a scribe’s scribblings: a log (5)

… don’t begin until you count the cost. (Luke 14.28 NLT)

DOH! I misguesstimated! [wiping the metaphorical egg off of my face and mopping up the drippings on my keyboard]

While doing some practice writing this morning and reviewing my first “wild guesstimate” of the time it will require me to copy the Bible by hand, I have come to a stunning conclusion: I grossly underestimated the time investment required for this project.

Let’s do the math; I’ll show my work.

First: how many words will I copy? That’s hard to say. The statistics not only vary by translation (and I will be utilizing several translations, not just one), but the statistics I can find of various translations also vary a bit. Go figure.

So, for my original guesstimation, I came up with the figure of 765,000 words. How did I come by that? According to some sources, there are just a bit over 740,000 words to be found in (one edition of) the New International Version of the Bible (NIV). Some say there are just over 780,000 words in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). So, I split the difference (760,000 is mid-way between 740,000 and 780,000) and added just a wee bit for good measure. Thus, 760,000 + 5,000 = 765,000.

Second: how fast will I write? That, too, is a hard figure to come by. There are just so many variables (e.g. – the length and difficulty of words, how I’m feeling on any given day, interruptions, etc.). To experiment, I did some practice writing of some random sentences from the Gospels and Paul’s letters and timed such with a sixty second countdown timer.

Averaging my findings I found that I was writing at about 14 words per minute (wpm). That works out to 840 words per hour. 765,000 words divided by 840 results in just a bit over 910 hours. Rounding down to 900 hours and breaking it up into a period of 3 years, I came up with 300 hours of writing per year … or one hour per day, six days per week, for 50 of the 52 weeks of each year.

Does that sound like sound reasoning?

Well, it isn’t!

First, that figure didn’t have any rest time built into it. I seriously doubt that at the start of this project I can legibly write for an hour straight. After all, I haven’t done that since grad school days!

Second, what of my sample sentences? Were the Gospels and Paul’s letters sufficient examples from which to estimate? Now I don’t think so. So, this morning I did some more writing, but this time from passages that contain many words unfamiliar to me (i.e.- I can’t spell them in my head; I’ll have to sight-write them because they’re foreign to me). And so, samples from across 1 Chronicles 1-9 – dare I say it, the most dry and boring reading in the entire Bible – was this morning’s new proving ground.

And third, what about the most subjective of all variables: the pause given to me by what a text is saying? After all, I certainly do not wish to merely copy words from page to page! The purpose of this effort is to truly think about and feel what is being said while I write, as well as after I write. I had not included very much time at all for that in my first attempt with math. Shame on me.

All of that to say: this morning it appears to me that 9 1/2 wpm is a much more reasonable and doable speed of writing than 14. However, if I write at that rate (570 words per hour; 855 per hour and a half) over the course of 3 years, then I’m no longer at one hour per day with this project, but more like one and a half hours per day (855 words per day x 900 days = 765,000 words.

Bottom line? 90 minutes per day is my guesstimate now, not 60! Instead of an hour in the early morning, more likely an hour in the morning and an additional half hour at night.

It counts to do some counting, twice even, before one begins!