What Does Good Writing Smell Like?

A blast from the past--me at my desk at the Defense Information School. I was editing a photojournalism handbook I was drafting while assigned as a journalism/photojournalism instructor. All potentially private information has been intentionally blurred out. (28 Jan. 2009; photo by TSgt Jess Harvey, USAF).
A blast from the past–me at my desk at the Defense Information School. I was editing a photojournalism handbook I was drafting while assigned as a journalism/photojournalism instructor. All potentially private information has been intentionally blurred out. (28 Jan. 2009; photo by TSgt Jess Harvey, USAF).

What DOES good writing smell like?

Why does the power of the participle to prod a prodigious precipitation of pure literary potpourri capture our imaginations?  What is it about the mystic makeup of language that prompts a merry merging of humanity’s mutual and magnificent experiences across the predictable passage of centuries?  How does the mere muttering of words prevent the pretermission of our stories while permitting a practical meditation on peoples who are poles apart?

Writing is our link to one another and to history (both past and future history).  Writing is more than letters.  Writing is magic.  Carefully crafted words on paper (virtual or real) create sensory impressions so powerful we feel as if we really are there.   Good writing grants us a passport to someone’s kitchen.  Writing allows us to experience the gaily dancing aroma of savory garlic and oregano twirling like a happy couple at their wedding reception even as we listen to the muted muttering of boiling water studiously softening the pasta.

Conscientiously constructed sentences create the earthy smell of damp soil staining our sweaty hands as we straighten up, delicately untying the tangled knots kinking our spindled spines.  We feel the tickling twitch of a single rivulet of sweat, coaxed forth by the broiling sun above our garden, winding its way down our forehead—a liquid insect skittering across our searing skin.

A preplanned mixing of metaphors can provide practically unlimited projections of meritoriously memorable phrases.  Describing the SOUND of fingers on keyboards WAFTING through a classroom uses a paradox of juxtaposed images to prick our mental perceptions into high gear.  We normally link the word “wafting” with odors, not sounds.  Merging the printed portraiture of normally non-associated descriptions enables our minds to achieve a high degree of perspicacity in presenting the prodded picture.

What does good writing smell like?  Good writing smells like perspiration, inspiration, and meticulously measured pacing born of self-discipline.  Properly produced prose avoids the prosaic.  Good writing soars to mountaintops of majestically moving and poetically piercing parables penetrating the mists of millennia.  And yet…good writing does not have to be complex.  Despite my ponderous proclamations in this presentation, you don’t have to deeply mine verbal mountains to create marvelously moving missives.  Simple words can be used to change a lady’s red broach into a glittering ruby lit by an inner fire.

Good writing is hard work, but the stories produced last a long, long time!

Do not go for the easy way out.  Sometimes one must write simply, as in a news story.  However, when opportunity is forthcoming to formulate a fetching phrase, seize it!  Patiently practice to improve your proficiency in performing this priceless part of human life—storytelling.

What does good writing smell like?  You tell me…just be creative!

4 thoughts on “What Does Good Writing Smell Like?

  1. OMG, that was nothing short of awesome. I have written, but nowhere near the caliber of writing that you have graced the world with. I have never contemplated that writing would smell like anything, but after reading this, I was definitely in the moment, and smelling the smells you were describing. Bravo!

    Like

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