Saturday, February 11, 2012

Is there room for more perfume writing?

Blogging: A Mission Statement

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!
Now I don't want to pick on Vanessa. She is not the first, nor will she be the last, to talk about perfume bloggers or the number thereof or what makes a good/bad blog. Also, I think she had some interesting and useful things to say. FN1. But I do want to talk about this whole "why are you blogging/should you be blogging" thing because I've been wanting to comment on it for a while, and I didn't want to write a thousand word manifesto in someone else's comments section.

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
looks like...
I summarily lost my mind and began buying tens of samples. FN5. I kept trying to keep straight what I'd tried and hadn't, what I liked best, why I liked one thing more than another. I didn't know anything about perfume.

 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.
I didn't start the blog to get readers. I needed a place to think and reflect and write. I needed, some days, a place to scream.  I needed a place for me.

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?
Even over a year later, I didn't have anyone sending me samples. FN6.   I didn't have any awards. I didn't have any invites to be part of special blogging events. I still didn't have any links to other bloggers. I didn't even have someone to swap with because Angela and I had both left our positions and, sadly, didn't see much of one another.

 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.

When I was in college, I read 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'm not really in the beauty industry, and I doubt I ever will be. I still don't know as much about perfume as a lot of other bloggers. You know what I learned on Castle two weeks ago? How to properly say the name of a perfume I actually own. FN8.

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!
So if you've got something to say about perfume, I want to hear it! If you've started a scent blog you don't see listed in my sidebar of bloggers, tell me. Provided you aren't a spamming troll, I'll be happy to add you. I can't promise I will always have time to read everything you write and comment on it, but if you inspire me to think or talk or write, I will give you the internet love you deserve. And I truly hope you do it better than I do, even if you start your very first post tomorrow.

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 wife husband. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success.
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."

FN3. Also, if you all don't like this post, please don't golf clap me off stage left with my sad little fish in hand. Plus, Tom Cruise is actually bonkers, so I think it works thematically. Also, I love Cameron Crowe, so you can all suck it.

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.


waftbycarol said...

There is nothing in this world worse than elitist attitudes and censorship .
If you don't like the dish , move on down the buffet line , bubba .
Thanks for speaking up . Pat and I talked on the phone about this at length .
And I am so SO SOOOO disappointed at Vanessa ( naming names ) . I don't read her blog anymore , I don't care for her writing style .
When I started blogging , I had just returned from Italy with Sniffa and I was bursting with stories to tell , and no one to listen . And like you , didn't care if anyone read my stories , I just wanted to write them dow .
Lately , I don't have much to say so am on hiatus on my blog . If I think of something to say , I'll say it .
Censors be damned .

NowSmellThis said...

I know you're not picking on Vanessa, but all the same, I'll say that I don't think her point was (even slightly) to discourage anybody from blogging -- just to think about how you want to go about it. Actually, her post was originally called "10 things I've learned from perfume blogging", and because it was too long for one day, I encouraged her to split it in 2 and do one half on NST and one half on Bonkers. It was me who came up with the title for NST's post, and it's the title as much as anything that might lead people to think she's telling people they might best not blog at all. She does say "So yes, there is room for everyone in the fumisphere"...

AnneR said...

You are doing a great job! I really don't think there can be too many perfume blogs, as I like being the editor of my life and interests. I usually link to you through WAFT,keep up the good work.

KathyT said...

I enjoy reading your blog. I don't comment much, but you are on my Google reader list. I just like to read! I think that everyone's opinion is valuable even if it serves to cement my opposite opinion. I hope that anyone who feels the urge for written expression will take the next step and put it out there. Thanks for doing just that.

Diana said...

Carol, Thanks for reading and writing when you feel moved to do so.

For my part, this isn't even about Vanessa, as much as it is about the whole discussion taking place at all. It baffles me.

One of the revolutionary things about the internet is that it allows for a wildly diverse amount of speech. Anyone can find a voice and a reader; any reader can find someone writing to them.

Can that be a little overwhelming sometimes? Sure. To quote from another NST! post/self-entitled "rant" written by Robin herself:

What’s a perfumista to do? At one time the blogs could maybe help you weed through the morass, now it’s hard to even keep track of all the fragrance blogs, to say nothing of the perfume talk on Twitter and Facebook. Having any kind of handle on the ‘conversation’, something that was vaguely possible a few years ago, is now out of the question, assuming you’d like to maintain any sort of life outside of perfume.

