The Long Goodbye

  • How reality got in the way of … perfume (writing). 

Dear Readers,

 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. 

Misleading statistics

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? 

Underrated Gratitude

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. 

Thank you.

Futurities

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.

All love,

The Genie

My last perfume purchase. Hotly coveted for seven years. Seven years!

19 thoughts on “The Long Goodbye

  1. First and last comment…I really understand what it must be like to ‘write into a void’ and that you can only do that for so long. I will miss the Genie though, as I do miss the other written perfume blogs that have disappeared (all for a good reason) Australian Perfume Junkies, Olfactoria, The non-blonde, another marvellous blog I can’t even remember the name of (the author also died unexpectedly). No youtube ‘blogger’ can replace the written word for me. Thank you for all the lovely reading here, and wishing you lots of luck as a writer.

  2. Thank you for your engaging writing and beautiful descriptions of an art form that is so very difficult to describe. Best wishes for many more years of fantastic writing and creative teaching.

  3. Thank you so much for your engaging writing and beautiful descriptions of an art form that is so very difficult to describe. Best wishes for many more years of fantastic stories and creative teaching.

  4. I remember how I would get up every morning and read the blogs. All of them. I believe Facebook changed all this. The 24/7 availability of information has made the discussion and discovery less exciting. With the vastness of it we’ve lost the intimacy of our community. I think of this often, as I miss it too. See you in the ether

  5. I hear you, Sheila, and have been on the point of stopping blogging many times for all the same reasons, but I keep writing (albeit less often) into the void regardless. The perfume landscape is very different now, and our community much thinner on the ground, and more dispersed. I also think the Blogger format has held some of us back technically, though you did not make that mistake. You have many other writing projects and a rewarding career, so there is happily much self-fulfillment to be found elsewhere.

  6. Another longtime reader who didn’t comment, and who will miss your blog. You are so right that the world has changed, there were so many blogs that I read avidly when I got bitten badly by the perfume bug back in 2009. Thank you so much for your writing over th years.

  7. Sheila, I shall miss your perfumed prose. The stories you have written that bring the fragrance to life & allow them to jump of the page.
    Enjoy the stories you are writing in your novel. Just the snippets in this final post have brought your character life & colour!
    May Karma bring you peace & inspiration

  8. Thank you for your beautiful engaging writing. So much of what you wrote on this last post hits home. I remember first getting into the blogs about perfume and it was like finding a secret group of friends from all over the world. Reading about the magical art of perfume was and is transformative. Your voice will be missed. I wish you Peace and abundant joy.

  9. Sweetheart! I feel this so much… and I’m so proud of your publishing journeys, so grateful for your voice, so blessed by your writing. I’ll miss you.

  10. I’m glad that perfume writing and everything related to that helped you to get from where you were all those years ago to where you are now. I’m sad that it doesn’t work for you any longer, but I understand.

    I wish you all the success in your other writing projects.

  11. I completely understand as I have felt echoes of the same. The body of work you have created remains impressive and inspirational. Here’s a beautiful glass of virtual champagne to you and your future projects (can’t wait to read more about Jason and Medea), and another glass to all Perfume Friends, past and present.

  12. This all really resonates with me. I used to love lurking and reading all the perfume blogs. I actually created my own blog about a month before you made this post. Which feels a little ludicrous, with the state of blogs and blogging being what it is, but I, like you, am a writer first and foremost. I don’t want to make YouTube videos, I don’t want to make TikToks, I want to write.

    And so I’ve been writing. Into the void, as you say. Almost never seeing hide nor hair of evidence anyone is reading. There are so few people still actively blogging in the community. Most new “blogs” these days are shiny corporate affiliate marketing operations with no soul, and I’ll admit when the community part is missing it’s easy to start slipping down that path. I’ll see how long I last until I run out of steam. I’m doing it because I love and enjoy it, because writing is an integral part of my experience of a scent, because as you say, it scratches an incredible aesthetic itch (I take a lot of care making collages and doing layout for my blog posts, so the itch is doubly scratched, once with writing and another time with the visuals).

    I just recently remembered and revisited this post while reflecting on these feelings. Thank you for all your beautiful perfume writing over the years, and here’s to all the wonderful projects you have ahead of you. Even though you’ve retired from perfume blogging, your story and impressive corpus of work inspire me. If the blog made you a better writer or brought you to new kinds of writing opportunities, that’s a beautiful thing, and one I can only hope is possible today. So long, and enjoy the beautiful Sunshine!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s