A Day in the Life of a Writing Workshop in France

You wake up in a decently comfortable bed in room in an old, old house. And then you remember: I’m in France! Yes, you are. You took the train down from Paris the day before and arrived here just in time to wander the town and then meet the other workshop attendees for wine and cheese.

Because, yes, you are here for a writing workshop. Here to write! In France. How romantic that sounds. You dreamed about it for so long, and now you are here. And the reality is way more romantic and far better than you’d ever dreamed.  You jump out of bed because you want to explore the town a bit more before the workshop starts.

In the updated but ancient old kitchen one of your housemates has made a pot of coffee. And wonder, of wonders, another writer has gone to the corner patisserie and come back with chocolate croissants. As you chew, you ponder, which is better–the French wine or the French croissants? Luckily, you’ll have lots of days to decide the answer to that as the week stretches out ahead of you.  Seven more days!

Wandering a narrow cobblestone street you admire the doors and shutters painted in bright hues of yellow and turquoise and lavender, many adorned with pots of colorful flowers. Your walk ends at a row of shops, and right across the street is the water. The Mediterranean is especially blue today. Boats bob at a marina, and farther out, you spy commandoes from the fort on the hill executing training exercises in the water. Your stroll into town takes you along a path next to the water that skirts a huge stone fort. Vendors are setting up paintings and musicians are tuning their instruments.  Farther along, the town is coming to life, with stores opening for the day and cafes bustling with patrons eating breakfast.  

Back at the house, you shower quickly and sit around a huge table with all the other workshop attendees and the leaders. You’re a bit nervous about this, as its your first writing workshop, but it is a really fun morning! There’s lots of laughter, good talk and instruction about writing, and some interesting writing exercises. You leave with a brief assignment you’re excited about doing.

But first–lunch. All that writing talk made you hungry. You head to a cafe by the water with a group from the workshop and eat the best fish you’ve ever had, followed by dessert, of course. It is Creme de Catalan, a specialty of this region and it is delicious. A cup of expresso will help you keep you alert to do your writing. So will another walk. This time you walk up a path behind the town that leads through well-tended vineyards about to be harvested. The views of the sea are spectacular.

At home, you sneak in a petite sieste, then attack your assignment with vigor, finding a shady spot outside in which to write. The afternoon sails by as you focus on your work, and before you know it, it is time for Happy Hour. The whole group meets for local wine, cheese, bread, and pate, along with scrumptious tomatoes and olives.  Dinner is served outside at a long table and the talk is about what everybody did that day, and of course, writing.

There’s time for one last stroll to the water to see the lights twinkling in the harbor and then–happily to bed, to read, to write in your journal, and sleep. Tomorrow is another happy day in France.

 

Sound good? This is possible for you to experience, too! I teach writing workshops in France every September. Want to come with us? We still have a couple slots open for 2018.  Visit our Let’s Go Write website here to learn more. Or email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com for more info.

Is Your Writing Caged or Free?

To my American readers–Happy Independence Day! And to the rest of you, I hope you find something of use in this post on writing and freedom.

Here’s my question–are you caging your writing or setting it free? There’s been a spate of posts and articles on freedom this week, maybe more than usual because of the divided situation we’re in here in the states.  Oh, for the days when we took our freedom for granted. (And never did I think I would be writing those words.)

But this post is not about politics, it is about writing. So, answer me these:

–Are you caging your writing? 

By this I mean–are you trying to follow someone else’s process or style? Are you forcing yourself to get every single aspect of the plot figured out when really what you want is to let the words fly? There are so many experts on the internet and they all have their own opinions.  Read them and ponder and then come up with your own way. Learning how you best operate can be life changing.

–Are you locking yourself into a worn-out publishing paradigm?

I’ve got no skin in this game. I’ve got an agent shopping two novels and I’ve also indie published (well, one short story). I’m passionate about the possibilities of indie publishing but still also desire the cachet of traditional publishing. But that’s what’s right for me. It may or may not be right for you. Don’t box yourself in, just because.

–Are you dealing with a tired old mindset?

This may be the most important aspect of looking at your freedom. Is your brain awash in negativity and worry? Are you constantly second guessing your ability to write? Stop it. Just stop it, right now. You can do this. You need to remind yourself of this often.

So there you have it–and happy Fourth.

