By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine
When writing on a certain subject or activity, how important is it to have experienced the activity yourself? Can you simply fake it—that you know what you’re talking about it or at least make people think you do?
I think you’ll agree you can certainly Google a subject or activity and watch enough You Tube videos to learn to write intelligently about what you need to describe. However, if you can experience whatever it is you’re writing about, I do believe you can be more creative on the page.
So here’s where I use fish emulsion for an example. As a gardener, I want to feed my flowers and veggies with the best plant food that will boost them into incredible blooms and produce. And I see fish emulsion advertised and reason that if the Native American Indians showed the pilgrims how to plant crops by putting a dead fish in a hole as fertilizer before planting—and I don’t fish much anymore so don’t have fish for planting—fish emulsion has to be the next best thing. So I order some. And I’m amazed at how much plastic is taped around the container.
I suppose, under no circumstances does the shipper want that emulsion leaking through the wrapper while being shipped. Hmmmm. This does not bode well. All of that extra wrapping is sending out subliminal messages that perhaps I don’t really want to deal with fish emulsion for some reason. Perhaps a stinky reason? How awful could it be? I shelve that thought for awhile along with the fish emulsion.
Then, I experience an inevitable rabbit infestation. Deer and rabbit repellent spray are useless when it comes to keeping rabbit hordes at bay. Nor does clapping my hands to try and scare them off. Nor does taking hair from my brush and wrapping some around tender plants scare them off with my scent when I’m not around. And I don’t have a dog or cat to use their hair to frighten the rabbits with predator presence.
But, oh, look at this article! Red Fox urine should do the trick! So I read the reviews and are they ever hilarious—everyone talking about the horrid stench and how the Amazon delivery guys must hate them now…so, no fox urine for me.
Now, my thoughts wander back to the fish emulsion luring me to the shelf in my garage. Does it ruin—is there an expiration date? Perhaps I need to stop worrying about rabbit damage, throw some fish emulsion around the plants and pray they grow so fast the rabbits can’t keep up with their growth and the roses and petunias somehow survive.
However, retrieving the fish emulsion and returning to the kitchen, I open the container to put a couple of tablespoons of the liquid into a watering can to then dilute with water. And I realize—big huge mistake. What was I thinking? After opening that nose bomb and spilling some on the counter top, and my gag reflex going ballistic as I try to wipe up the mess with paper towels, I need to either lose my cookies or need a face mask to breathe.
Rushing outside, I promise myself to never open that fish emulsion container in the house again. My clothes reek with the stuff clinging to me like a putrid cloud and of course I hadn’t thought to wear gloves. No matter how many times I wash my hands, every time my face itches and I scratch the place, I smell rotten fish. Blech!
And that example, my writer friends, is why there are just some things you need to experience for yourself if you’re going to write about it; helps me anyway. No You Tube video can relay such an experience when it comes to the sense of smell. I had to breathe that foul odoriferous dark ooze to write about it to help get my personal experience down on paper.
Hopefully the smell from my watering can will tone down. In this century. And only if I get desperate will I ever order fox urine. But you know, experimenting with fox urine could be another interesting writing exercise. I if only I were that adventuresome.