Does all this din cause a little confusion? Probably sometimes. Does it allow one to only read opinions that reinforce one's own ignorance. Occasionally. But how great a world do we live in today when a single voice -- regardless of age, sex, race, gender, religion, disability/differently-abled ness, or economic circumstance (and even to a degree, nationality, though I am mindful of censorship in other countries) -- can speak and be heard? A world where their words can be judged for what they are without all those trappings that usually result in being shut out from discourse due to bigotry?

That is truly great.


Diana said...

AnneR -- Thanks for the readership and encouragement! Diana

Diana said...


Again, thanks for reading, not just my blog, but all the blogs you find interesting. We should all indulge in this game of words with (internet) friends!


Diana said...


First, Thanks for the clarification on the titling. I appreciate you weighing in, though I really am sad if I made you or Vanessa feel like you needed to defend yourselves/your blogs. I intended to celebrate speech itself, not denigrate any particular blog/blogger.

Second, I really did not mean to target/pick on Vanessa. Part of my response is because those posts were the most timely. I could have written when Bernard Pommier commented about us amateurs and inspired this Basenotes thread. I could have said something after this post from Natalie at Another Perfume Blog about industry types criticizing bloggers. Then there was a piece on Scents of Self that posed the question: "Are perfume bloggers necessary, or are we doing more harm than good to the perfume industry?"

Part of what moved me to comment now, as opposed to those other pieces, is your enormous influence in the world of perfume bloggery. NST! might be the best read English perfume blog in the world; it's definitely top five. I was *tremendously* flattered when you allowed (yes, allowed) me to submit a piece on your blog because I knew how many people would read that post. As you may recall, I was so eager I wrote two lengthy pieces as well. You were the first perfume blog I read, and you continue to be a mainstay that I read daily some four years later. For good or for ill, you have significant influence and power, and with that (as I know you are aware) comes great responsibility. I felt pushed to respond in part because I respect you so much.


Diana said...

Dear Robin --

(contd. from above)

The other reason I weighed in now is because Vanessa's piece wasn't about the industry not liking that consumers (i.e. bloggers) have an increasingly larger voice and influence, which was largely the point of the pieces above. It was meant to encourage people to consider whether they should even start a perfume blog. "[N]ew entrants add to the general noise and fragmentation of the blogosphere, resulting in less meaningful dialogue amongst perfumistas." That wasn't in the title, that was from Vanessa (extrapolating to some degree from Grain de Musc.)

The general noise? Less meaningful dialogue? Why? I generally feel my knowledge and opinions are improved by additional reading and thinking, not lessened by it. I don't meant to be overly critical or even unkind, but as I read this post by Vanessa I thought to myself, "I wonder if I would have been brave enough to start Feminine Things, given my general lack of perfume knowledge, if I'd read this early on at a blog like NST!"

Knowing myself, I probably would have, but then I'm also the kind of person not afraid to tell off the head of HR for a Fortune 70 company on live videofeed. But I'd hate for someone else to think there is no room for their blog because I happen to get here first. I also think about how much I personally would have missed out if I hadn't started this blog. I would have fewer budding friendships, less reason to write, tried far fewer beautiful perfumes, and be generally poorer for it.

The other reason I pointed to Vanessa was because of all the commentary on traffic and marketing. It makes sense for her. She is in marketing professionally. But I don't know that your average blogger needs to care about traffic as much as s/he needs to be inspired by what they are writing. To paraphrase Field of Dreams: "If you write it, they will come." My friends who used to find my perfume collecting/blogging weird now come to me looking for recommendations. We all have more olfactory beauty in our lives because I started this blog. How great is that!?!

I appreciate it when blogs like Beauty on the Outside encourage new writers. I love it when you give tips to newbies or Angela talks about how the internet brought more great perfume to her life. I love that, generally, you encourage people to go bonkers for perfume. That is part of what made me feel sad about Vanessa's post.

