Friday, October 22, 2021

Cold coffee, carbohydrates, and creativity by Dean Hovey

 As authors, we have our "writing place." I'm a morning person and I have a preparation process for writing and my favorite chair. After brewing coffee, I pop bread into the toaster, and open a crossword puzzle. I believe the crossword stimulates my brain. It also expands my vocabulary. "Hmm, a seven-letter word for ant." After filling in the vertical words I discover that pismire is the missing word for ant. Hmm, that's something I might be able to use in a Whistling Pines mystery. I put that in the mental file for future reference and put my crumb-filled plate in the dishwasher. Then I brew my second cup of coffee.

Now, I'm ready to write. Well, I'm almost ready. 

I have my special writing chair, facing the living room window. My laptop is on a kneepad that gets the computer to the proper ergonomic height. I uncoil the unsightly monitor cord hidden because my wife had her card group over last night. I hook up all the electronics, sit in my chair, turn on the monitor, and...The glare from the dining room light is making it impossible to read the monitor. I untangle from all the cords, get out of the chair, and turn off the light.

Now, I'm ready to write. Again, I'm almost ready.

I pull up the manuscript file, read a paragraphs from the previous day (yes, I write EVERY day), and consider what Jill and Doug Fletcher are going to do next. I sip my coffee and realize it's cold. Deep sigh. I untangle, get up, dump out the cold coffee, and make a new cup. I'm considering the situation I've left my protagonist in as the pot gurgles. Hmm. Do I need some action here? Or, do I use this moment to insert a hint about the murderer?

With fresh coffee in hand, I return to my chair, pick up the laptop, sit down with fingers poised over the keyboard. I look at the computer monitor and realize the sun has moved higher in the sky and is now shining on the monitor. I untangle, get up, close the drapes, sit down, put the laptop back on my lap, poise my hands over the keyboard and...have no idea where my plot is going. Dang.

During my recent physical, I explained to my physician that carbohydrates stimulate my creative thoughts. She agreed, and explained the physiochemistry of carbs giving a burst of blood sugar that invigorates the brain. (She also pointed out that it would be good if I eliminated about 150 calories of carbs from my daily diet, a hint I now choose to ignore). I untangle, get up. find a box of Girl Scout Cookies in the freezer and pull out three of them-just enough to get my creative juices flowing. 

Back in my chair, waiting for the cookies to thaw, I remember committing to a library appearance and wonder if it's on the calendar. Up again, checking the calendar. Back to the chair. Bereft of ideas, I eat a Thin Mint while staring at the computer monitor. My back is uncomfortable, so I get up, find a couch pillow, put it behind me, and adjust it repeatedly until it's in just the right position. 

Now, I'm ready to write.

I eat the second Thin Mint cookie while staring at the computer screen. No ideas come to mind. Doug and Jill aren't speaking to me. In desperation, I look at the book outline I created. Aha! Now I know what they're going to do! I eat the third Thin Mint and write an inspired sentence. "With the sun setting behind them, Doug and Jill look into each other's eyes and..."

NO! I need some action, not romance at this point. Hmm. I get up and bring the entire box of cookies to the coffee table and wolf down another cookie. Hmm, lets see. I take a sip of lukewarm coffee. I look out the window and watch an unfamiliar car drive past. "I wonder if the neighbors got a new car?"

Stuck, I fire off a text to my cop consultant with a few pages of manuscript. "What do you think should happen next?" I fire an email to my tuba-playing muse. He calls me "billiard ball brain" because he thinks of the ideas in my brain as a billiard table with balls caroming off each other and the pads until them come to rest with two of them touching. Those two bring disparate ideas that, when considered together, send me off in an interesting plot direction.

My cop consultant texts back. "We've already talked about this. You need to..."

My tuba player emails with a page of plot twists and an off-the-wall (he specialized in off the wall ideas) idea for a future book.

With their input, I lean back, eat another cookie, and realize my coffee is cold...again.

Suddenly, the billiard balls stop and the next scene becomes clear. The words come faster than my fingers can type. Jill Fletcher is screaming at me and leads me in a direction I hadn't intended. Yes! I write furiously until a voice says. "Dear, it's bedtime. Have you eaten anything other than cookies today?"

Leaning back, I look at the clock, then shake my head. "No, but I've written four chapters."

The process is repeated the next day and the next Doug Fletcher mystery, Gator Bait, takes shape. check it out on my BWL publishing page.

Hovey, Dean - Digital and Print EBooks (


  1. Interesting rituals you have. Of course, I have my own. Keep writing

  2. I also write better in the morning after my cup of coffee, but no cookies allowed... not if I want to maintain my girlish figure. I've been known to wake up from my writing trance at dinner time, starving, thinking it's lunch time, but I never wrote four chapters in a day. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Oh my goodness, that gave me a good laugh as I recognize so much of your process! I have managed to cut down to one cup of coffee a day and rarely eat cookies. I am not a morning person so my writing routine doesn't get off the ground until 11 am or thereabouts. All the best to Jill and Doug for their next adventure.


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