Your Arguments Against NaNoWriMo Are Invalid

A great defense of National Novel Writing Month. Honestly, I know a lot of people either can’t wrap their heads around the idea of it or don’t like it, but NaNo is the one time of year where no matter how busy my life is, I make time to write.

Two years ago, I was working on a psychology thesis experiment, a seminar for my second major, and an overload of courses aside from those two things. Plus work. I was the busiest, most stressed-out undergrad senior you have ever seen. But when November came around, I still tackled NaNo. I made time to write–I wrote in classes, I wrote in the middle of the night, and I wrote (thanks to the “note” app on my phone) while I walked to classes. Even though I was busy beyond belief, it was worth it. I came out on the other side of November with a 75k word mostly-finished first draft of my novel.

NaNo might not be your “thing”, and that’s fine. But for the people who enjoy it? Why not just let us be, instead of all of the “Here’s why NaNo is awful” posts every November?

New York, New Shows, and No New Writing

All right. I have been massively slacking on getting Songstruck’s sequel written. Actually, I was already slacking on that because I’m doing a few things to Songstruck in preparation for getting a new cover commissioned but anyway

But.

I decided to treat myself to a vacation. I headed to New York City for a few days, with the express purpose of seeing Finding Neverland (and it was great, even though I was a tiiiiiny bit irritated that Matthew Morrison happened to be out that day). But there was also another show I was there to see: Hamilton.

Let’s rewind to about a week and a half before my trip. I was all set, ready to basically just screw around in NYC for a few days, see Finding Neverland, and then haul my ass over to New Hampshire to see my sister. I was ready to go, and I keep hearing about some damn musical called Hamilton.

I mean, all of the sudden, I’m seeing stuff about this show everywhere. And my first thought was that a musical about Alexander Hamilton sounded like the stupidest damn thing I had ever heard of. (Sorry, @linmanuel; I didn’t know any better!) I mean, really. A musical about the first Secretary of the Treasury? And I read more about it, and I keep seeing mentions of rap/hip-hop. What? So the music styles in the show are really not my thing, and overall from what I’m seeing, this whole musical is definitely not a thing that should make any damn sense. It shouldn’t work. So I dismissed it out of hand, but there was this niggling sense of curiosity. Because the musical should suck; it just doesn’t make sense for it to not be a trainwreck.

My resolve cracked about a day after I read up on what, exactly, the musical was about. The soundtrack was up on Youtube. I listened to the song “Schuyler Defeated”, which dealt with a character beating out another character’s father-in-law for a senate seat. And it wasn’t bad. I laughed aloud at this exchange:

“No one knows who you are or what you do!”

“They don’t need to know me–they don’t like you.”

I clicked another link, listened to another song. Then another. Then five more. Then I streamed the whole damn soundtrack. By the end of the day, I had made a trip to the store purely to buy an iTunes gift card and I bought the soundtrack.

I have been listening to the soundtrack non-stop since then. Non-stop, you guys. My poor iPod has literally not played any not-Hamilton songs in like two weeks. My poor friends have heard nothing but Hamilton every time they’ve gotten into my car. My poor dog could probably bark along to “Guns and Ships” by now.

Back to my NYC trip planning. I was about to embark on a somewhat-impromptu trip to NYC. And I realized, to my amazement, that I needed to see this show. I needed to see these songs that had–to my complete bafflement–captured my attention play out on a stage. I was reading up on the show. Lyrics were being memorized. I was reciting random bits of trivia about it to people who had no clue what I was talking about and who probably did not care. But I didn’t care, because I had gotten myself really excited about the show’s very existence. Three days before my trip, I was faced with a huge problem.

Hamilton is sold out until like fucking January or something. Seriously. How absolutely ridiculous is that??? The only tickets available are either through the pre-show ticket lottery or Ticketmaster resale (don’t buy resale tickets from other places, guys; Ticketmaster issues a new, verified ticket with a new barcode when you buy a resale ticket. No forgeries or fakes to be found there). I thought, okay. I can try the lottery. Except apparently HUGE numbers of people enter the lottery (which isn’t exclusive to Hamilton; lots of people enter ticket lottos for shows).

