Mise en place

In one of my other creative lives, I worked at a local cooking school. We focused on presenting classes for the home chef. One of the main skills incorporated into nearly every class was mise en place. If you are not familiar with the concept, it means “everything in it’s place.” In cooking, your mise en place means preparing all your ingredients, gathering all your utensils, and reading through your recipe before you even begin cooking. This organization helps you work more efficiently. It makes sure you are familiar with all the tasks you need to do. It helps you achieve your goal with as little stress as possible.

As writers, we can adopt our own mise en place. This week when you sit down to write, take a few moments to get organized before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Gather your writing utensils. Prepare any research or writing notes before you need them so you’re not interrupting your flow just to find out the average daily rainfall in Lafayette. Sharpen your pencils, fill your fountain pen, charge your laptop battery. Do all those little, busy-work things ahead of time so you can concentrate on writing.

Furthermore, your mise en place can also extend to your thoughts. Yes, I know. I’ve often extolled the virtues of free writing. We can access a new level of creativity when we just let ideas percolate. But free writing in’s necessarily the best way to approach a second, third, or final draft. If you are deep into a project — whether fiction or non-fiction — organization is your friend. Use some brain mise en place and you will find your work will feel more manageable. When you sit down to work, take a few minutes to set your intention for the session. What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to get there? Clarify and you will be more productive.

John Caruso

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