The Muses Urania and Calliope by Simon Vouet. Public Domain.

Inside a Coffee House in Sheridan, OR by Visitor7. Creative Commons Attribution.

Michael Koh. “Coffee: The Writer’s Addiction.” Thought Catalog. Oct. 14, 2013.

“The Write Track: How Famous Writers Drank Their Coffee.” Mr. Coffee Blog. Nov. 23, 2014.

Mason Curry. “Coffee!!!” Daily Rituals. Slate. April 19, 2013.

Kyle Van Pelt. “3 Ways Coffee Boost Creativity & Makes You a Better Writer.” Goins, Writer.

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.

2 thoughts on ““Should I Kill Myself, or Have a Cup of Coffee?” – Albert Camus

  1. ah – so my somewhat recent purchase of a Nespreso machine should help me break out of my slumber and begin writing sonnets or novels or something! I blame the purchase on my daughter-in-law Yumi as she has one in her home in Tokyo and it took but a couple of days there for me to become corrupted. While it is not first class Italian espresso it is a fairly close match and much less expensive than a trip to Italy. I will not discuss Starbuck’s espresso which is between bad and terrible. Coffee makes my world perk!


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