What Hamilton can Teach Us as Writers

hamilton2Hamilton. It’s the thing. Like, it reminds me of the old SNL commercial where the hypnotist got done with people and they said his show was “better than Cats. I’d see it again and again” in a monotone voice.

But seriously, the music to the show is amazing. After hearing a few people rave about it, I checked it out and have enjoyed it. There is a ton of music, and I admit I haven’t seen the actual musical yet. But there is something Hamilton can teach us as writers.

When talking with people about Hamilton, they’ve asked me to explain the music. What’s so good about it? I say it is unique. You have to hear it.

Oh, I could go into details. It is epic and storytelling and gospel and hip hop and clever rhymes about the life of a man and the American Revolution. But for the sake of this post, let’s keep it at this:

It is unique. You have to hear it.

When we create something, its uniqueness is greater than the sum of its parts. We will steal. It is part of the process. There are different genres and approaches and voices, and while none of those individually may be nothing new, how we combine and develop each of the parts of our creation is what will make it unique. How we do it in your individual way, creating something that hasn’t been done before, that is what we do to make it unique. And when we do it well, we get the desired result.

It is unique. You have to hear/watch/read it.

In other words, I could explain what it is like, but the whole of it isn’t like anything else.

That is what Hamilton has done. And what we, as writers and creators, must strive for. There will be haters. There will be copycats. What is the last Broadway musical that has caught the attention of the world like this? It will change the course of Broadway musicals. There will be hacks who try to repeat the success through copying what they think it was, usually driven by producers who are ready to make tons of money. Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. But they won’t be paying attention to what the true success was.

Here’s what we should copy – create something that hasn’t been done like that before. That is a broad directive, but it should be. How we combine aspects and genres and messages and themes is an individual journey. And we may fail, but let us fail trying to accomplish that.

It is unique. You have to check it out.


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