Writerly Roundup–May 2016
Our Writerly Roundup blog series features a curated collection of articles on the craft of writing and the creative life that we don’t want you to miss.
Eight Writing Lessons from Hamilton, The Revolution, Rob Hart (@robwhart), Lit Hub
A few weeks ago, I was the lucky person sitting in the very back row of the Richard Rodgers Theatre, my jaw dropping, wondering how Lin-Manuel Miranda created the magic that is Hamilton. In this piece, Hart echoes my thoughts when he writes,
The show can be taken in a lot of ways, thanks to the historical and racial contexts. To an artist, it comes off as a challenge. So different, so audacious, you have no choice but to step up your game.
That’s how I felt when I saw it. It was the best kind of artistic experience I can hope for: One that makes me jealous and inspires me to work harder.
This is indeed how I felt. I didn’t pick up a pen for days after seeing the show. I couldn’t stop thinking about the mind that had put history to rap. Hart touches on the practical things he learned from the book Hamilton: The Revolution, the struggles to bring to paper the inner workings of Miranda’s mind. He touches on the importance of cadence and editing and yes, the fact that writing is hard work. Perhaps even for Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Finding Truth in Technology, Sejal H. Patel, Creative Nonfiction
Patel opens her piece with a question that rests on all modern writers’ minds:
Here is a question for our times: can memory represent truth when technology can reveal far more than we might remember?
Patel interviews five writers for this piece, asking them each to examine the role of technology in their writing. Some days I think that the Internet, with all its distractions, has robbed us all of our creativity. In fact though, the authors in this piece highlight the ways technology has brought their writing to life. It’s hard to argue with the power of a middle school website that brought back images and memories long gone or Google Maps that carried a writer on a leisurely stroll through their childhood neighborhood thousands of miles away.
In these ways and more, Patel and the authors she has interviewed remind us to embrace the changes that technology has brought to our creative lives.
Mary Poppins and the Art of Sweetening with Scene, Joe Oestreich (@HitlessWonder), Brevity
My apologies in advance if you spend the rest of the day singing Mary Poppins lyrics. That seemed to be a side effect of considering Oestreich’s thesis in this piece. He writes,
I bring up the well-umbrella’d nanny not to undermine the act of thinking on the page, but instead to emphasize its importance. Our ideas aren’t the dessert; they’re the medicine that must go down. The bits of scene, the characters, the action that we attach our ideas to—or maybe I should say chase our ideas with—amount to the sugar. But note that Poppins doesn’t call for the whole bowl. Just a spoonful. Ground our readers in place, set up an expectation of temporality and causality, and then we are free to deliver the medicine of analysis in, well, a most delightful way.
As a reader I was drawn to this idea. During this time of year, when a mother’s mind is distracted by teacher gifts and camp registration, I want a bit more sugar in the things I read. When my mind is less full, I do look more for the thoughts, for the medicine, but do I want an essay or a book full of only those things? No. I still appreciate a spoonful of sweetness on the side.
Susan Sontag on Storytelling, Maria Popova (@brainpicker), Brain Pickings
I could spend hours reading Popova’s thoughts at Brain Pickings. And by reading, I also mean agonizing over how she can be so prolific and so thoughtful. But I digress. This piece particularly caught my eye when I read the following quote of Sontag’s:
I’m often asked if there is something I think writers ought to do, and recently in an interview I heard myself say: Several things. Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.
I realize it so often comes back to just this. I write and write again and then read all I can about how to write. And really it is just this. To pay attention and then write about it.
Have you read a compelling article about craft or the creative life that you think should appear in the next Writerly Roundup? Please send links to lmblogcontact (at) literarymama (dot) com—we’d love to hear your input!