Dude, What’s That Smell?

Have you noticed that creative types are always tweeting, posting, blogging about their musical inspirations? Almost every writer I follow has posted something about a song that has helped them write.  I know that I have turned to music plenty of times to help create a mood or set a scene, but we are equipped with four other senses that can help us.

For me to make my case for another one of our other senses I need to introduce a friend of mine. Say ‘hi’ to Roni.

A couple weeks ago Roni came up to me at rehearsal and asked if I smelled a crayon lately. I have to admit the question gave me pause. I smell a lot of things throughout the day, not all of them good, and I can’t say that I actually stop and smelled crayons. I mean, I have two young children so I have bits and pieces of them all over my house, but have I stopped and actually smelled them? No. Stepped on them, picked them out of the garbage and wiped remnants of an eaten crayon off of my child’s face? Yes. I’ve done those.

Then I remembered my sister-in-law, who is a high school teacher, tell me about how kids are now smelling bath salts to get high. (Seriously, kids? Bath salts?) I started to worry that sweet little Roni was involved in something criminal…with crayons no less!

Roni must have noticed my face was a combination of horror and concern because she quickly explained her question.

A facilitator from the Disney Institute stopped by Roni’s college campus to hold a workshop about “Inspiring Creativity”. The teacher asked the class who there would be able to draw a picture of themselves if she handed out crayons. No one thought they could. She then told the class that if she asked a bunch of first graders the same question every hand would most likely go up.


Because kids aren’t locked into thinking through the logistics of things. They don’t think about art lessons, depth perception and getting everything perfect. Creativity flows through their little bodies with no limitations. The Disney rep suggested that as adults we often get stuck inside the walls of our own mind. We don’t allow ourselves to think outside the box any more. When that happens we need to stop and smell some crayons in order to get back to a childlike approach to creativity.

And here I thought she was pushing drugs with colored wax.

In all seriousness though (stop laughing) our sense of smell can help us out just as often as music can. Just like songs, pleasant smells, and ok, not so pleasant smells, can remind us of time gone by and maybe help spur some inspiration.

With Spring’s arrival the moist aroma of dirt and flowers fill the air while freshly cut grass, honeysuckle and sun tan lotion waft on summer breezes. Cinnamon spice and apple cider can remind you of going to the pumpkin patch to pick the biggest pumpkin and I swear there is a fresh, light, crisp scent in the air that always tells me when snow is on the way in the winter.

Yes, I do believe we don’t give enough credit to our noses when it comes time to creating. So, next time you’ve hit a brick wall with your writing take some time to take a walk outside. Let the sights and smells open your mind and inspire you. If that doesn’t work I have some crayons you can snort, er, sniff.

Have you ever experienced a smell that takes you back to a favorite time in your past? Have you ever been inspired by a certain smell or even a taste? Have any of your other senses inspired a scene or story? And…do you smell that? Anyone want to change a diaper? That’s one smell I won’t mind never smelling again. Ick.

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17 Responses to Dude, What’s That Smell?

  1. Lisa says:

    I had been away from theater for three years while living in Japan (except for a few strange experiences that don’t count here). Finally, I decided to go to grad school for directing. I accepted a school without ever visiting it (the University of Hawaii) so everything was new when I finally got there. The chair of the department gave me a tour of the building. I walked into the theater, breathed deeply, and said to myself “This smells like home.”

    • Kaye Peters says:

      Isn’t that the best? I had to step away from the stage last year and I showed up to my first workday this year (every Saturday we get together to build sets, sew costumes and the like) the smell of paint brought me right back and made me feel creative again. It was a great feeling!

  2. Cathy says:

    I know what you mean about smells that remind you of something. Sometimes when my daughter and I are walking outside, maybe just in a parking lot we catch a whiff of Disney World. This is our favorite place, so of course we try and reason why we should go there.

    • Kaye Peters says:

      After living there for 6 wks last Spring and then vacationing there for a week in the Fall I no longer need a reason to go other than its there and I want to! 😉

    • Savana Quinn says:

      I worked at Disney World for over 2 years, and it is my favorite place to be. I know exactly what you mean about a smell bringing me back there. 🙂

  3. My mandolin smells like wood smoke, barbecue sauce, and Old Spice. I never would have been able to write my novel without it.

    Dr. B, author, “The Mandolin Case”

    • Kaye Peters says:

      That’s an interesting combination of smells for one mandolin 🙂 That’s great that you had that point of reference while writing. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Shay Fabbro says:

      Old Spice is one of the most comforting smells for me. My dad wears that, and one whiff brings me back to Friday afternoons with just dad and us girls, dancing to Elvis and Oak Ridge Boys records, waiting for mom to get home from work.

      ***happy smiles***

  4. Savana Quinn says:

    I love when you get a whiff of something and it brings you back to some great place. I have a wooden box for trinkets that is made of cedar. I open it and it immediately brings me back to my grandparents house, where the basements had cedar closets, which were my favorite childhood hiding place. Ah, memories.

    I agree, there is a distinct smell in the air prior to snow or thunderstorms. The scent just lets you know they are on their way. 🙂

    • Kaye Peters says:

      That’s awesome. My grammy’s house always smells like cabbage, especially this time of year with Easter around the corner. You’d think this would be a bad thing, but I was raised on halupkis so its ok 😀

  5. Shellie Sakai says:

    Hmm the smell of old books. That’s what I like. Or old closets lined with cedar. I loved my grandparents house. The smell of the closets and just an old house smell that makes me homesick for them.

    Dude, loved the post!

  6. Shay Fabbro says:

    I think that smells help me write more than music. When I listen to music, I can’t write; the lyrics distract me too much 😀

    One of my favorite smells is the smell of burning weeds. Don’t laugh! When I see the tell-tale wisps of smoke raising from the neighborhood (we live near a lot of places with fields and ditches that need burned in the spring) I feel a thrill of excitement. I roll the windows down and breathe deeply of that scent. It brings me back to the house in the country (the one I mentioned in my latest blog) in an instant and I can see the wisps of smoke and the orange flames eating the dead grasses in the fields near our house.

    • Kaye Peters says:

      I have to agree with you on the music vs smell. Usually when I hear a song I’ll sing along with the lyrics and therefore I’m more likely to be dancing than writing.

      I don’t dance to smells, because lets face it, that would be weird. 😀

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