The Ritual is Opening the File (How to Get Your Writing Done)

I had a phone conversation with my dear friend Terry Price this morning. (FYI–he and I are planning a creative writing workshop in Nashville November 2nd and 3rd, so mark your calendars if you’re in the area).

We started talking about ritual and how each of us has heard fledgling writers ask questions such as:

–Do you write first drafts on the computer?

–Where do you sit when you write?

–Do you use pen or pencil to take notes?

–Do you write in the morning or in the evening or some time in between?

–Do you listen to music when you write?

–Do you prefer to look out the window or stare at a wall?

–Do you have a special ritual to complete before you start writing?

Yes, yes I do: it is called opening the file I want to work on.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these questions, and they are fun to find out the answers. The problem is that the questioners are barking up the wrong tree. They are hoping that if they hear the Famous Writer uses a certain kind of pen, they, too can use that pen and somehow the words will magically fly onto the page.  People ask questions like these because they are hoping for an easy answer.

Can’t blame them–who doesn’t want an easy answer? Especially when it comes to writing.

It’s funny, because through the years I’ve actually wished for some kind of writing ritual to ease me into the work. But I’ve never found one. Except for opening the file and starting to move my hands across the keyboard.

And that is how writing gets done, not through any magical rituals.

Do you have any rituals you rely on? (Like you’re going to tell me, after reading this post, right?)

Rain and Writing

drops_wallpaper_texture_225146_lWe woke to rain in Portland this morning and I cheered. I know, I know, but as a native Oregonian, I love the rain. Plus it had been humid (by our standards) for awhile and it felt like we needed a good storm to clear it out.  And that meant I didn’t have to water the garden, and that the gamble I took on not watering my son’s yard (we’re caring for his house while they are in Hawaii)  yesterday paid off.

The sky is already brightening here, which means I probably get to go to my grandsons’ swim appointment after all. But today’s rain reminded me of my favorite writing and rain quote ever, by Tom Robbins:

“People ask me who I write for, I tell them I write for the rain.”

The funny thing is, this quote exists only in memory as a part of an article about Robbins in Esquire.  Despite wasting tons of time exhaustive searches looking for the quote I’ve never been able to actually find it. In honor of the rain this morning, I looked for it again and guess what came up?  A couple of my old (2011) posts.  The one that mentions the quote doesn’t have much of value in it, but another one did, including some gems from Annie Proulx (that link goes to a great interview with her) and Chris Guillebeau.

So, in lieu of a Five on Friday post, I give you this link.

(And, in a lovely bit of synchronicity, when I looked up a link on Robbins, it turns out that today is his birthday. Boo-yah! And happy birthday, Tom.)

The Glorious Avidity of the Beginner’s Mind

A giant Sitka Spruce
A giant Sitka Spruce

“In the beginning mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Suzuki Roshi

I don’t know about you, but I consider myself an expert. Yep, I sure do.  Because I’ve been writing novels for a gazillion years and teaching fiction writing for half that time. I’ve studied long enough to have earned an MFA and blogged long enough to remember when WordPress barely existed. So, yes indeedy. Expert here.

You’re probably an expert, too.  Maybe in writing—you’ve probably been at it for a while, too. Or maybe in other areas of your work and life.  By the time you reach a certain age, you’re a bona fide expert.  That means you and I know a lot.

It also means we have a lot of preconceptions.  Maybe a mind that is a tiny bit closed to challenges to our knowledge.  A brain shut tight to new ideas, to an expansive openness that lets the light in.  And we may not even notice, being so very busy in our expertness.

I was reminded of all this last week when I taught a group of beginners (or raw recruits as I liked to call them). Out of a group of eight, seven came to the novel-writing workshop with no prior experience writing full-length fiction.  They had ideas, but some were vague.  They knew nothing about plotters and pantsers and plot points and character dossiers or how to write a scene or structure a novel.  By the end of our three days together, they walked out with a plot and characters firmly in mind, close to being ready to write.vertigo-dizzy-dizziness-321395-h

I attribute this readiness not to me, but to them—and their marvelous beginner minds.  They soaked up ideas like the moss on my sidewalk soaks up water during rainy Oregon winters. Their beginner minds filled up with knowledge and ideas at an astounding pace and they inspired me—and this post—along the way.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with attaining expert status.  There’s the whole 10,000 hours thing espoused by Malcolm Gladwell , who claims you need to practice a thing that many hours to be considered an expert.  Do a quick spin around the interwebs and you’ll find all kinds of references to mavens and experts and specialists and professionals.  And they are all good. We need their knowledge and expertise.  But there’s something amazingly wonderful about approaching one’s work with a beginner’s mind, as I witnessed last week.

