“Mise en place” is a popular French term that translates to “everything in its place.” It’s a standard and practice that many great chefs live by in order to create their dishes. The major premise is to ensure that all ingredients are prepared and made accessible well in advance so that the flow of cooking is not disrupted. As someone who has a strong love for cooking and baking, I see the value in this approach. Recently, I began to think of how applicable it is to the context of clear and persuasive writing. Mise en place could even be considered as a tip to cure writer’s block. Although I previously wrote a post about writer’s block, the intricacies of mise en place merit a post on its own.
Here are my suggested step by step instructions toward taking a mise en place approach to writing.
Step 1: Construct an outline
Once you have a topic at hand, write a list of all the points and concepts that you want to cover. The contents of this outline do not need to be in order right away. You can arrange the contents after you have written your outline. Feel free to create subheadings to the major headings of your outline. The more detailed it is, the more you will know what you need to research.
Step 2: Write a “to do” list
Due to the fact that your outline is so detailed, you may find you have a lot of research to do. But before you do your research, it is helpful to write a list of the concepts you will be researching in relation to the components of your outline. Break up your list into reasonable chunks of time. Taking this step can prevent you from taking a haphazard approach to your writing. Overall, this list will serve as your guiding compass to keep you on the right track, and dare I say, the write track.
Step 3: Do your research
Collect all the necessary materials to fill in the blanks of your outline. This step will allow you to add more details to those headings and subheadings. In addition, taking this step will make you aware of further research that you may need to do. You may be asking further questions of the information you are collecting. That’s the beauty of doing research, it leads you to ask more questions. It’s also a positive sign that you are passionate about your topic. Just be careful not to stray too far from your topic’s focus, especially if you have a word or page limit. Although this is the most time consuming step of all, the return is well worth the investment.
Step 4: Commit yourself to distraction free writing
Discipline yourself to make your writing time focused only on writing. It sounds simpler than it is, but it’s not. If you usually write at your computer, make sure that you are only there to write. Have your detailed notes handy to prevent yourself from being sucked into the virtual vacuum of Netflix, TED Talks, social media, and all other internet indulgences. Many people write best when they’re in a remote location. If you find that’s the case for you, choose a remote location that works best for you. If you still find yourself distracted or at a loss for words, then you may need to refer back to Step 3 and do more research.
The end result of mise en place is that you will convey your message clearly. It may seem time consuming to put in this extra effort, but it will save you unwarranted stress. All great chefs and home cooks utilize this approach to create harmony between their dish’s preparation phase and execution phase. When it comes to cooking, the ingredients, tools, and time are treated with respect. Similarly, your ideas, information, and time deserve the same type of nurturing so that your intended audience can enjoy reading your organized work.
If you are looking for ways to stay organized while writing, feel free to try this step by step process. Comment below to share your experiences!