My intent was not so much to pick on Vanessa as to say, to anyone considering taking up blogging, "Go confidently in the direction of your [blogging] dreams!" You don't need to worry about whether you are good enough, smart enough, or gosh, darn it, people like you. You are! Don't be discouraged! Let's get this party started!

Hence, a mission statement. It's mission: to tell people who were afraid to try, it's okay if you feel stupid or unqualified or scared. Try anyway. I'm sure we'll love you.

All my best,


Doc Elly said...

Diana, Thank you for another thought-provoking post. I am occasionally taken aback by the bigoted, elitist attitudes that surface from time to time in the perfume community. I hadn't seen any of the posts in question, but after reading them, the quote that really got me was, "new entrants add to the general noise and fragmentation of the blogosphere, resulting in less meaningful dialogue amongst perfumistas." What??? According to this position, it seems the only time meaningful dialogue occurs is when everyone says the same thing. Heaven forbid someone should disagree or intrude on your exclusive little gated community.

As I see it, the blogosphere is open territory for all of Darwin's principles to play out. Bloggers arise by the billions, like the seeds of an orchid plant, but only a few make it to maturity in the electronic jungle. How many blogs consist of just a few posts before being abandoned? A blogger must be individually hardy to keep writing on a regular basis. How many blogs go unread just because they're someone's personal running log or food consumption diary? A blogger must be adaptable, evolving as the process unfolds, and relatively social, willing to become part of a larger community that helps promote his/her survival. As a relatively new blogger myself, I have been continually impressed by the truth of the statement, "if you write it, they will come".

Diana, you fill a special niche, one that I appreciate more than I can express, so long may you blog!

JoanElaine said...

I've exhausted myself discussing this very topic over the weekend, so all I will add is thanks - thanks for writing this.

Signed, another perfume blogger (if I'm allowed to call myself that!) adding to the "din".

Vanessa said...

Hi everyone,

I am sorry if people have read my post on NST and come away with the impression that I have written a "warning" piece to discourage people from starting blogs. As Robin has kindly clarified, the original title was "10 things I have learnt from perfume blogging", with more of an emphasis on my own take on things rather than a prescriptive guide for others.

Also, the statement about the "less meaningful dialogue" was not an extrapolation on my part, but a direct paraphrase of a response by Denyse in the comments section of her post "Enchanted, Disenchanted" to Persolaise:

"I'm just concerned the multiplication of blogs could turn out to foster a lot of soliloquies instead of conversation, but maybe that's a moot point." In other words, Denyse seemed to be saying that with all these blogs we may lose touch with one another, as has happened with all the TV channels we have now, as opposed to the few channels that millions of us sat round each night when we were kids. Which is not at all the same thing as saying the TV channels should be closed down! And Robin herself (as quoted by Diana) spoke of the difficulty of keeping up with everything in the perfume world/blogosphere these days.

I certainly don't wish to discourage anyone starting a blog - I hope I made that clear when I said there was room for everyone in the fumiverse, though I think that point may have been somewhat lost in all this. Thanks again to Robin for mentioning it.

I only said that *you are more likely to get noticed* - if you want to be noticed, that is, and not everyone does! - if there is something a bit different about your blog, though that could be anything at all, from your personality to your style to your content. And if you don't want to stand out particularly, well that is fine too, in which case just ignore the above.

By way of background, my whole interest in perfume started as a "market research"-style analytical one, and evolved on to the sensory level. And my interest in the stats is as much about the appeal of the bizarre and the random findings in there than any wish to grow bigger, though there is no shame in anyone wishing to do so. I know a number of new bloggers who are far more organised and "search engine optimised" than me, whose blogs are growing at a phenomenal rate, and fair play to them. I think I make the point somewhere that I like to write what the spirit moves me to, and let the readers fall where they may.

So all I am saying is that you should do exactly what you want to do - write about famous perfumes or obscure perfumes, about topics everyone will want to read or no one. The whole thing about the "angle" was purely IF you want to get yourself noticed. I don't think that is unreasonable.

So it depends on your motivation for blogging in the first place, but I was not saying that no one should start a blog period unless they have an incredibly new idea.

And I would like to think I am not elitist in my approach to blogging. There is noting in the post about people needing to have any kind of qualifications for writing on perfume, nothing to do with experience or industry knowledge.

