Pat at OlfactaRama had a great post about the general rumbling among fragrance bloggers regarding the 'glut' of new perfumer reviewers/writers/bloggers. I've seen this rumbling around for a bit now, most recently in sort of warning piece/guest post by Vanessa Musson of Bonkers for Perfume, at Now Smell This! entitled "5 things to think about before you start a perfume blog," and then a follow-up post, "The Sequel: 5 Things I Have Learnt From Perfume Blogging."
|A mission statement?|
You know that's right!
Okay, maybe not a manifesto. It's more like...
A mission statement.
That's right people. I'm about to go all Jerry Maguire up in here. FN2. In fact, let's run with that as a theme, shall we? FN3.
I hated myself... no, I hated my place in the world.
Let me tell you why I started Feminine Things. I was in law school. I was miserable. I had leveraged my future to the hilt to earn my degree, only to find out that I hated my classmates/future colleagues and my industry. FN4. I hadn't written anything fun or interesting in a while. I felt as though my logic-driven studies was literally sucking the creativity out of me through my pores.
At the same time, I met Angela from Now Smell This! through our respective jobs. I told her I was thinking of buying myself a bottle of perfume for my thirtieth birthday. She brought me some samples.
|So that's what oakmoss |
I had never heard the word "chypre." I couldn't tell a gardenia from a jasmine, a leather rose from a powder rose. I couldn't pronounce most of the perfume house names. I didn't even know what the big houses were.
But I had some free time. And I needed to keep track of what I was smelling. And I needed a writing prompt to help me begin writing again. I figured, "What could be harder than writing about the way something smelled for people who couldn't actually be present to smell it?
So I started this blog.
If this [points to heart] is empty, this [points to head] doesn't matter.
Let me tell you how little I had to go on. I didn't own any non-Body Shop/Bath & Body Works perfume when I started. No one linked to me. No one. My friends didn't even read my blog. You know how much I cared? Not even a little.
|Those sunglasses are to hide|
my tear-filled eyes.
Perfume inspired me. It was overwhelming at first. I would put something on, and BAM! The perfume I was smelling made me feel...everything.
I would smell a scent and it would remind me of my deceased grandfather, and I wept. Another would remind me of the smell of gardenias in my grandmother's backyard...and I blubbered for an hour. A scent reminiscent of my old high school boy friend? More tears.
Basically, I cried a lot.
But I also wrote a lot. I remembered how much I liked words, liked the texture and feel of them in my mouth as I read my writing back to myself. I loved the vivid images perfumes evoked, the random pop cultural connections that would spring into my head when I sniffed at my hand, and just how damned happy I was. My perfume made me so happy. Still does.
First class, that's what's wrong. It used to be a better meal, now it's a better life.
|They get free samples in first class?|
I was spending all my disposable income and then some on samples, but there was no way I could keep up with blogs like Now Smell This! or Perfume Posse. So I didn't bother trying. I bought sample sets from The Perfumed Court so I could learn the difference between a candied violet and a soapy violet, if anyone could make a decent orange scent, what constituted a boozy scent, whether I'd ever like anything other than a rose. New releases - who cared? I hadn't even tried Patou Joy or Guerlain Mitsouko yet.
I read a few books about perfume, but mostly? I just smelled, and then I wrote about it. Then I'd smell some more, and write about it. I'm not promoting blogging with blind ignorance. I'm just saying, everybody has to start somewhere, and you should never be so afraid of looking stupid you miss an opportunity to learn. As I blogged, I trusted my instincts and my own impressions of the scents. You know why? Perfumes smell different to and on different people. They evoke different memories. They elicit different connections. What smells like a funeral to me may smell like heaven to you. I think both reviews are probably correct.
Was I writing what my esteemed colleagues were? Nope. As far as I could tell, everyone else had a lot more knowledge of the industry and a lot fewer pop references, no one else was using song lyrics for titles, and I didn't see anyone else occasionally freaking out about feminist politics. Did I have "a new perspective to offer"? Ha! Who cared? I was writing again. It felt terrific.
This April 15 will mark four full years of blogging about perfume. I haven't stopped yet, and I have no intention of doing so.
The key to this business is personal relationships.
One thing that keeps coming up in posts about the 'crowded field' of perfume blogging is the idea of "lost readership" and " fluctuating traffic" and "shouting into the void."
Largely these things seem like nonsensical concerns to me. I admit to being flattered by readership. Who isn't? I admit I like comments. But mostly, I write this blog for me. Maybe it's the writer in me that thinks it's a good idea, but I prefer to give credit to the historian.
