Rebecca Behrens books
Rebecca Behrens books
Rebecca Behrens books

We talk a lot about how some senses contribute to the writing process. The music playlists we listen to as we power through revisions, the pinboards we gaze at to visually inspire our WIPs, the chocolate we savor to help us deal with bad news, even the way our fingers feel tapping the keys (and the way our backs feel after slouching in a desk chair for hours while drafting). But there’s one sense that I feel like gets neglected in discussions of the writing process, and that’s smell.

Smell can be an important and influential part of the writing process. I’ve started incorporating scents into mine, and I swear it’s not related to neglecting laundry so I have more time to write. (I’m a freak who likes doing laundry, actually.) When I sit down to work on the first draft of my WIP, I use the smells of specific candles to get me into the atmosphere of the story. My current favorite? A cedarwood and rosewood blend that I think smells like a barrier island in summer, hot pine needles and driftwood and the Atlantic. Whether the candle objectively does or not smell like that is besides the point; when I burn it while I write, it connects me emotionally to the place I’m traveling on the page.

My current favorite candle.

Not every story is told in a place that smells like flowers, though. I’m not suggesting you make your desk area smell like sulfur if you’re writing about hell. But I do suggest CB I Hate Perfume, which has some fantastically unique scents, like In the Library, a “warm blend of English novel, Russian & Moroccan leather bindings, worn cloth, and a hint of wood polish,” or Walking in Air, which was inspired by Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. (Uh, I think I need At the Beach 1966. I love the smell of Coppertone. Happiness in a bottle.)

Bath and Body Works also has a line of candles out now that includes French baguette and macaron blends, to which I say: I WANT. It’s enough to make me think that the next project I work on needs to involve French bakers, so I can make my writing space smell like bread and cookies all the time.

And then there’s good old Demeter Fragrance Library, which has the normal (almond; mulled cider), the cool (paperback; New Zealand), and the just plain weird (earthworm; dregs, as in the bottom of a wine barrel; and turpentine).

Obviously, you don’t need a delightful or weird potpourri to write. But sometimes a little ritual, like lighting a candle or spritzing a room spray, can help you get into the mood of your story. Or it can help you unwind and let the words flow.

So, have I convinced you to get into aromatherapy for writers?