People of all types, all over the world enjoy a good cup of coffee, but maybe none so much as highly creative people. The free-thinkers, creators, and innovators among us become accustomed to (and perhaps dependent on) the enticing aroma and flavor of freshly brewed coffee more easily than most. It’s fuel for the day. It provides the kickstart needed to get going.
But why do creative types like to drink coffee so much? What makes the drink so irresistible to the easily bored?
Messy minds drink coffee
Creative minds are messy minds, according to Scientific American’s Scott Kaufman. Although creative people do really well with coming up with ideas, putting a project together, and bringing in results, the path to getting there is a messy one.
Scientists think the stimulation coffee (caffeine) offers is part of the reason creative people so enthusiastically drink it. The jolt that caffeine provides gives the drinker short-term elevated motivation and drive. Their initiative suddenly leaps through the roof, and they’re able to generate a lot of ideas, plans, or complete routine tasks that normally bore them.
Creative people seem to drink coffee to make themselves more productive.
Coffee and the creative process
That’s because coffee has been shown to lift the 3 most common barriers to the creative process: Lack of initiative, lack of commitment, and self-doubt. And as the Atlantic outlined in their story on caffeine, the substance seems to help diminish all three barriers, in a way, opening the “creative floodgates.”
With benefits like a loss of inhibitions, an improved ability to focus, temporary stimulation, and a rise in productivity, creative people stand to benefit from drinking coffee by staying on track during the creative process and ultimately, getting more done.
Other options for creative people who don’t drink coffee and are hyperactive or unable to focus are not as benign. Many people complain that pharmaceutical stimulants like Adderall make them feel too focused–hyper-focused on tiny, minute details, objects, or decisions that normally wouldn’t demand so much thought, like what clothes to wear or where you should eat dinner.
Unlike drinking coffee, taking prescription stimulants goes beyond providing a temporary boost and turns users into worker bees, not innovative creatives. But why is the effect different?
The moments of inspiration that hit creative people are often serendipitous. An idea might occur in the shower, while watching TV, falling asleep–anywhere your mind isn’t 100% at attention and focusing. The overstimulated mind, then, just isn’t able to wander and therefore isn’t conducive to the creative process. The brain has to be stimulated just the right amount to boost productivity.
Productivity and caffeine
But does that make creatives who drink coffee more likely to deliver sloppy work done quickly or while stimulated? No, it does the opposite–unless they’re drinking too much coffee, that is.
Drinking moderate amounts of caffeine is correlated with rises in productivity and quality of work. Over-caffeination, on the other hand, can cause problems like cardiac issues, erratic behavior, hyper-vigilance, and insomnia–and those always spell trouble for productivity at work.
Most people can drink coffee each day and feel no negative side effects. Moderation is key for all coffee drinkers, and it’s important to remember that caffeine is a drug, able to impair our functioning. Caffeine intoxication and caffeine withdrawal are listed in the DSM as “psychiatric disorders” if they get in the way of your everyday life.
Woody Allen once said “80 percent of success is showing up.” If drinking coffee in moderation helps you show up, be creative, get work done, and feel good about it, then we say brew on.