Look to the Nose Pool for Ideas

Monday, October 22, 2007

We rely upon our noses every day, and sometimes it’s for survival. Remember all the guys who have approached you that looked so attractive, until you smelled them?

According to Professor Nosetradamus at the Sense of Smell Institute, “Everyone has his or her own unique odor-identity or smell fingerprint.” This is great news for writers!

Have you ever relied upon your nose for story inspiration? Anything is possible, right?

We know that ambient scents play a large role in our society; they influence purchases, and they impact our impressions on places, people, events, or objects. But ambient scents also influence our memories, and this is where we should focus our noses when we need a little creative boost.

Have you ever walked into a shop, boutique, restaurant, house, or any place where you suddenly felt swept away by an odor? It could have been pleasing or not, powerful or subtle, but it should’ve had an impact on you, and not just your sense of smell. If you know what I’m talking about, then you might guess where I’m going.

Ambient scents can give rise to memories of myriad subjects--people, places, objects, foods, actions, or maybe something else. Of course, this affect can give rise to emotions or actions, too. For one, I’ve heard certain scents play a large role in purchasing power. I can’t say I’ve ever bought anything beyond food based on scent alone, but I’ve read that it happens. Apparently, some people choose their cars based on the interior’s aroma. Most people, however, don’t have the money to please their noses. But we know it’s true for some.

My husband and I sold three houses in the last eleven years. Before we’d shown our homes to prospective buyers, I’d put a few drops of vanilla on a heated stove burner, to fill the air with a fresh scent. This doesn’t mean that our houses had smelled dirty beforehand; but the vanilla added an impression to the air. We were told this helped ease buyers into a house much more than the smell of cleansers and bleach.

Everyone has smelled something familiar. Sometimes scents can give rise to déjà vu.

If I smell an ointment similar to an old one known as Ben-Gay, I immediately think of my grandmother in her final years. I don’t know if that particular product is still on the market, but I need only smell a similar one to think of my past. If, however, I smell poppy seed pastries or a yeast-based dough rising, I think of my grandmother when she was much younger.

I think we all have those experiences from various places, and maybe foods are the easiest ones. But they certainly aren’t the only ones. Here are a few off the top of my mind: roasted Hatch green chiles, Starbucks coffee beans, poppy-seed pastries, Cinnabon cinnamon buns, lilac blossoms, mold, pine trees, animal petting zoos, cow farms, gasoline fumes, cigarette smoke, cigars, pipes, onion fields, and the list goes on to infinite possibilities.

Just the other day, I couldn’t think of an idea for a contest. I let it sit, empty on the screen and in my mind. But the emptiness went away when I smelled curry powder. The curry scent wafted up my nose and tickled my memory of an event with a friend from years ago. That was all I needed to start typing up the story.

Professor Nosetradamus also tells us that “The average human being is able to recognize approximately 10,000 different odors.”

So, the next time you find yourself in story limbo, look to your nose pool for a scented muse! Technically, you could have about 10,000 story possibilities in there!

Sue ;-)


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