Math and Prolific Writers in the 21st Century
The FAQ at the Folger Shakespeare Library, referencing Martin Spevack, claims that Shakespeare’s complete works consist of 884,647 words. Open Source Shakespeare claims that his complete works consist of 884,421 words. Whatever. I’m not going to split hairs over one-twentieth of a percent.
What do you get if you add 1 rabbit + ½ rabbit + ¼ rabbit + … ?
Two rabbits, but that’s just splitting hares.
Those numbers got me thinking. Shakespeare — or whichever “secret author(s)” actually wrote all that stuff — is often considered to be one of the most prolific authors of all time.
Yet here’s my typical annual output over the last 5 years.
|Category||Number||Approximate Word Length|
|Email – Short||500||10|
|Email – Medium||1,500||100|
|Email – Long||50||1,000|
|Math Joke Book||1/5||12,000|
That translates to over 250,000 words a year, which means that I write the equivalent of Shakespeare’s 37 plays and 154 sonnets in about 42 months.
I mean, sure, Shakespeare’s typical lines are something like
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told
whereas a line from my typical email is more like
I’d like to see the storyboard for the Featherless Birds interactive by the end of the week
but I’m not talking about quality here. I’m only referring to quantity.
And in that regard, Will, you got nothing.
Of course, he does deserve props for his occasional reference to math:
There is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance or death.
— The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act V, Scene 1
And whether deliberate or not, he had a penchant for 2 × 7:
So, sure, maybe William Shakespeare was not as prolific as I am. Or, for that matter, as prolific as most 21st century office workers who sit in a cubicle, stare at a screen, and bang on a keyboard all day. But he was pretty cool.
Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.