Following are some ideas for maintaining a beginner’s mind. But also go read this lovely article about it from a Buddhist abbess.

Be open.  I know, duh.  But how often to you find yourself listening to another person and eagerly pondering what you’re going to say in reply? Or getting defensive and upset about their words? Yeah, me, too.  So, for instance, if a writing friend is going on about how great it is to write without an outline and you fervently believe the opposite, try just being a tiny bit open to his point of view.

Be willing to admit you’re not always right.  Often we desire to be right more than anything. I’m not sure why this is—perhaps it gives us a sense of power or security in the world.  But it can be detrimental, too. Though my husband and I like to joke that I’m always right, I can think of some times when I’ve been very, very wrong. A willingness to admit it would have saved me tons of grief.

Be willing to admit you don’t know everything.  There are all kinds of literary terms whose meaning I don’t get. Okay, I admitted it.  And I still sometimes get confused about omniscient viewpoint.  And don’t even get me started on math—my son, the mathematician has explained prime numbers to me at least five times. I still don’t understand them.  And that’s okay.

But don’t close your mind just because you don’t know.  Don’t let not knowing keep you from being curious.  I could probably stand to learn Excel, for instance, an app I’ve told myself repeatedly I can’t master.  With an attitude like that, it’s likely I never will.

So the not knowing thing cuts both ways.

Approach life and writing with a sense of adventure.  Every time I’ve said to myself, “Life’s an adventure,” it has turned out to be.  You can’t have an adventure with a closed mind, you just can’t. And life and writing are ever so much more fun when you’re adventurous.

Okay, those are my thoughts. And now I’m going to go apply a beginner’s mind to looking at my WIP (work in progress for those with beginner’s minds).  I invite you to come on over to the blog (        )  to comment on how you cultivate beginner’s mind.

Photos: top by me, lower right by woodleywonderworks.

Meanwhile, I’ll Be Busy Making S*&% Up

Writing a novel is, at heart, all about making shit up.

That phrase–making shit up–became the constant refrain of my Mapping the Novel workshop at the Sitka Center last week.  (It was the BEST workshop ever, mostly because of my wonderful students, but also because of the fabulous staff and the spectacular location. I could go on and on.)

In order to write a novel, you’ve got to make a lot of shit up. You just do. But then you have to shape the stuff you made up into some kind of form.  And that was the premise of the workshop–that you’ve got to let your right brain roam free but also learn the structures through which you will corrall it.

It is easy to get hung up on any part of the process (she said, having experienced getting hung up at many points along the way). But bear in mind that structures are part of craft and can be learned. You can study plot, scene, character, style, and theme. It’s hard, but you can figure out how to apply it so you make a novel with a cohesive whole.

What is harder, arguably, in this day and age, is the making shit up part. It’s the part where we let our brains run free, and allow our hands to follow them, putting word after word on the page–even when we don’t know where the words will lead us.

The making shit up part is why we become writers.  I mean, who sets out to write a novel because he wants to master plot? There may be a few of you out there, but I’d wager a bet that most of you want to write a novel because you’ve experienced the glory of writing, how good it makes you feel to lay down those tracks.

The making shit up part is fun–and its also sometimes really freaking hard to get ourselves to do.  But really, all you have to do is go do it.  Take a prompt, any prompt, set a timer for 10 minutes and go write! Do it now. Go make shit up.  You’ll be glad you did.

Leave a comment and let’s discuss your favorite way to make shit up.

**I had a couple of great photos from Sitka picked out to go along with this post but some reason, WordPress doesn’t want to let me upload them. If you want to see a ton of them, go to my Instagram page (and follow me while you’re there–it is one of my chief social media outlets).

