Hello there, friends!
I’m going to open this post by talking about Hamilton.
For those of you who don’t know, Hamilton is a (fairly) new musical that tells the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton through the use of rap, hip hop, and pop style songs. The musical, with the lyrics, book, and music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton written back in 2003.
I caved one weekend this past December and finally listened to the entire musical soundtrack, and I, like so many other listeners, found myself swimming in a puddle of tears by the end.
Miranda is truly a master in his craft. The story itself is a lovely thing to hear unfold, but beyond that the music is something worth beholding. There is a particular joy in listening to the way he shapes words to create such rhythmically interesting raps: there is a section towards the end of “Cabinet Battle #1”, for example, where Hamilton fires off a string off close rhymes as he debates his financial plan with Congress. There are many other noteworthy moments of rhythmic awesomeness, like George Washington’s raps during “Right Hand Man”, the way stress is played with in the line that “history is happening in Manhattan” found in “The Schuyler Sisters”, and, of course, the way Lafayette rattles off strings of rapid fire syllables in “Guns and Ships”. Coupling these fantastic moments with just as many playful, tongue-in-cheek rhymes and pieces of wordplay (“Should we honor our treaty, King Louie’s head? ‘Uh, do whatever you want, I’m super dead!’“) you find yourself getting immersed in the music and the story quickly and unrelentingly.
I’ve been thinking of Alexander Hamilton a lot these days, not only in the context of the musical, but also as a real person beyond it. As the musical rightfully claims, this dude was insane, man: in particular, his writing skills were off the charts. Even by modern standards, Hamilton wrote in an obsessive manner, putting out a crazy amount of writing in his short life. He is attributed to writing fifty-one of the eighty-nine essays included in the Federalist Papers, among other things. He also dabbled in poetry along with essays as well. It’s been speculated that in his short lifetime, Hamilton wrote twenty-six volumes worth of material. Imagine him writing in modern times with a laptop, or even a typewriter, for that matter. NaNoWriMo would have nothing on this man.
As I think of Hamilton, I think of myself as well. He had so much drive, so much commitment to making sure he wrote as often as he did, and comparing that to my own work ethic as of late makes me feel like I’ve failed in some sort of way. I understand that I am a student and I have a lot of work going on right now, but at the same time, there are people like Hamilton who are adults and writing at a faster pace than I am.
I’m in a slump. I’m uninspired, burning myself out on this spy novel of mine, and feeling like a failure all the while because I feel like everything I put on paper is trash. I’ve been stressed about college, about my personal life, about school, about everything. There is a wall I have hit over and over again yet I still keep throwing myself against it as though I expect this to be the blow to make a crack, that to be the one to knock it over.
It is unfair, I realize, to compare myself to a dead politician who established the national bank, but at the same time this dead politician seemed to understand something that I do not about the art wall and writer’s block. He did not seem to have a problem with his words. As he said in the musical, he “picked up a pen and wrote [his] way out”.
Perhaps that is what I need to remind myself. That despite adversary, I must continue on. I think I might have to step away from this project for a while and work with something else, but that is fine. And I hope I can have the conversations I need to over the next few days in order for me to realize that everyone else is fine with it too.
I must keep in mind the things I have on the horizon as far as Haywood Micaye is concerned. I must keep in mind that I still have time and that there is no need to pressure myself so harshly.
Until next time,