You Write What You Eat and Drink
The Times asks a number of writers about their eating and drinking habits while they write their books. Here’s Alexander McCall Smith’s answer:
The first writing session in the morning is accompanied by a latte, which I
make myself. I can get a really foamy milk using one of those high- powered
Swiss whirry things. I have a drawer filled with lots of modest squares of
chocolate, so I’m allowed one of those after lunch. I think chocolate is
society’s great moral problem. Not only does it expose weakness of the will,
but it gets you at your most vulnerable point. Peppermint tea goes down very
well. But when I’m writing the sets of chronicles (the 44 Scotland Street
series, or the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, for example), I drink Rooibos
(Redbush) tea. In theory it would be nice to write with a nice glass of wine
in the evening, but I don’t think that it works. It just slows one down. I
have in the past written after a glass of wine and, reading back, I realised
it wasn’t a very good idea. I write very well at the dinner table. I take a
notebook, and when I’m on tour, will sit at the hotel table in a melancholy
fashion and make notes and have ideas. You feel less tragic, less
conspicuous if you’ve got a notebook.
And Val McDermid’s response:
I quit smoking a few years ago. Cigarettes were such a punctuation to the
writing process I was worried their absence might be a bit of a nightmare.
Then I discovered Smints, those tiny mints that come in a blue box. In spite
of their size, they pack a sinus-clearing punch and are completely
addictive. I moved from 30 fags a day to a 40-pack of Smints. Luckily
they’re sugar-free. When I’m writing, I like small sweet treats. Chocolate
raisins and those Australian soft raspberry liquorice chunks are perfect
because I can kid myself that they’re really fruit and part of my
five-a-day. It’s pitiful, really. I’ve just kicked a serious Diet Coke habit
as well. On a heavy day’s writing, I could get through six cans. Now I’m
drinking water with the occasional cappuccino. Making the coffee is a great
distraction. I can get a whole ten-minute break out of the process. Which is
almost better than the caffeine kick itself.
What of the rest of you? I started off my day with espresso-strength coffee and am getting ready for my standard granola/fat free yogurt/banana breakfast…though there will be some sort of chocolate later in the day because, well, it’s chocolate.