10 Ways to Welcome Spring and Rejuvenate Yourself and Your Writing

Spring never fails to surprise me with its lush beauty.  And this year is no different. Even though we don’t get much in the way of snow, it does feel like we’ve come through a long winter, seeing as how we’ve had record-setting rainfall amounts. And so spring is delighting me everywhere I look.  Here are some ways to welcome it in that just might impact your writing, too.four-leaf clover

  1. Smell the flowers. I know, duh. But sometimes I get so busy with all the very important details of my life that I forget to appreciate the small things. And those small things, added to our stories, are what make them come alive.
  2. Roll in the grass. Or swing on the swings. Slide down the slide. Play like a little kid. We adults are usually far too cool to do any of this—but it is a lot of fun once you let loose. And nothing refreshes the writer’s brain like some fun.
  3. Rest. Have you noticed a lot of people sniffling and coughing around you the last week? Yeah, me too. We all tend to get sick more around the equinoxes and solstices. Plus, here in the states we just changed to daylight savings time. Good reasons to rest up.
  4. Take a trip. Long or short, either can be invigorating for the writer’s brain. A couple days ago, I had occasion to drive out to Oregon’s wine country to meet a client who was here visiting family. I’ve been out there a million times—but its been a while. I had a blast admiring the gorgeous scenery and the adorable small town vibe of McMinnville.
  5. Dye Easter eggs. Even if you’re not the least bit religious, dying eggs can be a lot of fun. Or maybe that doesn’t catch your fancy, but what about some other creative project? Giving your brain a chance to do something creative besides writing can rev your engines.
  6. Celebrate. Sunday is Easter and you don’t have to be a believer or go to church to celebrate. The church I grew up in celebrated Easter as the coming of spring. Good enough for me. Actually, my family uses just about an excuse to celebrate. Take time to be festive.
  7. Walk in the rain. Because it’s fun.
  8. Write outside. (But not when it’s raining.) Grab a spot at a sidewalk table at your favorite café or sit in your own backyard. Bundle up if it’s still a bit cold.  A change of venue can do wonders for your writing.
  9. Hunt for four-leaf clovers. See #7.  It is also good to focus your powers of observation.
  10. Take a picnic. Pack a lunch and your laptop or tablet, head for the park or your favorite outdoor spot. Make an afternoon of it. You can combine #2, #3, #8, #9 and maybe even #7 with this suggestion!

What are your favorite ways to welcome spring? How do you incorporate them into your writing?

Photo by steven.y.

Stupid Writer Tricks: 7 Crucial Mistakes Writers Make

Dunce-school-punishment-857281-hSometimes I like to tell myself stories, say, when I'm doing the dishes (which my husband might claim is rare) or putting on my make-up and drying my hair.  And it occurred to me recently, that a couple of my favorite stories fell into the category of colleagues doing Stupid Writer Tricks. (Because, in the stories I tell myself, I'm always the heroine who is five times smarter than anyone else–and of course, I never do any of these myself.  Nope, not ever.)

And then it occurred to me that these stupid writer tricks warranted a blog post.  So here you go.  In all seriousness, these are bad habits that can derail a writing career faster than my cats attacking their food dishes at 4 AM in the morning.

1.  Not utilizing the basic tools of the trade.  In the course of my travels through the writing landscape, I have come upon several practitioners of our craft who do not have word processing programs.  God only knows what they type on, but this means, at a minimum, there's no formatting and no spell check.  It also often means that others cannot open their manuscript.  It for sure means that their submissions to anyone anywhere in the entire publishing world will be ignored and they will be branded as an amateur.

2.  Ignoring conventions of genre and structure.  Like, writing a mystery without a murder. Or thinking that it really doesn't matter if their novel's characters don't want anything.  It does to matter, because, DESIRE MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND.  And furthermore: yes, the conventions of literature apply to you.  No, your genius is not such that you can ignore them all. And if you persist in coddling your genius in this manner, guess what? The world will ignore your work.

3.  Ignoring the critiques of those whom you have entrusted to read your manuscript.  There's a fine art to taking criticism.  Sometimes, it is so clearly not applicable and that's fine.  Reject it.  But I've seen writers ignore advice that would have made the difference between a meh book and a wow book and that's just plain dumb.  Rule of thumb: if more than one person is bumping over something, consider changing it.

