The smell… You know that smell of old books? Smells like…a short story.
I’ve always heard it, how you’ll be going about your business, and one day something smacks you across the face, giving you a story to tell where once there was none. Ah, inspiration. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words, had bursts of inspiration regarding stories I was already in the midst of telling, but altogether new stories just don’t bloom that way for me.
I had a minor taste of it last year when my husband, who was fetching a late night snack from the grocery store, accidentally butt-dialed me. At first, all I could hear was NPR — only, I didn’t realize it was NPR. It sounded like my husband was discussing drugs, kidnapping, and smuggling with some woman. A Coen-esque short story bloomed from that, but I’ve never gone further than the outline.
Today, however, I was reading the blog of John Gall, the book designer who led the 30 Covers, 30 Days project for NaNoWriMo, and he had a link to this…
…an artist, Rachael Morrison, whose project is to go through MOMA and smell each and every one of their 300,000 books, cataloging their unique scent.
I LOVE old book smell. I worked at a circa-1970s library as a teenager, and every time someone would return a book from the much older main library downtown, I’d know immediately and snatch it up to hug it and breathe in its musty scent. Aromatherapy for the hopelessly insane.
I also have an odd love for lists and cataloging.
More than that, however, I could see a woman going about this job, ledger in hand, saw the story unfolding. It has nothing at all to do with the real woman, of course, or the MOMA’s library, or anything else. But…ah… It became more difficult not to dive into a story than to put it off. So I wrote my first short story in at least a decade. I’m thrilled! And so grateful to Ms. Morrison and her eccentric art project!
Tell me I’ll have this kind of flash again. Tell me where you find inspiration or the odd places it’s found you, whether for writing or art or any sort of project.