Goodness knows I have gone on record as saying "what passes for 'a review' on Bonkers", an allusion to my nose being a blunt and fickle instrument.

So I am saddened that this discussion appears to have escalated into reproaches about elitism and censorship - or "warnings".

All I wanted to convey in a nutshell was:

Write about whatever you please - there is room for everyone - and lots of contrasting reviews are a good thing! But IF (and it is a big IF) you wish to get noticed in a growing marketplace, then consider thinking of a way in which your blog might bring something different to the table.

Ines said...

I see Vanessa wrote about this in her latest post and now I read you mentioned it and I have to agree.
If I were starting a blog now, I'd go with wordpress too. :)

I don't want to go into a discussion on the perfume blogging, I believe I wrote a post when Denyse's post was published which caused a great stir at the time (and I see Vanessa is familiar with it).
I agree with what you said about blogging and I read and agrees with Vanessa suggestions to people who are contemplating starting a blog because they are all thought that went through my head and are things you learn on your way.

But, as the perfume community is growing there is bound to be some misunderstandings and people not agreeing (or even worse) as the community itself is made of people.
I think the most important part in all that was said on many of the blogs lately is it's important to play nice - and most of the people in perfume community play nice (I think that's the best you can ask for).

Olfacta said...

It wasn't Vanessa that set me off, it was Pere de Pierre's comment on "crap bloggers" recently -- just to set the record straight! But I did notice, to be honest.

There have been so many comments that I decided to expound a little, er, more, on the subject of "too many bloggers," today.

I just hate the idea of a velvet rope going up at the entryway to our clubhouse.

Elisa said...

Olfacta, I saw that comment on Pere de Pierre too, and it ticked me off. It came right after someone on Twitter told me there was no such thing as a "woody amber" and he/she would know because he/she was working with a company to develop a perfume. I think this competitive streak is misguided, as though perfume were a perfect science or a field of math and you could actually know everything about it. The perception and description of perfumes and even single materials is very fuzzy and open-ended. You might never smell something in a perfume until you hear someone describe in a certain way, then it you see a whole new facet of it.

D said...

As a perfume blogger (small time, I just do it for myself. No one even knows about my blog and I wish to stay that way) I felt extremely discouraged after reading the post by Venessa on NST. I am so discouraged that I haven't had the courage to write a post. I am intimidated.

I took that post on NST as a warning to myself. It was like someone asking me to shut up because I had a voice. I was shown my place in the perfume community (which I will never try to be a part of) I couldn't believe how many people agreed with it in the comments! It is like the high school Queen Bee and the cool 'mean girls' looking down upon us. Grow up please.

Who sets the rules in this community and why should we play by their rules? More importantly, who can tell anybody what to do and how to write in their own blogs? It is like telling a person what to write in their own diary.

Everyone was new at some point. Perfume Nazis be gone!

Diana said...


I agree that if you are looking for traffic it probably makes sense to think about your approach. I personally think about my approach to writing things because I like to think about my audience, hence the imaginary reader. But I don't think putting forethought into writing requires you to think about Search Engine Optimization and Hit Counters and Rankings though.

I think it just means that when you want to communicate with someone -- a friend, a lover, an group of people who share your interests, your colleagues -- you think about the best way to provide that information to the person hearing it.

I just hope that never stops anyone from taking the leap. Writing fills a place inside me that I makes me happy. I don't want anyone else to miss out because I started first.


Diana said...

Doc Elly,

You are so sweet. I really appreciate your support. Thanks for reading.


Diana said...

Joan Elaine-

Glad we're both here! Thanks for commenting.


Diana said...


Ah! The timing made me think it was Vanessa. But the record, which I am on officially now and again, is now correct.

Glad to know we're both inspired by this topic. It's good for our community that we all care so much. :)


Diana said...


The comment was pretty insulting.

Guess I'm glad to be in the 'crappy' pile of non-experts. We are such delightful and sweet company. :)

Thanks for stopping by,


Diana said...

Vanessa -

I'm sorry, and again, I'm not trying not pick on you, but I don't get the "less meaningful dialogue" argument. Less meaningful to whom? If you don't like someone's blog, you don't have to read it. Not all writing speaks to me; I'm never going to be a fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne. But that doesn't mean I begrudge Hawthorne his words or his fans for loving him. I simply move along to someone I love, like F. Scott Fitzgerald.

