On Coffee and Creativity

Can you imagine a day without coffee?

Whether you’re a published author or a budding writer, you likely begin each day with this beloved beverage, your favorite notebook, and a pen. Without this fuel, it would be a challenge to string words, build worlds, and churn out page-turners.

In Mason Currey’s book titled Daily Rituals, the most frequently used word in the biographies of the world’s greatest writers and artists is coffee. Remember L. Frank Baum and Voltaire? They kicked their brains into action by drinking up insane amount of coffee a day.

For instance, Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum could not start his day without a big breakfast and four to five cups of strong coffee while the genius Voltaire was rumored to down 40-50 cups of coffee a day to boost his productivity. It makes us all wonder, is there a connection between coffee and creativity?

Does a good cup of joe aid the writing process?

Ask Margaret Atwood who lent her name for a bird-friendly coffee blend (‘Atwood Blend’) or J.K. Rowling who wrote for long hours in coffee shops in Portugal, England and more. If you think actions speak louder than words, we can safely say that the daily ritual of drinking coffee has helped many well known artists, past and present, get their creative juices flowing.

Even before studies after studies showed that coffee can stimulate the senses and boost alertness, acclaimed and prolific authors have been avid coffee drinkers.

So what properties of coffee have made it widely and wildly popular among artists?

How Coffee Affects Your Brain

Adenosine, a chemical in your body, accumulates in your brain when you are awake. The more adenosines collect in your brain receptors, the more you feel drowsy. In short, the longer you are awake, the more fatigued or tired you feel.

The caffeine in your coffee happens to have a similar molecular structure as adenosine. So when caffeine enters your bloodstream and reaches your brain, it binds with the receptors meant for adenosine. This process blocks the adenosine from binding with your brain’s receptors, preventing the calming effects of adenosine and promoting wakefulness from caffeine.

On average, it takes about 20 minutes for caffeine to kick in. Once it does, you can enjoy the jolt of energy that this chemical brings.

Here’s a Better Way to Drink Your Coffee

Do you whip a pot of coffee as soon as you wake up at around 8 or 9 in the morning? You might want to pause and consider circadian rhythm or your body’s internal clock for a moment.

Getting your timing right is key to getting the most, not the worst, out of your coffee.

Research has shown that if you consume coffee when your body’s stress-related hormone called cortisol is at its peak production, the wakefulness effect of caffeine diminishes. Moreover, your body will build a tolerance to caffeine, making drinking coffee less effective in keeping you alert in the long run.

Building up a tolerance to caffeine means you would need more cups of coffee (like Voltaire’s rumored 40-50 cups a day) to get a buzz from the drink.

So how can you fix it?  Researchers suggest that cortisol (stress hormone) production peaks at 9am, 12 to 1pm, and 5:30 to 6:30 pm so simply drink your Starbucks or home-brewed coffee between these periods.

In addition to right timing, napping after consuming a cup of coffee is said to be more effective as you don’t need to artificially block the adenosine with caffeine. Since it takes caffeine at least 20 minutes to reach your brain receptors for adenosine, taking a nap for no longer than 20 minutes after consuming coffee is greatly beneficial for your brain.

Coffee nap is not a trend but a science-backed practice to get the most out of your coffee breaks.

So indulge in your favorite way to get creative the right way. You could only be 50 cups and naps away to finishing your next best-selling novel.