Not a particular sonnet; my aha! moment in Renaissance Lit class was about the idea of the sonnet, the beauty of the sonnet. As a student of English literature, I'd been reading them for six years before this moment of recognition: The sonnet structure was a perfect form for expressing human emotion. Those strict rhyme schemes provided a skeleton to hold up the organs, muscle and blood of our human experience. ABBA-ABBA-CDE-CDE, yes! ABAB-BCBC-CDCD-EE, of course!
Fast-forward to another cold March, 2014 in Richmond, Va. The weather reports called it a wintry mix; I called the weather just plain miserable. Another layer of socks failed to warm my feet, and sunshine was just a memory. I decided to be nice to myself and not try to do anything productive. I would gather a blanket and a cat around me and read, play Scrabble on my Kindle, cruise Facebook, find a Sudoku to solve. An unstructured day to get through it.
My plan didn't work. All those things I wanted to do, I discovered, are best enjoyed when I sneak them into a structured day: a New Yorker article while I procrastinate on some writing research, a quick Scrabble game in between loads of laundry, Sudoku while waiting for the soup to simmer. Even though I love my reading and games, I was still miserable without the framework of my normal list-driven day.
To save the day, I forced myself to do at least one thing that would have been on my list. I bundled up and took a walk. I hated being out in the cold, but it made me feel better to be doing something "normal." Yes, that's only the couplet at the end of my usual sonnet, but even a couplet has rhythm and rhyme. The next day, which was just as crappy weather-wise, I went back to all 14 lines.
In the past I've written about how structure aids creativity: You can't think outside the box if there is no box. What I learned on my sonnet-less day was that structure can also get you through the bad times. Are you overwhelmed by responsibilities, paralyzed by grief, devastated by disaster or even just lethargic because of the weather? Find a rhyme for A. Find a rhyme for B. Pay attention to the rhythm. Write a sonnet.