Why You Should Die Every Day

In 2008, he was at the height of his life.

Great wife? Check

Happy? Check

Hit musical on Broadway? Check.

Yet when President Obama called asking him to perform his choice of songs from the show, Lin Manuel Miranda suggested something different.

Long before In The Heights finished its run on stage, Miranda had been enamored by a new idea (isn’t that how it goes for creative people?)

“I want to rap about Alexander Hamilton” he told the commander in chief.

Obama (and probably everyone else) had this response:

“Um… okay. Good luck with that”

Here is the difference between an artist and a businessman:

The businessman experiments to find what works, then milks that success for all it is worth.

Miranda didn’t know if Hamilton would be successful. By a businessman’s standards, it made no sense to perform anything untested before the freaking president of the United States.

Luckily for all of us, Miranda is not a businessman.

He is an artist.

The artist experiments to find what works, then lets it die and moves on. She must display as much detachment to her work in the world as she does emotion to it in her mind.

You make something. You die. You live again in whatever comes next.

The artist is a Phoenix.

If I am looking for validation in the reaction to my work, it’s because I forgot to die. Insecurity comes when I forget to die. Doubt comes when I forget to die. Fear comes when I forget to die.

Life is not found in applause. It is in silence, in the moment where the world melts away, the lights go dim, and nothing else really matters so much.

This is art:

Live. Create. Finish. Die.

There is no other option.


(PS — the Hamilton documentary aired on PBS last week, and it is excellent. Best I can tell, you may be able to watch it here before it’s gone)

— TB