Smelling your way to creativity 3


I’m eight words shy of 3,000 words for today’s wordcount – not bad considering it’s just turned two o’clock. But my brain is starting to cramp, so I’m taking a break before I get back to tormenting Sam a bit more.

The other night I was listening to a workshop from the 2006 RWA “Top 40” disk. It was called “Screw the Muse: I’m on a Deadline” by Susan Mallery. On it, Susan pulls no punches about how to get over writers’ block. How to write even when the muse isn’t speaking to you. She answers your whines and complaints about how you can’t write, your muse isn’t talking, there’s not enough hours in the day, your family needs you to do laundry and drive them around and blah blah blah. She doesn’t let you get away with any of it. And she has some very interesting points about why we get writers block — I recognized several things that have stopped me and had me nodding my head through it.

One thing she suggested to help you work through a block was that you take advantage of your sense of smell. Use aromatherapy. Yeah yeah yeah, I thought cynically, another one of those new age solutions. But she explains that our brains file smell away with memories. That there is an association factor going on. (I remember an old episode of M*A*S*H where one of Hawkeye’s old childhood memories reared its ugly head after he treated some soldiers who had fallen into a water-filled ditch.) So I filed away my cynicism and listened.

She says that when we have good writing days, we should pull out an aromatherapy candle or oil and light it/warm it and create a connection between that smell and whatever is going on in your brain that’s inspiring you. That you should do that every time you have a good writing day. And eventually whenever you smell whatever scent you’ve chosen, it’ll trigger your creativity. So when you’re blocked, you pull out the aromatherapy oil or candle and light it, and that scent will help unblock you.

I’m not sure if it’ll work, but I’m giving it a try. Since I’ve written close to three thousand words and I’m feeling pretty creative, I hauled in one of my aromatherapy thingies (what are they called anyway?) and went through the various oils I had. Victorian Rose, Lilac, Vanilla, Apple and Cinnamon, Lavender, Rain (which smells strangely enough like soap), Melon Strawberry, Plumeria, Orange Pine – nah, that’s a Christmas scent, and Sangria Punch. I chose lilac as my ‘writing’ scent.

Why lilac? Because to me lilac has always been the scent of spring. No more snow. Freedom from heavy boots and heavy winter coats, freedom from mitts and hats. Warm breezes instead of freezing cheeks, fingers and toes. Chirping birdies – first the red winged black birds trilling, then white throated sparrows and robins and the finches going from dun to bright yellow. Trees finally in leaf, new grass spearing up through old – bright green landscapes after months of monotones. Newborn calves and colts suckling from their mothers in the fields (yeah yeah, I was raised a country girl can’t you tell.) And best of all – school was about to finish for the year.

Renewal. Rebirth. Freedom.

So now my office – and my first floor – smells like lilac. Even Guitar Hero said it smelled nice when he came up from the dungeon just now. Let’s hope it creates a good memory for my brain to file away and associate with creativity. But even if it doesn’t work, my house will still smell nice.

So what scent would you choose? And why?

**Edited at 5 p.m.: I just decided my brain is now mush – 3783 words today. Pity because I was really getting deep into Sam’s head today … and to give a teaser, here’s the last line I wrote today – in other words it’s really rough, but I like it (by the way, it’s a contemporary erotica):

He couldn’t fault her vigilance, it was what she’d signed on for when Hauberk hired her, but damned if it didn’t shrivel his balls that she was willing to take a bullet meant for him.


3 thoughts on “Smelling your way to creativity

  • Wylie Kinson

    I love lilac! We have one right outside our front door and it’s just burst into bloom. Everytime I open the door, the aroma wafts in. YUM!

    childhood, spring, renewal, peace… it all comes to mind 🙂

  • Sue L

    I know this comment is late, but I’ve been thinking about this. I like the idea, but I think it would work for me to spend a little practice getting back in the fastdraft mode of getting words out and start burning the candle during those specific 20 minute sessions.

    Otherwise, my brainpower has been so far gone I’m not sure any association would do much good. *sigh*

    I know I can draft new words. I’ve been doing edits and almost through that and I’m anxious to get back to doing new words each day.

  • Dani

    Hey there stranger! I’m trying to emerge from my own dungeon and catch up.

    The sense of smell is the Strongest trigger for memories best left forgotten. I saw that same episode of MASH when I was a kid and thought, maybe. Fast forward many years and the smell of certain oils zing me everytime for bad memories I’d rather not think about.

    I love the idea of a favorite scent. In fact I have a tobacco and bergamont candle that sits on my desk that I always forget to light. I’ll have to start remembering. How’s the lilac scent working?

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