Three Writing Lessons I Learned from Hamilton the Musical

Let's be real here: I want to be in the room where it happens. AKA I need to get myself a ticket to Hamilton, so if you in some way have a connection, I'm willing to write a whole book in your honor.

That's on record now. You read it here first.

If you're thinking to yourself what is Hamilton, then I give you permission to slap yourself in the face with a wet noodle. Now that we've gotten that over with, here's your synopsis: Hamilton is the greatest musical created in my lifetime by Lin Manuel Miranda: genius, actor, writer, composer, you name it.

Want writing tips? Love Hamilton the musical? This post is for you! Here are three writing lessons I learned from the famous musical. | Jenny Bravo Books
photo from unsplash

First, a bit of background

In high school, I took a trip to New York with my family and had the great fortune to see his first musical, In the Heights. I'd been memorizing the soundtrack for months and I remember thinking, "Rap on Broadway? Wow." It is life-changing and innovative and culturally important.

Now with Hamilton, I could write 1,000 essays on the significance of this show to our nation's history. First of all, it's literally about history. Add in the fact that it's a beautifully, thoughtfully written hip-hopera that features a diverse cast, and you're about to have your world rocked.

As a writer myself, I'm floored by this musical. When I hear Phillipa Soo's voice singing the line, "You made my palaces out of paragraphs," I feel my hand start itching for the pen, ready to make words happen.

So today, I'm ready to tackle the specific lessons I learned from Hamilton, in both writing and in life.

Write like you're running out of time

A running theme through this novel is the idea that Hamilton is "writing like [he's] running out of time." Naturally, as a writer, this strikes a chord with me. I never want to be the kind of writer that claims the title without backing it up with the work.

Hamilton writes 51 of the Federalist Papers. He wakes up; he writes. There's an internal drive inside of Hamilton that makes him want to leave a legacy. That makes him want his name known.

Ironically, Hamilton's story was hardly ever told until now. Personally, I don't concern myself very much with legacy. The idea of being remembered is dreamy and attractive, and sure, I'd love for my novels to be preserved in the Smithsonian after I die, but come on. That's not the goal here. 

Side note: I'm not sure why I picked the Smithsonian. I think I'd really like them preserved in Belle's fictional library. Who can I speak with at Disney about this?

Legacy aside, I value hard work and creativity. I value the idea of writing like I'm running out of time. That's why I have a full-time job and am writing a second novel. Oh, and a possible, totally unrelated coffee addiction.

I'm willing to wait for it

Lin Manuel Miranda is admittedly a mixture of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, but when you look at the creation time of Hamilton the Muscial, Aaron Burr-ness comes to mind. This musical took six years to become a reality. Not only that, but people thought he was crazy for making this content.

Sound familiar? How many artists have a story similar to that? Everyone thought I was nuts... It's a pretty common theme. But let's get deeper than that.

The lesson I take away from this story is that I'm willing to wait for it (to quote Aaron Burr). I'm willing to put in the work, but I'm also willing to give that work the time it needs to be the best it can be. I'm not going to settle for mediocre writing.

I'm not going to throw words at a wall and pray that people don't scrutinize it. I'm going to create art that makes me proud to put my name on it.

There are benefits to waiting, as there are benefits to acting. In my life, I don't think I necessarily want to be a Hamilton or a Burr. I want to fall somewhere on the spectrum in between the two. (Although, honestly, I tend to fall closer to the Hamilton side.)

In terms of writing, I don't want to wait. I want to get started now. I want to write terrible first drafts and edit like crazy. I want to observe life around me, and have that life reflect in my art.

*steps off soapbox*

I'm not throwin' away my shot

To completely contradict myself and err on the side of cliche, we only have right now. This moment. This second. It's so easy to say, "I'll do it tomorrow." But that tomorrow isn't promised. 

Hamilton's power song, My Shot, talks about his dedication to his dream. My favorite line? "I'm past patiently waitin'. I'm passionately smashin' every expectation. Every action's an act of creation!" 

I believe we get multiple chances. I also believe that the more we say yes, the more chances come our way. So, I want to smash every expectation. I want to create with every action, with every moment. 

Are you a Hamilton fan? What are your big takeaways from the show? (Aside from, well, everything.) See you in the comments!