I want to be fantastic.
It is unlikely that I will ever reach the breathtaking levels that Shakespeare, Twain, Dickens, Fitzgerald and Hemingway occupy. It is unlikely that I’ll even reach the levels in which J.K. Rowling and John Green exist. Heck, it’s even unlikely that I’ll reach the levels of some of the writers on this blog. But, I want to be fantastic. For that, I will continue trying.
I recently wrote a Shakespearean sonnet. It took me three hours and in the end, I had an exhausted brain and a simple 106 words to show for it. Each and every syllable earned its way into my sonnet through a competitive process. It had to say what I wanted it to; it had to fit in the ten-syllable line; it had to have the correct meter; it had to work with the rhyme scheme. The right word began to feel like Cinderella’s slipper—somehow, the fates aligned, and it fit.
This meticulous writing process led me to a similarly scrupulous thought process. Shakespeare wrote one hundred and fifty-four sonnets. And while I know that he was much better at the process than I am, I’m also sure that he put even more thought into his syllables than I do. Each and every syllable of each and every sonnet was hand picked and carefully examined by Shakespeare himself. And every single syllable contributes to the cohesive beauty of those fourteen lines.
Every poem, short story and novel that I love so much is a meticulous Jenga structure designed by an architect of the written word. Every word in these wonderful classics is important and carefully chosen. Every sentence is precisely constructed to convey exactly the right feeling and meaning.
Realizing just how high these levels of fantastic are can be overwhelming. Shakespeare wrote 884,647 words. That’s 8,346 times how many I wrote in my sonnet. At a consistent rate, that would take me 25,037 hours. 1,043 days. 149 weeks. That’s almost three entire years. How can I ever hope to be as adept and beguiling at stringing together letters as someone who wrote almost 900,000 beautiful words?
But at the same time, the idea of looking at words as individual entities makes the process a little less intimidating. If I just find one right word at a time, eventually I will have a right sentence. From there, I will be able to grow. This autonomous nature of words provides me with achievable milestones; instead of challenging myself to write 300 good words, I only need to write one. And then, another.