Friday, February 25, 2011

Freewrite Friday: The Scent

Lavender evokes powerful memories for me.

"For the sense of smell, almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories and it is a pity that we use it so little."  ~Rachel Carson

"Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channels."  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

This exercise puts our noses to work and, in doing so, triggers memories that can lead to good writing.  It also requires that you rely on someone else to help you with the first part.  If you have a writing partner or buddy, this would be a great exercise to do together, or if you belong to a writing group, you could adapt this to be a group exercise.

  1. Find someone you trust to give you a hand with the warmup part of this writing exercise.  Ask them to gather together three or four everyday household items that have a strong and evocative scent.    They can be food, beverages, plants, cigar boxes,  lotions, magic marker--anything that has a distinctive scent.  If you'd prefer that they don't include anything with an unpleasant smell, be sure to let them know this first.  They should gather the items without you seeing them.  
  2. Sit in a chair at a table and have your friend blindfold you before they present the items to you.  Once you are blindfolded, they can hold each item, one at a time under your nose, giving you plenty of time to smell it before moving on to the next one.
  3. While you are still blindfolded, be thinking about what images, memories, or thoughts each scent evokes for you.  Is there one that is especially evocative?  If so, that's your trigger scent.  It will be the thing you use as a prompt for your exercise.   Keep in mind that sometimes when people do this exercise they have a hard time naming exactly what it is they are smelling, and yet the smell still evokes memories.  This could be a good scent to write about for this very reason.
  4. Once you've decided on your scent, take off your blindfold and begin writing in your notebook.  It's up to you whether you look at the object or whether you have your friend take it away before you take off your blindfold and begin writing.  I think it can be useful to rely solely on the sense of smell as a trigger for this.
  5. As you begin writing, you may want to just try describing the scent itself, and then begin describing images and memories that you associate with this scent.  Does it remind you of a person or people?  Write about them, too.  Does it remind you of a particular moment or a period of time?  Let that come into the writing.  Try writing for at least 30 minutes, but go longer, if the spirit moves you!  If your friend wants to try the writing exercise, you can take turns helping each other out.  
  6. If you end up with something you like, be sure to share the link either in the comments or in an email to me so that I can post the link next week.
  7. This is an incredibly fun--and surprising--exercise.  I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you to everyone who offered prompts for last week's exercise!  What a treat to read the incredibly creative prompts as well as some of the pieces of writing that grew from the prompts.  Until next week's exercise, here are two wonderful links to inspire you:

If I forgot to include your Freewrite Friday link here, please share it in the comments!

A quick reminder: If you haven't entered the giveaway yet, you have until noon EST today (the 25th) to enter.  I'll be announcing the winner on the 26th, my two-year blogiversary.


  1. Trigger I love that idea Gigi....xv

  2. I too love this idea.
    I immediately thought of late mother wore that perfume when I was small...sometimes when I'm at a department store I visit the Channel counter, close my eyes and breathe in my mother...
    I'll ask The Husband for help on this...

  3. Wonderful exercise, Gigi....Vanilla is a definite trigger scent for me, I will try to get to the bottom of it! :) Happy weekend, my friend! xxoo :)

  4. Yes, trigger scents are so much fun to explore in writing, and Robin, this is a great exercise for spouses!

  5. Scent as a prompt for writing how lovely, Gigi. Darling Daughter has agreed to help me with this one and it will make a super week-end writing exercise. Thank you

  6. Ooooh. So many of us out here who love blogging also love cooking. Whether we are into fashion, food, or photography, we must all be pretty detailed people who are likely very connected to smells. I know I am. I'm many possibilities.

  7. I used scents and touch in my 1st grade classroom to evoke descriptive words for writing.

  8. A good suggestion. Vision is a dominant sense for us, but we can't neglect the others; scent has such a powerful and often subtle effect on our lives.

  9. What a wonderful exercise. The sense of smell and its deep association with memory is one of the very most wonderful things about being a human being, to my mind. It never ceases to delight me.

  10. My first attempt at posting one of the things I wrote for your prompts:


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