Nineteenth-century French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac drank 50 cups of coffee daily. That caffeine high fueled 15 hours of writing at a stretch. For the mathematically impaired, he drank three point something cups of coffee every hour that he worked. For the mathematically inclined, I apologize for my inexact calculation.
Back when I worked at the Pentagon, some of my coworkers would brew and drink coffee all day. They would start in at seven a.m. and drink four cups, eight, ten. Damn, that’s a lot of coffee, I used to think, as they’d march out the door every hour to pee. After learning about Balzac, I’ve changed my tune. Ten cups? Child’s play.
Balzac continued his coffee habit until one day Victor Hugo swung by for a visit. It’s quite possible this is the only visitor Balzac had had in years, what with all the coffee drinking, writing, and peeing. Well, the night of Hugo’s visit, Balzac died in his sleep at age 51. It’s not clear what killed him — the 18,250 cups of coffee he drank each year (you’re welcome, math geeks) or that visit from Victor Hugo. There’s even some speculation that Hugo was directly involved in Balzac’s death. (To be fair, that speculation begins and ends right here in this blog post.)
Coffee or Victor Hugo. My money’s on Hugo.
Now, I myself have been known to work on client projects and my novel for 15 hours at a stretch, and I’ve been doing it on just two cups of coffee a day. I also go out of my way not to read books by Balzac or Victor Hugo. I’m starting to think more coffee is in order. Like three cups or four. Fifteen hours of work is hard to swing without sufficient caffeine. I’m looking to amp up my productivity, and this just might do it.