Breakfast Of Verbal Champions: How The Writer Starts His Day
January, twenty-ten. Time to hit the ground running and penetrate your perimeter with some more writing advice (thatyoushouldprobablyignore).
So I’m sitting here thinking — well, where to begin? I could just lurch forward, hip-waders on, and see where I land. And yet, should I hope to begin on something more fundamental, that wouldn’t really do it.
I figure, go to the beginning.
What? The first words of the day? Nothing comes before those.
Except — hey! Holy shit! Something does!
Well, a lot of things do — wake up, feed the dogs, perform the morning constitutional, design the diabolical blueprints for instigating the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse — but one thing in particular comes before you set fingers to keys or pen to paper in the morning.
Breakfast, in particular.
Let’s begin there. Let’s begin with a writer’s breakfast.
The Writer’s Diet
Writers, creators, artists — we maybe don’t eat as well as we should. We sit, like cubes of quivering bacon fat, for hours at an end. We put into our mouths whatever is nearest — bag of chips, some leftover cookies, a French fry under the wheel of the office chair, a USB key. Rarely something healthy.
The goal is, by starting your day off in a way that isn’t heart-clogging or body-destroying, you’re getting off on the right foot.
Further, it’s worth considering that if you’re one of those writers who has a hard time Getting His Shit Together, you might want to cast a wary eye at your diet. If you shove dead leaves and pig’s blood into your car, it won’t run — I mean, unless it’s a car that runs on some kind of crazy Druid alchemy. The fuel matters. You want your brain to go and your fingers to go clack-clack-clack, you better prime the pump and give it the right gas.
Oh, by the way, to be clear: I’m not a nutritionist. Or a nutritionologist? A foodspert? A victualographer? A nutrifoodist? I dunno. What I’m trying to say is: I’m good with words.
So, you can take or leave my advice as the meanderings of an imbecile. (Though, I’d hope that such a caveat is implicit across every post on this blog.)
Back to the point: you write. You write with your brain and body. You can’t seem to get that shit going, it might be the way you start your day.
Super Sugar Shit Bombs
Sugar is awesome if you’re going to, say, run or jump or swordfight a dude atop some powerlines. You’re not going to do those things. Sure, you might write about those things. Not exactly the same, though.
See, if you eat sugar and then, mmmm, go absolutely nowhere and do absolutely nothing but move your little fingers, you’re going to die in the water. That sugar’s going to look for some kind of exercise to burn it off, and when that doesn’t happen, it’s going to release Hypnotic Sleep Chemicals into your brainstream, and evil life-sucking elf-cells will start attacking your Motivation Centers.
And that’s good science.
Regardless of my dubious grip on biology, I have it essentially right. Intake complex carbs and your body can’t burn it off, and you’ll get fuzzy-headed and slumbery, like a bear with a fat belly and a winter gale howling outside the cave. This plainly doth not make for good writing.
You want a little sweetness in the morning?
Eat some fruit.
Dried fruit isn’t bad, either, as long as it’s not processed food-style — meaning, does it have an ingredient list? Does that ingredient list include something more than, say, “Fruit that is fucking dried?” Then don’t eat it.
In fact, most processed foods are going to be complex enough that your body is going to expend too much energy untying that tangled knot. It’s like a kid who gets frustrated with a knot in his shoelaces (or, like when I get frustrated with a knot in my shoelaces). That’s no good.
Fruit, simply put, is your pal.
“Oatmeal” Rhymes With “Goat Squeal”
And everybody loves the ear-warming sounds of a melodious goat squeal!
Okay, probably not.
What I’m trying to say is, oatmeal isn’t a bad deal when it comes to breakfast food. It apparently has a lot of health benefits (antioxidants, cholesterol attacker, whatever), and while that’s all well and good, I’m talking about oatmeal simply as “fuel for writerly awesomeness.”
When I eat oatmeal, I find that I have good energy, but even better, I’m not crazy hungry. I can last a while on oatmeal, especially if you toss a little something-something into the oatmeal — fruit, nuts, the placenta of a Pegasus, whatever floats your boat.
So, you want a good, easy opener to your breakfast — go oatmeal.
Fiber, protein, good stuff.
If you do instant oatmeal, be aware that it has a higher Glycemic Index (also known as: “Elf-Cell Hypno-Quotient”), and you’ll feel that faster. Further, some instant oatmeal is heavily processed. And processed food is basically garbage-flavored food science rather than, y’know, straight-up food.
I’m Totally Eggcited About The Eggpocalypse!
Eggs are good food.
Protein is magic. Fry up some eggs, or scramble them, and put them on some whole wheat toast with just a little butter. Real butter, not fake butter. (In case you missed it: Real Foods Take On Fake Foods. This is a very important thing to read, so read it. I’ll wait.)
Seriously. Love the egg. Love the fact that it will keep you from being hungry. Eggs are also brain food.
Caffeine Kick To The Dome
Okay, it’s not really like that. Like most things, everything in moderation. I drink one good-sized cup of coffee (12-16oz?) a day. That’s it. If I need more caffeine, I’ll go with some green tea. No soda. Soda is the Devil. You may think soda isn’t the Devil, but trust me — that’s how the Devil works. He plays his fiddle, and you’re all like, “That can’t be the Devil! He’s got fiddlin’ skills like an angel!” Well, duh. The Devil was an angel! That’s how he rolls, that fiddlin’ fucker.
Soda may have a caffeine kick, but it also has a crap-ton of sugar (30-50g), and that sugar is quite likely of the “we molested corn with science until it yielded cheap sweetness” variety. Sure, some science says that corn syrup is just like any other sugar. Of course, some of that science is paid for by the Corn Lobby, which is a big, angry beast with lots of government money stuffing its wallet. Other science will handily tell you that this shit is bad voodoo and gives children the die-uh-beed-us.
Coffee — if you believe Ben Franklin — was like, a super-panacea (redundant, shut up). I wish I could find something on the Internet that confirmed this, but I remember Franklin writing about all the magical health benefits of coffee (and beer, if I recall). Damn you, Internet, for failing me. Or, damn you brain, for lying to me. Either way, coffee is said to have some health benefits, and so does tea, so nyah. Bleah. Blargh.
The Point Is, Don’t Gorge
Eating a huge meal will bog you down. Eating lots of refined sugars and complex carbs will similarly force you to slog through the mental mud. Fiber, protein, and a little bit of caffeine should — if you’re like me — give you the proper “lightning bolt up the ass” you need to commit words to page.
Further, keep some light snacks around — again, nuts, dried fruit, stuff like that. You get a little peckish, dart out a greedy paw and insert Awesome Food into Open Maw.
Tab A, Slot B. Boom.
Don’t skip breakfast, either. It’s like driving to work with your tank on the ‘E.’ Never know when the car might stall and leave you stranded. Where you will be raped to death by hillfolk and their pet bears.
Oh, and maybe you’re one of those people who doesn’t write in the morning.
That’s your business, but me? I like to get going early. I like to knock my work out as soon as I can, so anything above that is Bonus Points — icing on the word cake. Y’dig?
Eat right, and bang out the words early.
Happy eating, happy writing. Nerds.