A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 for a class. This work by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is one of the best books you can read about American life in the period in large part because it reflects the thoughts and feelings of the daily life of a real person as they were living it. This is history gold, people! It doesn't get more primary source than that.
Do I think I deserve to be the speaker for our times? No, I do not. But I suspect Martha Ballard didn't think she would be either. Part of the reason I write this blog, and part of why I write and document my life to (quite frankly) an absurd degree (you really should see my scrap books of movie tickets stubs - not even joking), is because part of me thinks, "What if I end up the Martha Ballard of the early 21st Century?" You never know who the Angel of History's eye will fall upon in the rubble. If it's me? I'd like there to be plenty of material for that intrepid historical scholar to work from.
And to that end, I try to document the work I've enjoyed reading around the internet here, and on twitter, FB, G+, and the like. I like to share things with people, to talk about them and read them. And I like to give inspirational credit where credit is due, even if the inspiration is to blog at length about how I disagree, whether that be related to perfume or not. Discourse is intensely valuable and immeasurably rewarding, particularly when it challenges us to (re)consider our own assumed postures. I am grateful to those who prompt me to bring pen to paper, fingers to keyboard.
Plus, being nice? Kind of the golden rule.
Hey, I don't have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I failed as much as I have succeeded.
This isn't my first blog. I started a livejournal back in the late 1990s, then I had an independent blog I designed myself that was hosted on a friend's server for a few years. Before that, I wrote in spiral bound notebooks. FN7.
|Can I be your ambassador |
of perfume kwan?
I keep going anyway, learning and trying and collecting. Will I keep writing Feminine Things for a while? I like to think so. I see no reason for stopping. And even though I do have all those things now - awards and event invites, links and followers and commenters and even, yes, the occasional free samples to review - I would still keep writing here if I didn't.
Most flattering to me, though, is that you keep reading, and others find my work valuable. This blog ended up on a couple of Women's Studies syllabi in courses on feminism and the beauty industry in the last couple of years. I actually got to send a message to one of the classes that used my blog. As someone who has made a life of studying sex and gender in popular culture, it touches me to think I might help someone else learn and grow.
Truthfully? I never track my traffic. I didn't even know about this wikio/Ebuzzing thing until I read Vanessa's follow-up piece. Google ranks sites? News to me. I like it when people post on my drawings, because I like to give pretty things away. Other than that? I might as well be writing letters to myself.
When I went back to look at my very short initial post today, there was a comment on it, one I never even replied to. How great is that? Three days in and I had a reader. One reader. Perhaps it's her I'm still writing to.
When I write the words, dear reader, I am literally imagining you out there, reader, and I hope you will hear me when I say the following:
Words are tools; writing, a learned skill. The more you use them, the better you get at writing. Whatever inspires you to write, write about that. If it's wine? Start a w(h)ine blog. If it's shoes, go with that fetish. If it's making up funny, misspelled statements to apply on photos of cats, I hear there's a market for that. It's a big old internet out there, and I am not in any way afraid of losing my reader to you. I can't. They live here, in my head.
|You complete me, dear reader!|
Who knows - I might even learn something.
Leave a comment to be added to the blogroll. Or just to say you love/hate/indifferent me, sweet reader. For deep down in the spidery corners of my ventricular chambers, I feel the same about you.
But I love my
FN1. For instance, I, too, regret not going with Wordpress. Though if I move now, I'm probably going to Drupal Gardens. Because this Bitch? She hearts the cutting edge technologies. (Given that, I still don't know why I ended up on Blogger. I think because I was broke and it was free. Thanks for asking.)
FN2. Dorothy: "I loved your memo, by the way."
Jerry: "Thanks... actually, it was just a Mission Statement."
Wait -- am I not supposed to be telling readers to suck it? Damn, I'm bad at this.
FN4. Loved my coursework and my profs, though. Holla to my Lewis & Clark faculty, what? What! Seriously, though. I really should have just gotten a Ph.D. in Legal History or Legal Philosophy.
FN5. Yes, tens, not hundreds. I was broke, remember?
FN6. I actually don't mind paying for samples. I appreciate that materials are expensive and most of the perfumers I buy from are independent small business owners who need to recoup/cover their costs. I'm just happy they let me have the samples, instead of selling by full bottle only. I couldn't afford to try much perfume if I had to buy full bottles just to try them.
FN7. I still write long hand in notebooks.
FN8. Seriously. It isn't fracas? As in "to cause a"? I am terrrrible with French. Ah well. I might sound like a stupid culturally-illiterate American, but at least I don't smell like one.