Benedictine monks have as their motto three simple words, "Ora et Labora," (Work and Pray). What I love about this motto is in part that it's so balanced--that the monks feel they are equally called to something so practical as work and something that seems so useless in the eyes of the world as prayer.
But I also love this motto because it joins these two seemingly opposed concepts together. When the monks undertake these tasks as part of their day, prayer becomes a kind of regular discipline that brings it closer to work. And as Kathleen Norris pointed out in her talk on acedia at this spring's Festival of Faith and Writing, a monk is able to combat encroaching unbelief by seeing every act of work--whether big or small--as a form of prayer.
I mention this not only because I seek this kind of balance in my own life between work and prayer (though I do), but also because I see a need for similar kinds of focused balance in my writing life--for one, a balance between having time to work on the projects I already have going and the need to keep the channels to new writings open.
I'll take a cue from the Benedictines by making time for both things: scheduling some times specifically meant to generate new ideas that feed my writing life and other times, even if they're limited at times, specifically meant to work out ideas into final forms. When I'm healthy and stick to this, I'll hopefully be able to see pretty much everything in my life as potentially useful for my writing--i.e., as work--but that pretty much everything can also contribute to the creation of new ideas as well.
There may be seasons when I focus more on one of these tasks than the other, but seeing them as connected and overlapping processes will hopefully help me to be able to sprinkle a bit of both throughout, no matter what the season may be.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Ora et Labora: Lessons from the Benedictines (part 1)
I'm a writer, an incurable reader, a narrative theorist, a media researcher, a scholar/author/writer/consultant, a PK, and the Queen of Soup Making. I write a lot, and I've taught a wide range of topics in universities. Along my journey I've picked up a PhD in Communication from Purdue and 2 degrees in English. I've been turning my ideas about communication as author-audience relationships into a communication paradigm that can be applied to a wide range of situations. I'm also writing a historical mystery series. I'm a member of Sisters in Crime, and the co-chair of the Mystery and Detective Fiction Caucus of the Popular Culture Association. My MA thesis focused on connections between T. S. Eliot and Thoreau, who each wondered about how to remain still and still moving. Before I went to grad school, I spent 7 years working for a division of HarperCollins Publishers.