The day before I left for my trip, I ended up paying a stupidly high price for a resale ticket instead. I couldn’t risk not seeing the show. My ticket was for the next day, just a few hours after my plane was due to land in NYC. So about a day later, I was standing in front of the Richard Rodgers Theater, apprehensive and clutching my ticket printout (I really wish I had a proper, physical ticket from the show to save, since I collect them, but with the short notice I was stuck printing from home). I was terrified that I would have spent such a ridiculous amount of money on the ticket and then I’d hate the show, or come to my senses halfway through and realize that the musical style and the subject of the show were just a ridiculous mashup that didn’t work. I’d realize that I really did hate all the rap and such in the soundtrack and had just tricked myself into liking it because I’d bought into the hype. I’d end up squirming uncomfortably in my seat trying to resolve the cognitive dissonance that came from spending so much money for a show I didn’t like, and wondering how I could possibly talk about the show when my friends and family asked how it was without making it obvious what a monumental mistake I’d made by buying that ticket. I kicked myself for not just buying the (far cheaper) ticket to see Something Rotten! instead as I walked myself through the list of all the ways I’d realize that seeing Hamilton was a terrible decision.

None of that happened, though. Hamilton had me from the moment the lights in the theater went down. The show totally blew me away, and I walked out of the theater just…stunned. I’m still stunned. I don’t normally stage door for shows, unless there’s an actor I really admire in the show. I had no idea who most of the people in Hamilton were. The only person I recognized was Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, lyricist, and star of the show. I remembered him from some episodes of House and an episode of HIMYM. I was kind of aware of him being involved with some other Broadway shows I hadn’t seen. Under normal circumstances, I never would have stage doored Hamilton. But after the show, I practically ran to the stage door. I had to meet these people, these amazing individuals who decided that the show didn’t sound completely insane and wanted to be a part of it, and then proceeded to make people like me believers, too. Most of the cast came out to sign autographs and talk with fans, and I got some pictures with a lot of them. Most of which won’t get posted here, but here! Have a picture of Lin-Manuel Miranda and I. He tends to take your phone and take a bunch of selfies with you himself, before laughing and moving on to the next person in line. All of the actors who came out were pretty great, and it was one of the more fun stage door experiences I’ve had. (and when they signed my book, quite a few of the actors remarked that it was an excellent book, which makes me wonder if the–again, like 730-page–book is required reading for the cast. :P)

Hell, I even went back to the stage door the next night, after Finding Neverland ended (bonus: Hamilton runs a little longer, so I could get a pretty great spot in line that night). Why? Because even though I got my playbill signed the first night, I had also bought another curious bit of merchandise at Hamilton: a roughly 730-page biography of Alexander Hamilton, which served as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspiration to make that man’s life story into what is probably one of the strangest musical concepts I’ve ever seen. I got that signed, and spent my five-hour bus ride to New Hampshire reading it. And my flight home reading it. And my spare time reading it. So that’s been interfering with my writing, too–too much time reading Chernow and not enough time working on my own material. 😛

Alexander Hamilton’s life was actually pretty damn interesting, you guys. Who would’ve thought? Well, who, aside from the lunatic-cum-genius who decided to turn it into a hit musical?

Of Timelines and Travel

Currently listening to The Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Album

God I love this show’s soundtrack. I mean, really–have you listened to it yet? You probably should. Normally, I would say that rap/hip-hop/R&B are so not my kind of music. But damn. It is an impressive album. Up until a couple of days ago, I barely even knew Hamilton was a show at all. I was vaguely aware that there was a lot of hype around the musical, and that I’d heard that tickets were unbelievably difficult to get. I’m pretty sure I also knew that the music was…a bit unconventional for Broadway.

I took a listen to a couple of the songs on Thursday, and I’ve been obsessed with the show ever since. I streamed the entire soundtrack last night, refusing to go to sleep until I’d listened to the whole album. All 46 tracks. This afternoon, I bought the soundtrack, and I’m listening to it (to “Right Hand Man”, to be specific) right now. Why am I going on about Hamilton? Well, next week, I head to New York for a couple of days. The show I’ve already got a ticket to is Finding Neverland, and I’m so excited to see it. But what else am I going to do? Well, I’ll get in to the city at around 3:30pm or so, and I don’t have a ticket for a show for that night. I’m going to buy a cheaper ticket to Something Rotten, or maybe Aladdin. But that’s not what I’m really hoping to see that night. No. I’m going to hang out outside of the Richard Rodgers Theater to enter the lottery for a ticket to Hamilton. And watch the Ham4Ham show–a little mini-performance of whatever kind Lin-Manuel Miranda and his friends (or other Broadway stars) decide to present–that takes place before the lottery drawing.

And I’ve got a new deadline in place for my writing, but it’s not for the manuscripts I’m working on. Instead, I’m doing some formatting changes to Songstruck in preparation for getting a new cover designed. The deadline? Wednesday night, before my New York trip. If I hit that deadline, I can take my little vacation free from any worry or unfinished business. The cover design would be done sometime at the beginning of December, I think, so my new timeline for the sequel is to have the first draft finished by the end of November, and preliminary edits finished by the end of December so I can start getting other sets of eyes on it.

~Sofia