Awaken Your Sense of Smell
We are drawn to fragrances and aromas though we almost never pay them close attention or utilize them to their full potential. Tapping our olfactory senses isn’t something we give much thought to when we get down to using our creativity. Without realizing it we’re missing out on a great tool.
For me, the smell of burning leaves brings to mind calm afternoons warmed by a gentle sun. It’s a lay back time spent watching soft flames and tendrils of smoke doing a waltz on a light autumn breeze. That and a great deal more come to me on a whiff of smoke. What these scents are doing is bringing up images, even more they’re setting a mood.
Certain scents are ingrained in us, we already have a connection to them. Their very familiarity makes them welcome or repulses us as the scent warrants. They will bring up an image or stir certain feelings that we have in conjunction with them. This can be very handy if there is some specific mood we have in mind that we would like to convey in our creative work.
While scents we are familiar with can easily be used to remember a past event or put us in a desired mood random scents can initiate new stirrings within us. Testing out different and new scents is a surprise to our senses and it makes our brain react. If we are in an imagining mood we can utilize these responses to spark an idea.
Our first reaction to any smell is to class it as pleasant or unpleasant. It’s a nice smell, or sharp, or foul. Our brain immediately tries to process what is coming at it; we’ve already got things working. The second reaction is usually to try and identify it. ‘This is wood.’ We instinctively try to compare it to something we are familiar with and come up with pine or cedar. At times this is the reaction we need but to use our sense of smell to its full capacity in our creativity we have to delve deeper, drawing out all the other things it can tell us. We’re not really trying to identify the smell, it’s more useful to see what reaction it stirs in us.
Gather up a few smelly things, they can be familiar to you it doesn’t matter. Spices and natural things are better than perfumes or colognes since they don’t deaden your nose after too long a time sniffing, but one or two perfumes won’t hurt.
Set your assortment out in front of you. Get yourself a blindfold, one used to shield your eyes for a nap is perfect. Closing your eyes works too as long as you don’t give it a lot of thought, the idea is to be comfortable and relaxed, open to any stimulus that comes at you. Take one of your items and gently sniff, pepper would not be a good choice for your first try but it can help you realize how you interact with scents.
Don’t concentrate on identifying the smell, let your mind relate anything it wants to about it. Take the scent away and just let your mind roll it around. Is it harsh, soft, cold or warm? Remember you’re not trying to know what the smell is you’re trying to let it convey an abstract image, or a feeling. You’re making it into a thought, an idea. Sniff it again. Use a gentle inhale. Let whatever comes into your mind formulate.
I once found a mushroom growing deep in the woods, it smelled spongy, moldy, evil and dark and old. It certainly wasn’t evil, it was only one season old and it was a light smoky grey. I wasn’t looking for a clear picture of it, my eyes already gave me that. I was digging down into the nature of it and just letting my nose lead my emotions and tell me whatever my imagination came up with. It was telling me the characteristics of the mushroom, telling me a fantastic story that I made up for it. The mushroom was a goldmine to my imagination. I used the feedback as a character for one of my stories, he didn’t look anything like the mushroom but by his nature he couldn’t have been anything else.
Once you’ve made the connection between your sense of smell and your imagination you’ll be able to use it whenever you want to. You can allow it to build a foundation for you that you can base your creativity on. It will spark ideas. Smells can tell you entire stories that you can implement for whatever you are creating.