It is very likely that I will be writing about Hamilton in the near future as well as right now. I’ve been able to listen to little else in the past few days, and I find myself wondering if I died right now, “who would live, who would die, who would tell my story.” It does that to a person.
But we’re talking about Hamilton here because I believe it’s outrageously outside of the bounds of something that should exist creatively. To say that it’s good or creative doesn’t quite cover it, but instead of gushing over it, I’ll tell you one thing you can learn from listening to the Broadway musical about the “ten dollar Founding Father.”
- It isn’t boring.
This sounds like a simple thing, but you’d be surprised at how many intelligent people get bogged down in this. I’m going to repeat this lesson so you can hear it loud and clear: No one cares what you have to say.
No one cares that you have brilliant thoughts on death in literature. No one cares that you know what the letters of cessation for the Confederate states say, or how much research you did on whales for your book. The true crime against art is not being ill-informed, it’s being boring, because art is all about application.
We can put this a different way. When I went to college, my teacher, the venerable Dr. L. Monique Pittman, taught me the art of “So what?” When I handed in my papers that I thought were full of brilliant thoughts, she would ask (more politely, I’m sure), “So what?” What she was asking was, “To what use are you going to put that idea?” People like me – children who were naturally gifted at the art of writing – were used to being praised by teachers in grade school and high school simply because we had thoughts where other students didn’t, or had ideas where they didn’t, but that didn’t pass muster with Dr. Pittman.
“How does this idea change the way we think about this work?” she would ask. “What is the application?”
It was then that I learned that shiny ideas weren’t as important as what you did with them.
Hamilton Knows This
Lin Manuel-Miranda, the creator, writer for music and lyrics, and lead star of Hamilton understands application. Because nobody cares about a story about Alexander Hamilton. He knows that you have to say what you have with pizzazz and fervor, with so much force that someone finds this story applicable to themselves. It has to change someone, or at least be useful to them. Otherwise, it’s just a story about another dead face.
And Hamilton is very much alive.
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Photographer: Caleb Roenigk