If you write something worth reading, the internet will find it. We have proven exceptionally good, as an online community at large, at passing along the notable to the tune of millions of hits within hours. If you're saying something interesting, you'll find your niche.

And what's wrong with the soliloquies? I love them in Shakespeare. The monologue is such a popular form of theater there are Speech & Debate competitions for who can give the best one. Those worth noting, again, I feel like will be noticed.

All this worry about hits and popularity matters most when you are more concerned with pleasing other people than putting yourself out in the world to connect with people who will like what you have to offer. I write here for me. I hope you like it. If you don't, that's okay. If you do, but think I could do it better, bring on the constructive criticism. I like to learn. If you are happy reading what I have to say, I'm doubly glad. I hope we can meet in real life someday. I met one of my local readers last year and we had a lovely time. Only busy schedules have prevented that from us connecting again. If this blog brings me one new real to my life friend? That's a blessing, and a damned sight more than I expected from a series of tubes.

To say that a writer contemplating starting a blog should at first consider if what they have to offer is marketable, to be careful to make sure people want to hear what you have to say before speaking, both underestimates the writer and the readers. The market always assumes it knows what people want until BAM! Someone or something innovative comes along and takes the market and those who profit from it by surprise.

Innovation and art are often limited by market calculations, not inspired by them. More over, in a capitalist society, it stymies progress. That's the inner self-critic that prevents so many people -- particularly women -- from ever finding a voice.

(contd in next response...)

Diana said...

Dear Vanessa--

(...continued from above)

Capitalism permeates the internet because it was born from an American ideology. The internet started here; most of the initial web offerings were American, and when it comes to blogging about luxury beauty items, we have to acknowledge that the exchange of money for goods is relevant to our work.

As such, it tends to operate as a society favoring haves (of a wide variety -- educated, literate, etc.) over the have nots. The privileged of all stripes take it as a matter of course that their voice matters, that they have something to contribute, that they deserve to be heard. (For ex: sociology studies showing higher participation by boys over girls in classroom settings, men over women in professional settings.)

But you know what is really revolutionary? When those without privilege begin to speak. They bring new ideas and new perspectives to the table. They require those with invisible privilege to acknowledge that not everyone comes from the same place/perspective. We can't all grow up in Grasse; we can't even all have a voluminous perfume collection.

But we can all appreciate beauty in our own way. The more perspectives I encounter, the greater my appreciation for the multiplicity in the world grows. And some of the greatest artists and thinkers and writers of their time were considered unqualified and their work was underappreciated in the market -- Van Gogh, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson. I could go on and on.

I want those new voices. They make the world a more interesting place. And as Doc Ellie said, the marketplace of ideas will judge who has merit and who doesn't. I have no fear of the market place, because I believe I have something to contribute. My wish is that those who fear they don't will find their own ways to join the conversation.

Personally, I welcome them.


Diana said...


Please don't be discouraged. If there's one thing that has been apparent to me in all this, it is neither Vanessa or Robin intended to discourage people.

To paraphrase the immortal words of Gen. Stillwell/Margaret Atwood/U2, Don't let the bloggers grind you down.

You have as much right to your square foot of virtual real estate as the next person. And who knows? You might be the most interesting one of us yet!



And you can dream -
so dream out loud.
You know that
your time is coming round.

Ines said...

I agree with what Elisa said and would also like to add that I didn't think Vanessa's post was about warning off people and would hate if anyone thought they were being discouraged.
Diana, I think you explained it nicely in your post, but I'm guessing it came in retrospect.
I've been blogging for almost 3 years now and I admit in the beginning, I wasn't really sure if my blog would get any readers or whether it would seem redundant in the perfume blogosphere (not to mention the book blogosphere where there are many more blogs than in the perfume community).
It is easy to get discouraged and feel you're being warned off because one herself isn't sure whether your blog has any validity (that was my case).
What I wanted to say is that I thought Vanessa's post described those things we all felt at some point (I also felt very disappointed and warned off when Denyse's post some years ago came out about the proliferation of blogs and said so in a post).