4.  Ignoring submission guidelines.  Years ago, at one of the first writing conferences I ever attended, an audience member inquired at an agent panel, "Does my manuscript have to be typed?" Sure wish I had a photo of the expressions on the faces of the agents there that day.  I don't think anybody these days is quite that stupid, but you'd be surprised how many people I know fail to follow the most basic of submission guidelines.  Bottom line is this: go to the website of the agent or publication to whom you wish to submit and DO EXACTLY WHAT THEY SAY.

5.  Not using social media.  Yeah, I know.  It's beneath you.  Tough.  Do it anyway. If you don't like Twitter, use Facebook, and vice versa.  If you don't like either, try Instagram (my current favorite).  Or Pinterest. Maybe you'll even be one of 10 people who like Google+!  Whatever, find something, anything that you like and work it.

6.  Posting all self-promotion, all the time.  I have a friend. She is the bane of all her writer's friends existences because all she does on social media is talk about her great she is and how everyone loves her book so much and how now she's appearing at this conference (where everybody loves her) and now she's reading at this event.  Barf.  I've got news for you–after awhile, nobody pays attention.  I know its a cliche, but what we want is to engage.  Start conversations.  Comment on what other people post.  Chat a bit. It'll get you way more followers–and it is way more fun.

7.  Not writing every day.  Because none of the above matter one bit if you don't.

Which of the above are you guilty of?  Okay, maybe you don't want to confess publicly.  So which ones are your writer friends guilty of?

Are You a Right-Brain or Left-Brain Dominant Writer?

ElliottBayBooks

A Stack 'O Writing Books

I learned a different way of looking at my writing this weekend, a way that I think will help inform how I plan and plot a novel. (One of the things I love best about writing is that there's always something new to learn.  It's impossible to be bored by it.) I'm thinking this thing will help you, too, so let's discuss.  But first, some background.

This past weekend, I went to Seattle with my daughter.  We took the train up and back (the best way to travel), stayed in the Roosevelt Hotel downtown, and reconnected with an old friend and met her new family.  (One of the most adorable two-year-olds on the planet, second only to my own granddaughter.)

One of the best times we had was Saturday afternoon, when we hung out at the new (to us) location of Elliott Bay Books.  The bookstore is dotted with large tables at which you can while away the afternoon.  Which is exactly what we did. It felt like the height of luxury to spend a couple of hours doing nothing but looking at books.  My daughter perused books from the design section, and I pulled out stack after stack of titles from the writing section.  I read through many of them,  took notes from some, and ended up buying two:

Naming the World, and other exercises for the creative writer, edited by Bret Anthony Johnston.  I remember being at AWP years ago right when this book came out. It is comprised of brief essays and accompanying writing exercises from a wide variety of writers.  I'm always looking for exercises for myself and my students–I'm not sure why I haven't bought this one earlier.  It is excellent.  (I especially love the section of Daily Warm-ups at the back.)

PlotWhispererThe Plot Whisperer, by Martha Alderson.  I've read her blog, but for some reason shied away from the book, which has been out a few years.  I'm only a short way in, but the book is excellent.  And the thing that has grabbed my attention is the distinction she makes between left-brain dominant writers and right-brain dominant writers.  To wit:

The left-brained writer thinks in language more often than images and is quite comfortable with action.  He might also be analytical and detail-oriented.  Alderson says that if you crave action and "spew out dialogue at will" you are a left-brained writer.

The right-brained writer thinks in pictures rather than language and likely starts his writing developing characters or emotional moments in the story.  He takes a more intuitive approach.  If you fall in love with your characters and love to ponder theme and meaning, you are more right-brain oriented.

Raise your hand if you recognize yourself in one of the descriptions above.  Me! Choose me!  I'm a right-brained writer through and through.  I can't think of a novel or story I've written that didn't start with a character, and because of this I also have a few abandoned stories littering my computer, because I didn't know how to develop action for the character.

It doesn't matter which one you are, but it helps to figure that out from the get-go.  Because just as I've struggled with action in my stories, the left-brained writer will struggle with getting character emotion and detail into her work.  And if you know that going in, you'll know where your weaknesses lie and you can figure out how to correct them.

You'll know that if your left brain tends to be more dominant, you'll need to learn to focus on character, imagery, and emotion.  Conversely, if your right brain rules the roost, you'll have to focus on plot and goal and structure.  (There are ways to do this without freaking yourself out.)

