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Just Be Yourself

I am absolutely not alone in my love for Lin-Manuel Miranda. I look to him quite often as my inspiration, I read his tweets daily, I ask myself “what would Lin do” whenever I feel stuck. He is a great man and inarguably a huge talent.

So, obviously, when his interview with GQ Magazine hit Facebook, I was quick to open it.

There I sat, ready to admire the photoshoot and revel in the coolness of the Hamilton star over my bowl of tomato soup. And while the pictures were quite stunning (he is really rockin’ the short hair) I also found some wonderful words of wisdom.

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Looking good, Lin.

The progression of the interview went from surface level questions asking about his lifestyle and feelings about fame, to a discussion about his ideologies and how it affects his art. There are a lot of wonderful quotes that I’m considering slapping on a poster for my room, but this one stands out the most to me:

And it’s [fame] gonna go! You know what I mean? I had this conversation with another songwriter. There are people who have a hit that connects with great success, and then they chase that success for the rest of their lives, and that’s their doom. […] And then there are the artists who really stay true to themselves. Doing what inspires them. […] Bowie didn’t release, like, Ziggy Stardust 2. [laughs] He was on to the next incarnation of himself. And that’s being yourself, too. Chasing wherever inspiration goes, even if it’s radically different from the thing that people know you as.
I really believe in that. I am acutely aware of the fact I could spend seven years on a project that opens and closes in a night. That’s the reality of my business. And I’ve had shows that’ve had nice long runs [In the Heights]. I’ve had shows that have closed within six months and moved on [Bring It On]. And so you have to have a reason that can’t be success. Success is the gravy. Success is if everything goes well, wonderful. But you have to have a reason where if it opens and closes in a night, you go, “Well, I learned a lot, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” I think one of my biggest fears is regret. I would hate to spend seven years on something, and you did it for the wrong reasons.

This isn’t new information. As a theatre artist, I’m constantly searching for my truth and I don’t believe in making art for it’s hypothetical success. But today this was a much needed and appreciated reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing. In the wake of violence (re: Chealsea) and huge injustices (re: Terrence Crutcher, most recently) bundled up with the hyper-focus on the election and/or celebrities’ personal lives, I sometimes find myself questioning the point of my art (I know, I’ve already joined the club). I think it’s a fair question to ask: what should me priorities be in the current state of the world?

Lin-Manuel Miranda has helped me with this on more than one occasion.

Be the sheer magic of Hamilton or the inspirational words he seems to crank out in his sleep, Lin-Manuel Miranda has shown me over and over the importance of making art that is personal. To see and respond honestly to the world around me, instead of disassociating and walking in circles about the next Cool Thing I can write. To ask myself questions instead of asking everyone else to match my mindset. To stop trying to be relevant. He says himself, a little later in the interview, that he never meant for Hamilton to be socially relevant. That just happened. That’s just gravy.

So what is this all about? It’s about being myself.

This isn’t new information. I’ve told myself this over and over again. I’ll probably have this crisis again before the semester ends. However, it’s wonderful to be reminded, to have what I already know be reinforced. To see someone I admire so much put words to the thoughts running through my head. To see what I’m learning in school happening in the world right now.

Making art is personal. It needs to be. It begs to be. My inspiration, my creativity, is the best way, the most honest way, to be myself. I can’t think of a better way to live my life.

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