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?

10 Comments to “Favorite scents to write to”

  1. I love the smell of pine, but only the real thing and so I have to go outside. But then, that’s where the real inspiration is anyway. I’ll have to try those peppermint and chocolate scents out – especially for the winter.


    • I really love the scent of fresh pine. 🙂 And the sound of pine needles under my feet. I am just far enough away from a forested canyon that morning breezes sometimes carry that scent, but it’s very light and I can only smell it outside, and only for a little while.


  2. For me I love vanilla candles. Apart from a fresh summer breeze coming through the window and cut grass.


  3. Reblogged this on readful things blog and commented:
    Love this post!


  4. I remember being told that smell is the sense with the strongest attachment to memory. I do notice I remember stuff that I smell more than see and hear. As for favorite scents, I never paid much attention. I love the smell of various foods, but I tend to be in a room that doesn’t have a wide variety of smells or anything memorable. I should start paying attention.


    • Interesting that you remember more if there’s a scent attached. I believe that’s true. I went to my grandparent’s old home for a final time last week, and it still smelled like their home…and I was flooded with memories of playing there as a little child. These aren’t things I usually think of. I don’t know how much of that I can attribute to the scent and how much to the setting, but it surprised me.


  5. Reblogged this on The Literary Syndicate and commented:
    An interesting question my friends. Do you have a favorite scent to write to? Let Gwen know!


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