Archive for September, 2013

September 30, 2013

Favorite scents to write to

My office scent-dispenser

My office scent-dispenser

I often see posts from other writers about songs that inspire them, but what about scents? Is there a favorite scent that sparks the imagination more than others?

Personally, I think I work quite well to the scent of clean. In my home, this seems to be a mix of citrus scents, light floral scents and an occasional very light whiff of bleach. I’m sure this is because I’m less distracted when my home is clean. However, I’m starting to wonder if there’s more to it than that.

Years ago, someone told me people think more clearly when they smell peppermint. If I remember right, it had something to do with helping oxygen cross the blood-brain barrier. I wondered about it for a long time, particularly after the school my daughters were attending started passing out peppermint gum for children to chew during testing situations.

More recently, I read about an experiment in Belgium where the scent of chocolate was studied as a way to aid marketing. The outcome was intriguing: sales in romance books or books related to foods rose 40 percent, while sales in other genres saw an increase of 22 percent.

From the article:

Researchers observed every fifth customer who came into the store, for a total of 201 customers. They observed “purchase-related” customer behaviors like looking at several books closely, reading the summaries of books, hanging out in the store, talking with staff and asking questions.


Overall, the researchers found that patrons were twice as likely to look at multiple books closely and read what they were about when the scent was in the air. They were nearly three times as likely to interact with personnel and ask questions after browsing the whole store.

I have two thoughts on the matter:

  1. Someone should invent chocolate-scented paper and/or chocolate-scented e-book readers.
  2. I stay at my desk and get more work done when my Scentsy-type candle warmer is on…could this be because I keep mint chocolate scented wax in there?

Hmmm. Food for thought…please pardon the pun.

Just for fun, I raided the drawer where I keep all my scented wax cubes to see what I use most. Here’s the verdict:

Mint chocolate still comes in first.

Scents with lavender are a close second, and then scents with cinnamon and/or vanilla. I also really, really like scents that remind me of the woods. I use white pine, spruce and Christmas-y scents, although not so much in my office—those are mostly used in other areas of my home.

I’m reminded of a friend who goes to the library to write, partly because with three children, it’s the only time she has to herself. When I think about it, I always remember the smell of old books. I think I could write to that, too.

I’m also reminded of a horrible incident where, unbeknownst to me, half a can of tomato juice spilled on a neglected stack of papers behind my office door in North Dakota. During this time, I was working twelve hour days covering the state legislative session for a local paper. Because I was so busy keeping up with the daily deadlines, I didn’t have time to look for the source of the smell until the weekend. By then, I couldn’t concentrate any more.

It was truly awful.

So now I have to ask: do other writers have favorite scents they write to? Or scents that make them unable to write at all?

September 29, 2013

Why Dad is one of my writing heroes

My dad as a young man

My dad as a young man

I’ve said several times I don’t try to impress anyone, but there are a few people in this world whose good opinion of me (and my writings) I treasure dearly. That’s been on my mind lately, and as I’ve reflected on the people that matter most to me, my thoughts keep flowing to my dad.

He and my mom are alike in important ways: they seek with all their hearts to serve other people, they make a point of befriending the friendless, they’re loyal to their families and kind to everyone they meet.

These examples have had a huge impact on my writing. I enjoy writing most when I know it’s going to cheer someone up or inspire someone or just help someone relax.

That said, there are some ways Dad has influenced my writing that I don’t think anyone else could have done.

  1. When I was young, Dad read fiction–mostly western novels by Zane Grey and Louis L’amour. Although I never really did get into western fiction, I picked up the books enough to get the feeling of the plots behind them. These are my first memories of thinking about and trying to understand plot structures. My thoughts were completely unsophisticated, but they deepened my curiosity. I learned to love learning about (and trying to create) a good story line.
  2. Similarly, my dad read a lot of nonfiction. Not because he had to–because he wanted to. For years, I didn’t understand that. Now I find myself buying and devouring more nonfiction books than fiction books (I downloaded about 20 textbooks to my Kindle for PC lately) simply for the joy of learning. I feel a deeper connection with my dad because of it.
  3. About a year ago, I took a difficult assignment that required me to compare North Dakota’s oil fields to the oil fields in another state (where, coincidentally, my dad used to work). He did something completely in character for him. In order to make my writing life easier, he spent an entire afternoon teaching me what he knew about the oil industry. That afternoon is a specially treasured memory.
  4. Most recently, Dad boosted my lagging confidence with a simple question: “What have you been writing lately?” And my heart soared; he cares about what I write, and that makes a lot of difference in how I view my own work.

It’s not that dad writes. It’s that he helped me love a variety of writing. Very occasionally, I even love my own writing now. I’ll always be grateful for his influence.


September 22, 2013

Journaling my reflections on life

Gardner Village at night

Gardner Village at night

Lately, most of my writing has been very private. I’ve focused on my journals almost exclusively, detailing such events as my daughter’s first solo drive through a big city, another daughter’s busy schedule, and my toddler son’s newest adventures–somersaults and toilet training.

In my mind, these journal entries are tiny reflections of the lights in my life. They ripple easily when I touch them, blur with time, but they’re beautiful.

My daughters keep their own journals. My son is still to young to write, and too young to care that I write, except when I’m engrossed at my computer and he wants me to play with him.

Most often, he wins out. I can’t say that I regret it, and I doubt I ever will–although I do try to jot down paragraphs and sentences when I can. Sometimes I have to be sneaky. He knows the particular squeak of my office door.

My newest trick: I bring my work into his room, rather than my office, and watch him play while I edit, plot books, and network with writing friends by telephone.

Luckily for me, he knows some of my writing friends, and when I’m on the telephone with them, so is he, courtesy of the button that turns on the speaker.

This is sometimes good, since they dote on him and love to hear about his adventures (although I’m usually the one doing most of the talking). I love the proud smile he wears when they congratulate him on some milestone. It’s also sometimes not so good, when we’re trying to read passages aloud to each other. He has a very competitive voice.

Little by little, words on the screen are turning into stories, and daily events are becoming stories of their own. I wonder sometimes whether these more private moments will ever amount to something he’ll want to read, something that will make him feel as proud as writing friends on the telephone do.

It occurred to me, when I wrote about him earlier this evening, he may remember events entirely differently than they way I remember him. It’s all a vision, I suppose. When water meets the light, the reflections look different depending on where you stand.

I can always hope that he’ll see these written memories as something beautiful, something that can shine when he’s grown up enough to face his own long dark nights of the soul.





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