Two years ago today, I was in a rather sorry state. For almost nine consecutive months, I had my head and imagination submerged in a story that seemed to come out of nowhere and everywhere, a story I was compelled to write for reasons I didn’t understand. I had three readers at the time clamoring to know what happened next, and I had precisely three chapters left to finish it. The trouble was, after spending nine months in the company of testosterone bombs, leather, darkness, Lilith, far too much sex, emotional rollercoasters and the harder fringes of rock’n’roll, I was in dire need of virtual estrogen – and thoroughly bored with testosterone.
I never suspected that would happen, either!
On the night of July 31th, I stared into a third glass of wine and had a wild idea.
I could write a perfume blog.
I’d been reading them long enough and loyally enough, learning, lemming and laughing as I went. I thought that the worst thing that could happen was it might – in some alternate, dream-on universe – improve my writing if it did nothing else. After all, how hard could it be? That night, I created Scent Less Sensibilities where my very first review was Balmain’s Ivoire, a perennial favorite even today.
Whatever my spurious reasons, the distraction tactic worked. Six days later – nine months to the day I began – I wrote ‘The End’ to my story, and to celebrate, I made a pact with myself – the kind of pact any perfumoholic will understand if no one else will.
For every defining moment in my book’s journey to publication, I would celebrate with…a bell jar.
Today, it is among my most prized possessions. I hope to see a few siblings join it soon in my perfume cabinet. Especially since I still have nine bell jars left on my wish list.
Along the way…I learned a lot, about writing, about perfume, about how I write about perfume and how to plant that passion on the virtual page. I have sniffed more marvels than I could ever have imagined in the days I had no perfume at all. Although I haven’t loved all the ones I have sniffed, I’ve liked many and love many more today than I ever have before.
What I learned
Writing about perfume is without question the most difficult writing anyone can do with the possible exception of erotica. (They’re more closely related than you think!) There were times I had to ‘park’ a review for days, weeks, or in one instance over a month and even after tearing my hair out and fifteen drafts, it still wasn’t what I really wanted to say. On one occasion, it didn’t matter what I did. My words went one way, the perfumes another. Oh, well. Next time. Or so I hope.
I learned a lot about my limitations as a writer – that no matter how I try or what I do, the writer will out before the perfume critic, and that’s just how it works for me. I admire and adore so many excellent perfume writers who do what I can’t and go where I don’t. Having said that, I could quote from one of my own reviews here. ‘I’m me. Deal with it.’ As of this writing, 65 of you do!
I learned about the astonishing generosity of the perfume community, not just in sending me samples of wonders I might not otherwise have known, but in welcoming an absolute beginner to the fray. That so many of you – perfume writers and bloggers yourselves – have done so much to welcome me, encourage me and offered your friendships along the way continues to takes my breath away even today.
I learned I had a Scent Twin! I never knew that anyone besides myself would have a love of ostentatious florals and take-no-prisoners chypres and even wipe ‘em off the floor leathers, yet I do. My admiration for Suzanne of Perfume Journal as an exceptional friend is only outdone by my certain conviction she’s twice the perfume writer I’ll ever be.
I learned to appreciate and distinguish different olfactory vocabularies and styles. I can close my eyes (I’ve tried it) and I can immediately determine who made it or conceived it, provided it’s someone whose work I’m familiar with.
I’ve learned that it is quite possible to wax impossibly purple and on occasion even inspired perfumed prose while listening to Nine Inch Nails. And Blackacidevil. As opposed to, say, Mozart. I do that sometimes, too.
I’ve learned that my samples tend to propagate while I sleep. It is so uncool to have an orgy and not invite me.
I learned to my complete dismay that there is a certain accord of notes I call ‘wet dog’ – I know no other way to describe it – which means there is an entire house I can never review, and also…that ‘wet dog’ accord is a note that terrifies me for some reason and I don’t know why. I’ve found this note in everything from mainstream – one Guerlain comes to mind – to artisanal. It’s not ambroxan or Iso E Super, because I’ve found it in al-natural perfumes as well as prestige brands.
