An American Writer’s Legacy

I’m a little late to the party with Hamilton. Fortunately, the party’s still going on so I’ve got time to play catchup. I mean, it’s not even coming to Pittsburgh until 2019! Until then, all I can do is play the soundtrack nonstop. (See what I did there?)

I understand why everyone is so in love with this musical. But I feel a personal attachment to Alexander Hamilton as an American writer. Songs like Eye of The Hurricane and Nonstop just stir my heart.

American writers have a rich and heavy legacy to uphold. Fitzgerald, Nelly Bly, Upton Sinclair. We write in their shadows, trying in our own ways to cause ripples in our societies. While the first call for a writer, at least a fiction writer, is to tell a story, many of us crave something more. We want to make changes, and for many of us, our writing is the way we do that.

And there’s a good reason for this.

We built this country on words. We may have fought a war to gain our freedom, but that wasn’t all of it. We had to convince people that war was worth fighting. Our founding fathers did that with essays and speeches, provoking our men and women to action. Common Sense is still read today, and the Constitution was a work of art. None of our battles would have even happened without them. We wrote our way to freedom. And that’s powerful!

We change this country with words, once we got it started. We wrote essays and stories that gave people the truth of situations that they might have preferred to ignore. We wrote fiction stories that had more truth to them than people realized. We revolutionized the food industry, the mental health industry. We cleaned house sometimes, when we needed to, with our words.

We should remember our heritage, as American writers. We’ve changed minds, changed lives, changed policies! Words have power, don’t ever forget that.

My favorite line from Hamilton is this: “America, you unfinished symphony. You sing for me!” These words, especially weighty after realizing how important his legacy was to Hamilton, rest on my mind. We, American Writers, are his legacy. When you think you’re too tired to write, you remember that. When you’re afraid that you might get backlash for something you’ve written, remember that.

Don’t throw away your shot.

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