We studied Hamilton — The Revolution, the musical, the fantastic, the snappy history lesson — in our creative writing course. When I checked out the original cast recording from the university’s music library the clerk behind the desk warned, “These tunes will stick in your head,” and stick they did, not only in my head, but in the head of my 12-year-old middle schooler who listened relentlessly, applauding his ability to openly listen to songs with curse words in the presence of his mother.
I reluctantly admit that Aaron Burr’s signature song, “Wait for It,” has been a mantra for much of my writer’s life. Write the manuscript, send it out, wait for it to be a) accepted enthusiastically, 2) rewarded with a complimentary paragraph about my writing style before issuing the “it’s not quite right for our …” 3) unacknowledged. I wait for it while continuing my day job, pursing a writing course and raising a child.
Unlike Burr in personality and mantra, Hamilton’s signature, “I’m not going to miss my shot,” stirs me back to a manuscript that I’ve been writing, revising, ignoring, entering, submitting for upwards of a decade. There’s been more wait for it than attention to not missing my shot in my recent (post MFA) writing life. My shot, to be practical, won’t happen if I wait for it, whatever it may be.
I’m not the first writer who asked the question, “What should I do with a manuscript that wants a life beyond my computer screen?” when I’ve spent so much time waiting for it to… ?
Top Three options:
- Workshop it (again)
- Discuss with my professor
- Give it 5 uninterrupted minutes in a tree
- Workshoppers: too many characters
- Professor: streamline to find the actual moment where change happens and grow from there
- Tree: wait for it, but not in stillness
I’m returning to the manuscript taking the suggestions of all three. “If you love this woman,” says Hamilton to Burr, “go and get her.”
If I love these characters and want them to have a life, I must take action. And like the weeping beech tree, I must be in motion, in the process of growth even as it appears that I am simply waiting for it.