I learned that whoever suggested layering Amouage Jubilation 25 with Serge Lutens’ Fleurs d’Oranger – each titanic perfumes in their own way – should be shot on sight without trial. Or else I should be shot for trying. I had an entire clowder of rabid, fighting, hissing cats on my skin that day.
I learned never, ever, ever, ever…to layer an Amouage. Ever. It will devour you if you do.
I learned that I will never know everything there is to know about perfume. This has been known to make me very happy.
I learned I’ll never be a 100% oud person.
I learned never to say ‘never’. Case in point: ambers. The exception? Layering an Amouage.
I learned that perfume geeks are the best people on Earth.
I learned that social media can change your life. It changed mine. Forever.
What I’ve loved
The thrill of discovery.
That perfume leads on to many roads, and some of them are paved with great intentions and amazing friendships that are based on many other things in common besides perfumes. Above all else, the people who make up my corner of Planet Perfume make me laugh, cry, howl, think and sniff something new – every day, and without them – which is to say, without YOU – my life and my world would be immeasurably poorer and smaller. Now you know.
I’ve loved meeting – in a virtual sense at least – some of the most spectacular olfactory talent on Earth. You know who you are. But do you also know how important you are to an unknown writer wannabe in BFE nowhere who is now unable to imagine life without you?
Well, you do now!
I’ve loved participating in group projects such as Clarimonde – among my own finest writing hours – and also the Devilscent Project. I have three upcoming group blog projects in the months ahead I can’t wait to begin. I love that synergy field between the same perfumes and the different interpretations, and the synergy between story and scent. I love to kick myself and think: ‘Damn! Why didn’t I think about that?’
I’ve loved reading each and every one of my favorite blogs each and every day. But I’ve hated not always having the time to comment as often or as much as I liked. But on the other hand…maybe that’s a good thing?
I’ve loved each and every comment to each and every blog post I’ve received. I still do. And I always, always will!
I’ve loved to see the name of a perfume friend light up on my phone, a friend who says “We’ll have to make this short, darling, I have so much to DO, but I just wanted to hear how you are.” Two hours later, we’re still talking. About perfume, among other things. We could happily do it for six hours more in person, I’m sure. Just as I’m sure that some day, we will.
I’ve loved each and every hilarious Twitter exchange. They’ve made many days so much better and brighter.
I’ve loved getting strange looks from my mailman. I’m sure he thinks I’m doing a sideline in something criminal, he’s just too polite to say anything about it!
Thanks to a perfume-blogging mother, Super Mario Jr. has been known to insist on wearing perfume to school. Unfortunately, the only one he’ll wear is Memoir Man. This bodes ill in about seven years.
Winning a sample draw on Ellen Covey’s blog. Her work made me the perfume writer I since became. She was my gateway into the world of artisanal perfume. She was my partner in crime with the Devilscent Project. She is also an exceptionally talented perfumer. Trust me. I know.
I owe so very, very much to Lucy of Indieperfumes. We are vastly different people but we share many, many inclinations. Without Lucy, I would have missed out on universes I would never know, marvels I would never sniff and friendships I cherish every day. Without Lucy, I would also not be what I am today.
I most emphatically owe a thank you to all of you who migrated with me after moving to WordPress, buying my own domain and carrying on where Scent Less Sensibilities left off. And to all the new readers I’ve gained since then.
It would never have been so much fun without you!
So what do you think – should we just continue down this path and see where it goes? I think so. I would love to! Especially with you! Who knows what magic carpet rides lurk ahead – or what genies we might conjure? I can’t wait to find out!
Thank you for that, too!
Since it’s my blogoversary, I have a giveaway! One lucky reader will win a carefully curated selection of samples from my collection. Anyone anywhere in the world is eligible for the draw. Just leave a comment before midnight CET on August 4th to enter. A winner will be determined by random.org on August 5th.
Original image: The Cake Genie Photoshop work, my own.