By Bren Dubay
Do you want to write? Start with your most ambitious writing goal and estimate the number of words you think the project will total once completed.
Now, divide the total number of words by how many words a day you commit to write. Multiply that by three (for additional reading, writing and editing) and then divide it by the total number of days each week you commit to writing. That total equals the number of weeks it will take you to complete the project.
Not good at math? Me neither. Let’s try it again.
Say, you want to write a novella. Novellas are usually between 17,500 and 40,000 words. Let’s go with 30,000.
30,000 / 1,000 = 30 x 3 = 90 / 5 = 18 weeks
If you write 1,000 words a day, allowing additional time for reading, writing and editing by a factor of three and you write five days a week, you can finish a 30,000-word novella in eighteen weeks. Impressive.
This month I participated in one of the Collegeville Institutes’ writing workshops — Writing for Mystic Activists. The simple math above is only a small part of what I learned.
The Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, rooted in Christian tradition, brings together people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to foster the world’s healing through the power of religious ideas, insight, and practices.
The Institute has several programs. Writing for Mystic Activists is just one of its workshop offerings. I wondered about the title. What was meant by “mystic activists?” During the week, I realized it is similar to something we frequently talk about at Koinonia — ours is a life of prayer rooted in the Gospel, in particular, the Sermon on the Mount and out of this rooted life comes what we do. Our actions rise out of a reservoir of prayer. Contemplation and Action. Contemplative and Prophet. Prayer and Work. As one of my fellow writers, Malcolm Himschoot, offered, “Go deep within in order to go powerfully out.” Mystic and Activist.
This talented group of writers brought a variety of voices to the table. Most were working on books or essays, and the work definitely leaned more toward non-fiction than fiction. I felt like a bit of an odd-ball — I brought a stage play to workshop. Given the response of the writers and workshop leaders, I came away glad that I had.
I came to Koinonia with a playwriting background and a deep passion for the art form. But I set it aside — there was much to do at and through Koinonia. Getting one’s plays produced is a full-time job and I had a commitment to the life, service and legacy of Koinonia Farm. I still do.
But this writing workshop and Malcolm’s words brought me to a realization — my going deep is playwriting. It is the way I pray. It is my deepest form of prayer. I need to go deep in order to go more powerfully out. I am no more capable now than before of giving time to getting the plays produced. That isn’t the point. The point is to tap into that reservoir of prayer. Mystic (playwriting). Activist (social justice).
What is your mystic? What takes you deep within? How do you pray? What does your time deep within send you powerfully out to do? Are you to write? Is that your doing? Does the above simple math inspire you? You can change the formula. Maybe you think you can write 300 words a day, not a 1,000. Maybe you know for sure that you can write three days a week, not five. Maybe writing is not your way of going deep at all. What is? Maybe writing is not your powerfully going out. What is? Maybe writing is both your going deep and your going out. Maybe not.
There is much to do — welcome the stranger, visit the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, work for immigration reform, abolish systemic racism, fight for equality … so much to do. Going deep within gives you the strength and stamina to do the doing. It is not possible to pour from an empty cup. Go deep to fill your cup. It gives you life and from a life replenished, you have a better ability to give life to others.
So, I am writing six days a week now. Just a few hours a day. What powerful things does God have in mind? We’ll see.
P.S. Writing for Mystic Activists led to my resurrecting my writing website here. Check it out. There is still lots of work to do on it but I hope you enjoy it anyway.