Last week I went to see two fantastic musicals – Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. Both won the Tony for best musical, and Hamilton won its creator Lin Manuel Miranda the Pulitzer Prize.
At the same time, travelling back and forth to New York City, I was reading two books, both non-fiction, Tanya Talaga’s Seven Fallen Feathers and a book by Colum McCann called Letters to a Young Writer. Colum McCann wrote one of my all-time favourite novels, Let the Great World Spin. He has this way of introducing stories one by one and then bringing them all together in a way you never imagined.
The trip, the fact that I did something I’ve been wanting to do for so long, and the shows I saw, and the stories compiled in Seven Fallen Feathers have led to a lot of tears over the past week. Deep empathy and sadness.
And that combined with my exhaustion from my trip has led to some deep thinking about myself and creation.
All my life I have wanted to be a writer. It’s not just that I’ve wanted it, it’s a need. Through much of my life I have been desperate to write. When my Grade 10 English teacher told me that I had talent I could not have been more thrilled. I was a kid who wrote for the high school newspaper, submitted to the literary magazine.
I blog so that I have a place to write, because writing is the best thing I can do.
And then I encounter works of greatness and I think to myself – what’s the point if I could never write something as pure and beautiful as that?
Years later I can remember how Let the Great World Spin made me feel. Days later just thinking about the songs and characterization in Dear Evan Hansen has me in tears. Hamilton is nothing less than a work of genius. Tanya Talaga has found a way to weave a story so tragic in a way that draws you completely in.
I plug away at my NaNoWriMo project – an idea I’m actually excited about, and also confused about – and wonder how I could possibly ever make anyone feel like that.
All I want is to make one person feel one bit of what these writers have made me feel. To give someone a feeling that lasts, that reminds them of something they’ve experienced. Maybe, just maybe leave someone in awe.
But how can I get there if I’m not practicing writing? I can’t just sit back and expect it to come without working at it. I know this. I’ve known all along. I have to make time for it. I have to or that part of me might flicker out. And I can’t have that.