Monday Challenge: Smells Like Teen Spirit

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

This is the blog your blog could smell like. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the robot posts of last week, I’m back home and sorting out the inevitable mess that results from leaving your routine for any length of time. Seriously, where the hell do all these papers come from? Do they breed when I’m not looking? Do the cats bring them here? I don’t know. All I know is I want them to go away.


You know one of the weirdest things about leaving your home and staying somewhere else? The smell. Nowhere else in the world smells like your home. Whether that’s good or bad probably depends a lot on your cleaning habits, but still, there’s a scent there that follows you out into the world. It clings to your clothes and your skin. And when you’re in someone else’s place, you can always tell. Back when I used to get hand-me-downs from my aunts, I could always tell who had given me which sweater by how it smelled the first time I picked it up.

Smells are deeply linked to memory as well. There’s research to show that it’s the sense most closely linked to it; a scent can take you all the way back to your childhood in a heartbeat, without you even thinking about it.

Sensory input is tricky in writing. The default is always sight; after all, it’s the easiest and, for most people, the dominant sense. Sound is used a lot as well. But what about touch? Taste? Smell? What does you character’s car smell like? How does their favourite jacket feel on their skin? How does blood taste?

So here’s your Monday Challenge: stop right now, and close your eyes. Doesn’t matter where you are*; you don’t have to be at home for this. Take a breath and really think about what you smell in that second. Food? Perfume? Cleaning solution? Smoke? Even if it’s nothing at all, why is it nothing? Did someone just clean? Or are you in one of those in-between spaces that smells like no one and nothing, where people pass through without leaving anything behind?

Describe what that breath brings you, and what it tells you about your current setting. And while you’re doing it, think about bringing that kind of sensory input into your other writing. Sight is the easy way out; what else can you use to describe?

*Unless you’re behind the wheel of a car, in which case stop reading blogs while you’re driving.


6 thoughts on “Monday Challenge: Smells Like Teen Spirit

  1. Very interesting post today . When I was taking flying lessons some years ago I noticed that all of the aircraft I flew for training had a similar smell inside. Wasn’t gasoline or oil , although those are prevalent around any flight line, what I noticed was that the aircraft all smelled inside like an old ’47 Buick. I found that comforting somehow.
    One of the reasons your post is so interesting today is that about a week ago I gave myself a writing assighment and that was to write about what it felt like to fly solo for the first time. Part of that text was to be about the smell I remembered.
    What do I smell today ??? Just me, time I hit the showers. Thanks for todays post.

      • Yeah I used the ’47 Buick to establish a genre for the person reading the post. Wasted, probably, as most readers nowadays don’t know there ever was a ’47 Buick. I try to include a touch of humor in what I’m writing by using the outrageous or exaggerated analogy. Flying solo for the first time (just flying period) was a profound experience for me and I’m having a hard time capturing it in writing. Goes to deep maybe.

        • By the way, if you ever want to go beyond just sniffing airplane ( which may be addictive) and get a feel of what piloting is like, the general aviation community has a program set up for non-airplane drivers to experience some of it. Call most any airport and tell them you want to take a “Discovery Flight” and I’ll bet they can direct you to someone who will take you up to a clear and safe altitude and let you handle the controls for a few minutes. Not very expensive either.

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