Your sense of smell is possibly the oldest of the five primary senses, and, fascinatingly, it is most intimately associated with the formation of memories. In those old days (a million years ago), it was crucial to forming our experience of food and sex; but by now it’s evolved to an art of perfumes and fragrances.
An interesting study was done several years ago: A young girl who was severely afflicted with lupus was being harmed from a medication that was curing the lupus. A physician had an interesting proposal: every time the girl took the medication that cured the lupus, he had her smell a distinct (not necessarily pleasant) fragrance. Over the course of a year, he gradually decreased the amount of the medication he was giving his patient, but continued to administer the fragrance. Amazingly, the girl’s health continued to improve, as though she were taking the medication itself. But – no side effects!
This experiment made me think about how sensitive we are to the sense of smell, and it inspired in me a strong interest in aromatherapy, as those of you who have read my novel, “Heaven Falls,” know. (Each chapter begins with a brief description of a fragrance, its medicinal, historical, mythological, and spiritual qualities.) When I read many fellow writers’ blogs, I see that they often list musical numbers that they listen to for inspiration. Romance writers are listening to romantic tunes, and suspense writers are listening to something more edgy…
I thought in this week’s WriteSpa, I’d offer the concept that you could use fragrance for inspiration. Fragrances have mood-enhancing qualities that can be just as potent as music.
So, here you go:
Writing Practice – Inspired by Fragrance
During the next seven days choose a different scent to write with. Use these remarkable fragrances for inspiration and pleasure. Here are some suggestions – or discover your own favorites.
Are you trying to plot your story? Patchouli can be grounding and clarifying:
“Patchouli has a strong, earthy, exotic aroma that eradicates nervousness and depression by putting problems into perspective. Use it help to release pent-up emotions and to see things more clearly. Its warm nature sedates and calms you; or if you’re feeling dreamy and detached it will ground and integrate your physical and spiritual paths. Mysterious and exotic, this earthy, balancing essential oil evokes feelings of freedom and rebellion.”
Is one of your characters a child? Wild orange will remind you what it’s like to think as a child:
“The essential oil of Wild Orange has a calming effect that radiates out from the seat of your solar plexus. Long held to be a symbol of both innocence and fertility, it is a favorite among children and at weddings. It is an oil of sunshine and summer, and instills lightheartedness, warmth, and happiness. Use it to strengthen your heart and soul; it is the perfect oil for when you take things too seriously and forget to laugh.”
If you’re writing a tense, difficult scene in your story, try fennel:
“With its powerful effect on your heart, Fennel offers you strength and endurance in times of hardship. It helps you become aware of all the extraneous excesses in your life, and heightens your appreciation for what is essential. Its nature is to restore inner clarity. Fennel has a long history of use as a medicine and a culinary aid in both Western and Eastern cultures. The Ancient Egyptians used it for various ailments, and the early Greek athletes ate the seeds to increase their strength while training for Olympic games. The Romans believed it gave them stamina and courage.”
To try to see a situation from a man’s point of view:
“Cumin’s spicy, penetrating, and pungent aroma has a stimulating effect on your emotions. Used in perfumes, love potions, and baths for its aphrodisiac effect, especially for men, it has also been held in high esteem since Biblical times mainly for its digestive properties. The Hindus saw it as a symbol of fidelity. It was also highly regarded in Britain during the Middle Ages when it was used as currency.The word cumin is derived from the Persian city Kerman, where most cumin was produced.”
Are you writing a sexy romantic scene? Get out your ylang.
“Use exotic, sensual Ylang both to entice and to relax. Its intense sweet floral fragrance builds confidence and removes fear or anxiety. The name means “flower of flowers,” and it can be intoxicating and hypnotic. Ylang has a long-standing reputation as potent aphrodisiac, and you can also use it to relieve stress, irritation, impatience, or anxiety, for it calms and nourishes your heart.”
Are you one of those writers who gets their best ideas while you’re asleep? Try Mimosa.
“Mimosa’s nurturing qualities appease your worries, fears, and over-sensitivity. Its gentle embrace will lift your spirits to a state of inner repose. It interfaces well with your subconscious mind, enhancing psychic awareness during dreams and visualizations. Use it before going to sleep to induce amazing visions. It will remind you to love – and to truly dream your dreams.”
Today, do you just want to experience happiness?
“A mere breath of the sweet aroma of Jasmine can change your emotions profoundly, lifting you from despair or depression into a realm of calm optimism, self-confidence, and happiness. Native to Persia and Kashmir, yasmin means “Gift from God.” In Sufi poetry, Jasmine was used a symbol of love and spiritual longing. Ruled by Isis, the goddess of the moon, Jasmine can help you become aware of your hidden passions and desires and show you ways to you deal with dilemmas in relationships. Use it to deepen your intuition and insight, and to bring you feelings of pleasure and euphoria.”
- the bonfire dying down
- jumping higher than ever before
- sight reading
- on the back of a giant sea turtle
- candles at twilight
- raising a barn