Monday, September 17, 2012

'The Write Tools' #40 - Emily Maguire

Welcome to another edition of ‘The Write Tools’: a blog series featuring authors, artists and their favourite tools.

Today's guest is novelist and journalist Emily Maguire. Emily is the author of four novels and two non-fiction books. Her articles and essays on feminism, sex and culture have been published widely including in The Monthly, The Weekend Australian and The Age. She is a 2010 Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year and the recipient of the 2011 NSW Writer’s Fellowship. Her latest book is the novel, Fishing for Tigers

I am the lowest maintenance, least demanding writer in the history of writing. I can write at home or away, with pen and paper, on a laptop or desktop, surrounded by silence or bedlam, sitting straight in an ergonomic chair, slouching on a bus seat, flat on my back in bed or cross-legged under a tree.

I can do it while I’m sick, hungry, hungover, heartbroken or in any other way physically, emotionally or existentially uncomfortable. I can write in any place, using any tools, under any circumstances as long as I have a steady supply of demonically strong coffee.

 I have been addicted to caffeine since I was twelve years old. Back then I got my hits from Coca-Cola and the occasional cup of sweet, milky instant coffee. I soon moved on to the serious stuff, though and by the time I was eighteen I was drinking three or four extra-strong cups a day.

But it was when I started working on my first novel that my habit got hard-core. I was writing at night and working a truly hideous office job during the day. Two cups of my thick, black home brew first thing in the morning would get me out the door and onto the bus. Throughout the day I alternated lattes from the cafe downstairs with mugs of a truly foul mix of powdered coffee, almost-boiled water and long-life milk from the office staffroom. By the time I got home I was sick to the stomach but busting out of my skin to write.

Eight years and six books later everything about my life is different except for the coffee and the writing. Almost every day, wherever I am in the world I drink at least five cups of coffee and write at least a thousand words. Sometimes more, rarely less and only in extreme circumstances none, of either or both.

In Hanoi, researching and writing my latest novel, I discovered Vietnamese coffee, which makes the finest Sydney espresso seem as thin and bitter as the powdered Bushels from the office staff room. Snuggled into an arm-chair in a high-end hotel bistro, perched on a milk crate under the suspicious eye of hole-in-the-wall vendor, sweating myself dry at an open-air cafe by the lake or sitting naked under my bedroom fan I drank coffee and wrote, drank coffee and wrote, drank coffee and wrote feeling every bit as jittery and thrilled and marvelously unleashed as I had when I first started slamming coffee down my throat and words on to a page in the precious hours between work and work.

Yes, I do sometimes suffer a rapid heart beat, racing mind and high-anxiety, and, yes, if I’m late taking a dose I’m punished with crushing headaches and fuzzy cognition, but, honestly, it’s worth it. With coffee, my fingers fly over the keyboard, my mind leaps and twirls, my body defies sleep and I write and write and write.

I quit caffeine once, on medical advice. After the horrifying withdrawal period was over I did feel, as I had been assured I would, calm. Unprecedentedly calm. Supremely calm. My god, I was calm. For weeks I calmly got very little done, calmly wrote not much at all and, then, I calmly strolled to my local and necked a double-espresso after which I shook that calm right out of my bones and jittered my way back to work.

1 comment:

cristy said...

As someone who is currently trying to justify my increased intake of coffee I love this. I'm so keen to read Emily's new book,