Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Cooking Chicken Can Teach You About Writing Well

I have a surprising amount of experience with chicken.

I’ve eaten bad chicken, I’ve crunched on chicken, and I’ve even been a chicken from time to time.

Ok, that was a terrible pun. But here’s my point:

All these experiences with chicken have taught me a thing or two about writing better, surprisingly enough, and I want to share these insights with you.

Writing is an absolutely crucial skill to have in today’s world. Whether it be important emails, papers, or office memos, you can’t get by without knowing how to write well.

Here are a few things that cooking chicken can teach you about that:

When It’s Raw, It’s Not Good

Lesson number 1: don’t eat the chicken before you cook it.

In writing, raw chicken is analogous to your first draft. It’s brand new, shining, and it appears to be flawless.

Don’t be fooled. Raw chicken looks great, too, to those who don’t know any better.

Plunk out your rough draft, then edit and edit and edit again. Have a friend or family member read it and give you feedback. You might be surprised at some of the mistakes you catch.

Trim Off the Fat

Have you ever been chewing on a delightful piece of savory meat and had to spit it out because you discovered a huge chunk of fat?

This can happen in writing, too, believe it or not.

Just like the chef must slice off those sections of white glop, the writer must press delete on fluff words.

On your early drafts, you’re still trying to find your voice and your main message, so you will probably tend to wander quite a bit in your writing. Before any piece is complete, it’s necessary to read it over and cut down your word count. It’s painful to get rid of those words that came from your heart, but it will make your writing and your message stronger.

Cook it Your Own Way

If you’ve ever typed into Google “chicken recipes”, you know that you get millions of results. There are that many ways to prepare chicken! You can fry it, bake it, grill it, and any number of dressings and additions can be tossed in for flavor.

The same is true for your writing, too, and I’m talking about your writing voice. There are many different voices you can adopt, and your tone will change depending on the writing you’re doing.

Serious, argumentative, light, humorous… the possibilities are endless! Look at what type of writing you’re doing, and adjust accordingly. Practice in your style of voice, and make it your own! Like a plain boiled chicken is bland, writing is dull without a unique and intriguing voice.

Let It Simmer

Chicken takes time to bake, and you can’t rush the process. You turn up the heat on the oven, fire up the grill, or get your frying pan going, and then you’ve got to wait. Cook it too fast, and you’ve got a burnt chicken skin with raw insides.

Likewise, your writing needs some time before it’s truly complete. Pump out that first draft, and then walk away. Let your writing be for a little while. It’s impossible to write a piece, read over it once, and call it good. You just won’t get excellent work unless you give your brain a break before coming back to edit.

Dress It Up

Once your chicken comes out of the oven, what do you do with it? Do you throw it on the plate or drop it on the floor? No! You prepare a nice bed of spinach for your culinary masterpiece, drizzle a creamy sauce over the top, and sprinkle a smattering of cheese and spices to finish it off. Without these extra trimmings, your chicken is a boring dish, no matter how well prepared.

Once you’ve written your piece, edited, waited, and edited again, it’s time to make it look good. Give it a snazzy title or an interesting picture to go along with it. Make your work stand out, or, no matter how mind-blowing and well written the content, it won’t be noticed.

Don’t Be a Chicken

Squash your inner chicken and be bold and creative with your writing! Work in these tips to stand out and get your work noticed. Implementing the above cooking lessons can help you write well, no matter what it is you’re working on.


  1. Enjoyed this post!
    My favorite is trim the fat. That's an important one when trying to get your message heard. I've been leaning towards shorter posts myself, and that actually requires more time.. delivering the same message more concisely.

  2. Thanks, madebydenise! I'm glad that you liked it :) I had fun with this one. I completely agree with you, too. It's surprising the amount of work that goes into cutting down the word count on a piece. Good for you for working at it! I am, too.