Fueling the Fiction

top view photo of coffee near tablet
Photo by Arshad Sutar on Pexels.com

Yesterday I began writing the 3rd draft of a new story I’m working on–the first story I’ve finished in quite a few years. I handwrote the first two drafts in a composition notebook, consuming about the first 80 pages of the notebook between the two drafts and my notes. The third draft is going into the computer, and it was nice to sit down after my walk this morning with the second draft of the story open in front of me, typing out the story, cutting words, lines, and even some paragraphs as I went along, changing things here and there. I got about 3 manuscript pages of the third draft done.

I have now been working on this story every morning for the last month, eagerly looking forward to it when I go to sleep at night, and getting started as soon as I am back from my morning walk. Typically, I’ll start working at around 6:20 am and finish sometime around 7 am, maybe 7:15am if I’ve really hit a groove. I don’t worry much about where I stop. I alternate the color of the ink I use each day, and also note in the margin the date where I start each morning. Sometimes, I’ll stop mid-paragraph and just continue on the next day. You can see an example of this in the image below from my first draft.

Stopping in mid-sentence and continuing on the next day.
Stopping in mid-sentence and continuing on the next day.

After such a long drought of fiction writing, I got to wondering why things seem to be firing on all cylinders at the moment. Probably I shouldn’t question things, and just enjoy the ride, but I can’t help myself. After giving it some careful thought, an interesting developed on what fuels my fiction writing. The answer I came up with is: caffeine.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a caffeine addict. For most of my life, I drank regular Coke throughout the day. At some point in my early thirties, I gave up caffeine thinking it would help me to sleep better. I did sleep better, but looking back on that time, I’m not sure it was the caffeine that was giving me trouble in the first place. After seven years without caffeine, I started up with it again not long after the Little Man was born. Since then I’ve been on-again/off-again with caffeine. Most recently, I was off of it for nearly a year, before starting up again (slowly) in December.

How does this relate to my fiction writing? It occurred to me that when I started up with caffeine again in 2010, it was the beginning of a very productive fiction writing period for me. I sold my first story to Analog during that time. I wrote a bunch of other stories, quite a few of which I sold. I started writing nonfiction articles, too, and sold them from time to time. During those years–call it late 2010 – 2015, I also wrote a complete novel draft in about 6 months.

During my fiction drought, I was mostly off caffeine, with a few minor exceptions here and there. Then, this year, I started up with it again, and the fiction drought ended, and I’ve been more productive with my fiction writing than I have since that 2010-15 period. The one consistent thing I can point to at each of these periods of creative productivity is caffeine.

This makes me feel good. I often feel guilty when I go back to my caffeine fix. There really isn’t any reason I should feel guilty, but I do. Thinking (believing!) that the caffeine helps my brain somehow with the creative process involved in making up stories relieves me of that guilt. Now, when I have my morning caffeine, I think of it as fueling the fiction I’ll be writing as soon as I am back from my morning walk.

Written on June 15, 2022.

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