Writers and artists often look for inspiration by playing music, praying, or making sure their environment is as comfortable as it can, but one thing that is often overlooked is scent. We might have our favorite cup of coffee and our comfy sweater handy when we’re ready to write or paint, but scent can often recall memories and spark creativity in a whole new way.
Calling Up the Right Mood and Memories
Did you ever smell something that brought you back to childhood? Or a favorite day in your life that you wish you could recreate? I often feel that way in fall, when cool Midwestern breezes blow their damp, woodsy fragrance my way.
Some fall mornings I grab a notebook and sit outside with a thick sweater on. I close my eyes and inhale the scents that bring me back to the memories of going back to school, my father’s death, our family reunions, and all the other moments that come to mind that time of year. I’m able to instantly get to the place I need to be to write poetry that conveys the deep emotions those scents help me recreate.
Remembering Loved Ones
I have so many great memories of my grandparents, and have written poetry about the beauty and grace they brought to my life. Every year I bought my grandma Emeraude Perfume for her birthday. She wore it for years, and when I catch the scent today it instantly calls up the memory of her sweet face and her hand on mine. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. I miss her so much, and to smell her perfume again is almost like having there beside me.
As a writer and artist, it’s these emotions we need to tap into to make our work have the kind of meaning that will reach another person. It’s one thing to write or paint, and another to inspire someone to feel. In order for us to do that, we need to readily understand our own emotions, and scent is one way we can do that.
Scents to Spark Creativity
There’s been talk that cinnamon or vanilla scents may help increase creativity, too. You could burn a candle with these scents near your desk to reap the benefits, or bake a loaf of bread or some cookies using these ingredients. Imagine the smells your house will have with a nice loaf of cinnamon bread! The best part is that you’ll get the added bonus of a homemade snack when you’re ready to take a break from creating.
Sometimes, your creative juices are flowing just fine, and what you need instead are scents that calm your nerves. Maybe you’re nervous about writing to make a deadline and your anxiety is in overdrive. If that’s the case, try orange or another citrusy type smell with perfume or body lotion that will reduce your feelings of stress so you can focus on your art or writing.
Experiment With Scents
If you’re unsure about which scents will inspire you the most, experiment with different lotions and candles, and pay close attention to how you feel when you smell them. Are you relaxed when you cook a meal with certain spices? Do you feel energized when you’ve taken a shower with a certain soap or shampoo?
The “right” scent for creativity is whichever one works for you personally, so take some time to try out different things and observe how it affects the work you do. You may just tap into something new that you’ve never felt, and as a result create something entirely different than you have before.
Cherie Burbach writes about friendship, dating, family, and relationships at About.com (NY Times) and Life Goes Strong (NBC/Universal). She has penned eleven books and ebooks, including Internet Dating Is Not Like Ordering a Pizza and 21 Ways to Promote Your Book on Twitter, and has published over 1,000 articles on the subjects of health, sports, and lifestyle. For more info, visit her website.