Sensory Week: Smell

May 15, 2014  Prompt #14


This is among my favorite prompts, since smell brings up specific associations and memories. Plus, it’s fun to smell stuff.




  1. Find something in your house with a specific scent or odor. Looking for ideas? Consider one of these: a lemon, garlic bulb, crayons, chalk, perfume or cologne, nail polish remover, a leather baseball glove, a block of cedar, sawdust, cloves or a cinnamon stick, vinegar. (Don’t use anything toxic, of course.)
  2. Close your eyes, bring the item to your nose, and inhale. Relax your brain and let memories and associations surface. Repeat twice more.
  3. For 15 minutes, write in response to this smell.  If, during your writing, it helps to take in the scent of the item again, sniff away!  If you need to ground your piece, write about the place with which you most associate this scent.

How This Prompt Can Strengthen Your Writing

  • Since smells are not easily categorized,  you need to think specifically about the individual scent.
  • Since smells are deeply evocative, this prompt encourages association and memory recall.

Further Writing

  • Write about the person with whom you most associate this smell.
  • Write about a different scent.  If you first wrote about a pleasing scent, try writing about a harsh one.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Each member brings, in a sealed and separate plastic containers, two or more object with a strong scent. Cotton balls dabbed in perfume, alcohol, pine cleaner, or vinegar work well, as well as any of the items listed above.
  2. Group members close their eyes, sniff the scents, and guess what they are.
  3. Discuss your experience of the scents with each other.
  4. Write down an action or emotion associated with the scent. (Vinegar is fear, running from the housekeeper who teases me with the open bottle.  Baking chicken is Friday night, our kitchen transformed by oranges, dripping fat, and a full table.)  From here, write for 15 more minutes.

What did you think of this writing prompt? Share your thoughts.


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