D, please don't get discouraged, there will always be people in both online or real life world that will sound as they know better and that your point of view might not be as valid as theirs, but at the same time, there are many more bloggers out there who will be welcoming as they were also welcomed into this community by some of the nicest people you could ever meet.
So, please just ignore those whose opinion you find offensive and find your own blogging way and manner (possibly letting us all know what is the address of your blog). :)

Vanessa said...

"I agree that if you are looking for traffic it probably makes sense to think about your approach."

Traffic - or readers, even - that is my point really. If you want to help your blog stick in people's minds, given that there are a lot out there (which is fine), it might not go amiss to find an angle or a distinctive personal stamp (in the widest sense) which helps it stand out. That was intended to help people starting out, not discourage them, so I am sorry if D felt disheartened.

My second point (which seems to have got rather overlooked in all this), offers a different approach: "In all the years I wrote for the business magazine I only ever encountered five readers – there may have been more, but I had no way of knowing. I wouldn’t have done anything differently though. My answer to anyone thinking of starting a blog is to feel the void and do it anyway. Blog because you love to write – and if anyone reads your stuff it’s a bonus."

The meaningful dialogue thing was my paraphrasing of what Denyse actually meant by the tumour reference, which had bothered me at the time when I was myself starting out. I just put it out there by way of clarification, and wasn't engaging with it really, though that may not have been clear. It served to lead into the notion of there being lots of voices in the blogosphere, and how you might help yourself to make an impact, if that was your wish.

ChickenFreak said...

Of course there's room for more perfume bloggers. An infinity of them.

I didn't interpret Vanessa's post _at all_ as meaning that a person should ever refrain from blogging out of any idea that other bloggers somehow "deserve" the space more, but instead that it makes sense to think about why you're blogging. And it does, but if the "why" is because, "I dunno. It looks like it might be fun," that's an entirely adequate reason, and I don't think that Vanessa would ever argue against that.

It makes sense to think about it not because you should avoid stepping on other people's territory, or because you should make sure that your writings are worthy, or anything of the sort. It's because it may be worth thinking about what _you_ want. Do you want to express yourself? To vent? To make friends? To teach? To learn? To practice your writing? To influence someone? To form a reputation?

If you want to express yourself, then all that readership and ranking stuff is irrelevant. If you want to influence on a larger scale, then it may matter to you.

Me, I just want to babble, and it's a lot more fun if a few people babble back at me. But if I had different goals, goals that depend on a wider readership, there are things that I might want to think about. That's all I hear Vanessa saying.

Bellatrix said...

I said it before and I will say it again: You are one of my fav bloggers in the world. :)

Big hugs from me to you. :)

Krista Janicki said...

Hello! I just foudn a link to this post and I'm so glad, becuase I think I'm going to enjoy your blog a lot. I have only been perfume blogging for a little less than 2 years, but my experience mirrors yours. I started just as a way to organize my thoughts about a new hobby that was inspiring me. I don't track my traffic, sometimes I feel I have one "dear reader" and I enjoy every single comment, but I would still write even if it was just for me. And I do draws just because I like to give things away too!

Anyway, I try not to take "too many bloggers" posts too personally. I've (virtually) met so many great bloggers while engaged in this hobby and I think there is room for us all.

No Disassemble Charlie No. 5 said...

I just found your blog (and this entry in particular), it was linked...from where I don't remember...and it really doesn't matter.

I'm a perfume blogger, about three months in (my blog is called No Disassemble Charlie No. 5), and I must say....this post made my both fist pump with "right ons'" and want to hug you.

So...thank you! :-)

Diana said...


I appreciate you offering a perspective on Vanessa's post. As I said before, it was an overwhelming sense of sadness and frustration that had been building up, and Vanessa's post was sort of the match on the kindling. But, as always, I appreciate the perspective.


Diana said...


Awww, hearts and sparkles for you as well. :)


Diana said...

Krista Janicki--

Thanks for finding me, for reading, and especially for writing your blog! I'm always excited to find other bloggers, particularly those of you who come to this by a scent love that cannot keep our itchy fingers from our keyboards. I added you to my blogroll. Thanks for stopping by!


Diana said...

Charlie No. 5--

Aww, hugs and fist bumps back. I hope you are still going many many months from now. I added you to my blogroll. Thanks for stopping by!