Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Writing 'Roid Rage, or The Tale of the Magic Beans

Who says that the Cubs are a buncha losers? They know how to produce steroid-chompin' ballplayers.

Take the latest steroid scandal. The Ex-Cub Steroid Twins now reside on the Baltimore Orioles -- Rafael Palmeiro, who looks like a melted candle and was busted for steroids, and Sammy Sosa, who looks like a Panzer tank and has so far beaten the rap.

Palmeiro made a finger-wagging appearance before Congress saying he'd never ever ever ever taken steroids. He all but swore on his sister's virginity. Now, he says he doesn't know how he tested positive. Something about dietary supplements. You know, Anabolic PowerBars.

Steroid Sammy also denied taking performance enhancing drugs, which I found as convincing as our fair president claiming Sadaam Hussein had 500 million tons of chemical weapons or mobile anthrax labs or that those steel tubes were for enriching uranium.

But, as I am wont to do, I wonder how all this Roid Rage applies to me. Specifically, how it applies to writing fiction.

I look at my current writing output, and see I am in sore need of some writing steroids. What are steroids for writers?

Coke, speed, and crank don't count, despite their obvious allure (their benefits, in order: acting insane, insaner, and insanest). I have found that by far, I am most productive between the hours of 11 am and 2 p.m. That is, if infused with the proper amount of caffeine. I then become the fiction writing equivalent of Sammy Sosa taking batting practice, swatting one over the fence after another. I'm unstoppable. A machine of words.

Coffee is my steroid, heroin, and gambling addiction wrapped into one. Without it, I am a creative train wreck, Dickens' Micawber come to life (all talk, no action, throw me in debtors' prison). With it, I am brilliant. (Or perhaps because I'm so hopped up on coffee, I simply think that I'm brilliant).

It's simple. Coffee is the Magic Bean.

As you may or may not know, I am obsessed with the amount of fiction I write -- my moods are directly proportional to the volume and quality of the day's work.

A coffee achiever

To see how much others produced is an exercise in self-loathing. I'm currently reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton, and it is humiliating to see how much this dude wrote. His life consisted solely of reading, writing, making speeches, reading some more, writing some more, and shagging like a tomcat.

Hamilton wrote the vast majority of the 85 Federalist Papers while he was working as an attorney -- sometimes at the rate of five or six papers a week. We're talking about the Federalist Papers here. Perhaps the most important piece of American political philosophy ever published, and the guy wrote it in his spare time. The guy was to words what I am to beer -- the stuff just passes through him.

And he drank coffee. Strong coffee, every morning. Bless him.

Things don't always make sense in the world of the Magic Bean. Wife does not drink coffee, writes much more and better than me, and these two facts seem to me a fundamental contradiction in the Laws of Man. She is High on Life, the Writing Life, that is. Sure, she'll have a cuppa tea or a Coke-Cola here and there, but nothing like the Caffeine Dream.

I used to think I had to get the coffee monkey off my back, but I've changed my mind. As addictions go, it's fairly harmless, except when I start shaking and vomiting out strings of profanities worthy of someone afflicted with Tourette's syndrome.

Voltaire was told that coffee was a slow poison. "It must be," he said, "because I've been drinking it 50 years and I'm not dead yet."

I'm going to write some more. Pass the cream and sugar.