• Michael T. Christensen

What's Inspiring Me Today - Hamilton

When I watch/read/listen to a spectacular piece of art - the level of art that blows you away and makes you say, "Wow, how did they do that, that was incredible," there are two reactions I might have:

1. "I could never make anything that good."

2. "With a lot of hard work, I could make something that good."

In regards to Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda wants you to experience that second reaction. He's made that abundantly clear in his many interviews and notes about the behind-the-scenes process.

Hamilton is a brilliant work of art, but over and over, in so many interviews, Miranda is called a "genius" and quickly dismisses the claims - he says Alexander Hamilton was a genius, but that Miranda is simply someone who worked very hard and put the time in. He doesn't seem to want to be elevated to "genius" status, instead insisting that he's just a hard worker.

The fact that Miranda wears his influences on his sleeve - he's very open about his inspirations, his influences, and his references - is an active attempt to de-mystify the final product. You can buy the deleted songs on iTunes, covered by popular bands (Miranda is also a savvy businessman, as has been proven ever since Hamilton's debut in 2015). He has been clear that writing this musical meant flaking on social engagements ("Wait For It," written on a train after making only a brief appearance at a birthday party), or dedicating an entire year to one song ("My Shot").

The message behind all of this is clear, at least to me: art is hard work.

Hamilton is an exciting story, and one that takes normally mythic characters from American history and pulls many of them off their pedestals (to varying degrees of success) to show them as fallible humans. The diverse cast represents some of the best talent our country has to offer, a fulfillment of the American Dream in action.

It's also a pretty good biopic, because while it covers a lot of ground in Hamilton's life, it doesn't try to fit in everything. It trims the fat and focuses on the story they want to tell, about a man who overcame a lot of adversity, won a seat among the Founding Fathers, and then completely imploded when his pride overwhelmed him.

And yet, in its own way, it's an optimistic story. Sure, Hamilton dies, but the play ends by implying that his legacy will live on forever (even though it was mostly forgotten until the musical came along), and that his contributions made America better, or at least strengthened it in its early days. And I'll be honest, one of the moments that always makes me cry happy-tears is when the chorus croons, "The orphanage..." in the final song, and we learn about the children Eliza sheltered and protected. Gets me every time.

Whether I'm listening to the music, seeing it on stage, or sitting down to watch it on Disney+, the effect is always the same - Hamilton makes me want to write. It makes me want to put in the effort and create something powerful.

That's why I took a clip from "Non-Stop" and made it my "Write Something" alarm on my phone. Specifically, the line: "Why do you write like you're running out of time?"

It's a great thing to wake up to when you know you've got writing to do.

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