Writing tools

Tools for writing: A nice cup of tea

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Tea BagSamuel Johnson, the 'harmless drudge' who produced the first English dictionary, drank a lot of tea. I've seen his teapot in my old college in Oxford - it's huge! Johnson once said 'no man but a blockhead writes, except for money.' My hero.

George Orwell drank a lot of tea too. In fact he wrote an article about brewing and pouring the perfect cup. Although some of his findings are still passionately disputed as I learned when I interviewed the owner the Tea and Coffee Museum a few years ago. I put sugar in my tea, contravening rule 11. You rebel, Stibbe.
Anyhow, it's clear that there's a strong correlation between tea-drinking and good writing so I drink pints of it every day.

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My favourite blend is (ironically) Breakfast Americana from MightyLeaf. It comes in a kind of silky teabag which is very satisfying to behold and to use. It has a slightly sweet flavour, like a 10% Earl Grey taste, but no bitter aftertaste and it works well with milk, unlike Earl Grey. Brewed for four minutes it's strong enough to wake me up.

I'm also partial to Jungpana Darjeeling from Fortnum and Mason and loose-leaf Jasmine tea (when there's no milk). I use disposable Teeli filter bags from Germany to make single cups of tea with leaves. Making a whole pot and then pouring it through a strainer is just too much business for one cup of tea. Another strike against me from Orwell's perspective but he didn't have access to modern technology.

Why drinking tea helps me write:

  • The pause to boil the water and make the tea - about 5-10 minutes - gives my brain a chance to recharge and work on problems.

  • It's a reward after a hard sprint through the paragraphs.
  • There's a bit of that Zen thing about the ceremony of making tea. Pouring the water, selecting a mug etc. Always the same, always different.

  • Sipping the tea for ten minutes after I've made it gives me little micro-breaks while I'm writing it.

  • Caffeine. Coffee makes me nervous and, eventually, dead sleepy. Tea just keeps on going like a Duracell battery. (Although stronger coffee might work - an old colleague of mine made coffee by pouring filter coffee from the machine over five heaped teaspoons of instant coffee. I don't think he ever slept.)

  • My mug selection reminds me why I'm doing it. I have one with a screenshot of the 'Hack' on it, a Microsoft 'Geek' mug, two NASA mugs, a lovely Dutch teacup, a Cirrus mug and a matched pair of half-pint mugs which I share with my wife.

Sorry this is such a long post. I meant to write a shorter one but I was interrupted by the man from Porlock with a box of groceries and got distracted. I must go and make myself some more tea.

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Matthew Stibbe

Matthew is founder and CEO of Articulate Marketing.