Alderson has an interesting offer on her website.  (I'm in no way affiliated with her, just intrigued by the info she's presenting.)  It's called Writing a Story Takes You on an Epic Journey, and since it is in beta, it is really inexpensive (like $14.99, amazing). 

So that's what I learned this weekend.  Does the concept of left-brain dominant and right-brain dominant writers resonate with you?  Which are you? Do discuss in the comments.

All images are by moi.  I've been using Instagram a lot lately.  Come follow me there, why don't you?

Je Reviens: The Power of Scent

JeReviens1Many, many, many, many, many, many (okay, I'll stop now), years ago in college, my favorite perfume was Je Reviens.  This was a perfume that stopped men in their tracks, causing them to ask me why I smelled so good.  I clearly recall one instance of this when I sat studying in the EMU Fishbowl.*  A frat boy sitting two booths away yelled over to ask the name of the perfume that was distracting him. There was just something about this scent–and maybe the way it reacted to my skin–that enticed people, including me.  

Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure my sister Alice, who was an airline stewardess for TWA back in the days when they were still called stewardesses and TWA still existed, must have brought me bottles of Je Reviens from Paris. I quit wearing perfume for a long time and forgot about Je Reviens. But flash forward a gazillion years, to last summer, when the hub and I were in Paris on our way home from Pezenas.  I decided to try to find a bottle of Je Reviens to take home.  The glitzy–and intimidating–perfume store on the Champs Elysees, which sells every perfume known to man, didn't have it.  And the bored ladies who worked there hadn't heard of it.  I asked everywhere I found a place they sold perfume–at a cute little store at the base of the Sacre-Coeur Cathedral in Montmarte, at a shop in Montparnasse, where we stayed.  But nobody seemed to have heard of it.  (I'm certain my terrible French pronunciation had nothing to do with it.)

Upon my return home, it finally occurred to me to ask my friend Angela about the perfume.  She is a perfume writer, you see (as well as being a wonderful mystery writer).  She immediately told me she had some vintage Je Reviens she'd found in an antique shop and she would decant some for me. (See photo.)  She also explained that the perfume had gone through several incarnations recently and was still available, albeit in a watered-down, drugstore version.  I carried my sample home with reverence and stuck it in my bathroom cabinet to use for special occasions.

I am wearing it today.  I'm not going anywhere special–I'm not going anywhere at all.  I sprayed it on to cheer myself up after the WORST allergy attack that anybody has endured, ever, happened to me yesterday.  And it has done the job.   It brought back all kinds of pleasant memories, as noted above, and it has also made me ponder the power of scent in writing.

Firstly, smells transport us to other times and places.  A whiff of a hawthorne bush, and I'm a little kid again, at my Aunt Betty's house in Hillsborough, California.  The smell of corndogs and I'm at the Rose Festival Fun Center carnival that assembles itself every year along the waterfront here in town.  (They call it CityFair now to try to jazz it up.) The aroma of sage transports me to New Mexico. Inhaling Je Reviens brought back all the memories I wrote about above.  And these are rich veins, people, rich veins.  You could do worse than to line up some smells to use as prompts.  Take a whiff and start writing.

And second, smells can be just as evocative in our writing.  Adding aroma to your descriptions helps to bring it alive–and yet it is probably the least taken-advantage-of sense.  In my just-submitted novel, The Bonne Chance Bakery, my agent challenged me to do a better job of evoking the smell of the protagonist's macaron shop.  Erp.  Here's what I came up with: 

And there was no other word for the smell of it but heavenly—that faint whiff of sugar, like cotton candy at the fair, or an ice cream cone on a hot summer day, the aroma that called to mind the best day of your childhood, or maybe your whole life.

Not holding myself up as the paragon of descriptive writing here, but rather illustrating how I equated smell with emotion rather than try to evoke it exactly. Because, how do you describe smells, other than to use the noun of what they come from–rose, for instance, or grass?  I think that's why writers shy away from using smell in their descriptions.  But I urge you to try.

So, yeah, 700-some words later and I've written a blog post, all inspired by my perfume.  The power of scent, indeed.

*The EMU at the University of Oregon was the scene of the famous food fight in the movie Animal House, and also one of my favorite scenes of all time, when John Belushi says, "I'm a zit."  Just to balance the sweetness of this post, here's the clip:

 

How do you use smell in your writing?