- How reality got in the way of … perfume (writing).
I stare at my MacBook screen on this scorching hot day at my dining table and struggle to find the words I know I have to write. This is hard. But write them, I must.
As of today, July 20th, 2022, I will no longer write about perfume.
Not because I’ve lost interest, not because I care less about the art form, the perfumes, the perfumers, the perfume houses, the connections I’ve made and deeply cherished all over the world.
I stop because I’m deathly tired of writing into a void. Also because other writing, the kind that doesn’t float off into the ether and might even (on the off, unlikely chance) get me recognized as a writer, has become important enough to take precedence.
Right now, I’m battling the last third of my novel rewrite of Medea. Jason and Medea’s marriage is breaking down beyond repair, the tabloids and paparazzi of Corinth are having a field day digging up dirt, Creusa knows nothing, Creon knows everything, and meanwhile, in a chapter or two, three small boys are going to die, murdered not by their mother (I did say it was a rewrite!), but by their creatrix on the page because literature!
It may be summer vacation time, even for the likes of me, but this particular scenario is not at all conducive to upbeat, sun-soaked stories about perfume.
More to the point, I’ve lost heart.
The Long Goodbye
One thing that stuck in my mind when first Scent Less Sensibilites and later, the Alembicated Genie took off in 2011-12, was the feeling of community on Planet Perfume. We congregated in the virtual spaces of Twitter, Facebook and later, Instagram, we commented on each other’s blogs, we promoted each others’ posts and tweets.
As a person who at the time was going through impending divorce, the dissolution of my little family and massive psychological rewiring, the blogosphere and that community meant, literally, the world to me. They were the friendships I didn’t have in real life, the buddies I could talk to, the broad horizons and perspectives that so expanded my own.
When I wrote, whether tweets, blog posts, long emails to my friends, or Facebook group comments, I could forget that my life was falling apart, that I hated where I lived at the time, that everything and everywhere around me flashed my fate to the heavens in 10 foot neon pink letters: Epic Fail.
And then, everything changed. Especially the blogosphere. And Planet Perfume. And.
Former cherished perfume writing colleagues stopped writing. Others simply vanished.
YouTube videos took over everything. One of those YouTubers, and one of the most beloved characters in the worldwide perfume community, Carlos of Brooklyn Fragrance Lover and before that of the Facebook group Peace-Love-Perfume, died unexpectedly, and this hit me very hard.
I now avoid YouTube perfume videos like the plague, with two exceptions: Wafts from the Loft and the Perfume Guy, simply because those three gentlemen keep the content about the perfumes, and not content creators preening in front of a camera. (Ergh.)
So far as I can tell, and I haven’t kept up nearly to the extent I used to, actual perfume conversations are becoming either obsolete or don’t really take place at all except on a few FB groups, where I’ve often despaired at the inanity on display.
As a blogger, perfume conversations were my entire raison d’etre, and if they weren’t happening, then maybe I shouldn’t, either.
I’ve watched as my metrics – hits, retweets etc. – went up and down and all around. I still get quite a few daily hits, but no matter how I’ve tried to provoke my readers, the comments became far fewer as the years went by.
I wrote less, more to gratify an aesthetic itch than for any other reason. I long ago lost all faith that anything at all might become of my perfume writing, although to be fair, that was precisely how (and why) my first novel got published.
No one cared any longer, or that’s what it felt like. So why did I persist for so long?
Gratitude. Gratitude kept me writing on the occasions when I did. Gratitude for those human connections, gratitude for the samples and decants that brought me so much joy, gratitude for simply being privileged enough to be able to write about perfume.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of those friendships, those connections, and all the people who made them possible. That would be YOU.
One important event in these past twelve years was going back to school and receiving a bachelor’s degree in education. Today, I work fulltime as a middle school teacher of art, English, history, religion and science. No job I have ever had apart from writing has been so immersive and so illuminating. My students teach me something new every single day. And yet.
I’m still a writer. Before everything. Therefore, I write.
One of those things is a collection of my perfume stories, including a few new ones never published before. I’ll let the world know when it will be available.
There are other stories underway, to be published elsewhere and not by me.
For now and the foreseeable future, The Alembicated Genie shall remain, as it is, to peruse, to read, to dream with. That’s what I did for so long – dream.
Thank you for that, too. It meant – and it means – infinitely more than you know.