The internet is a productivity paradox. While it provides a wealth of information that I can utilize to grow my own ideas (fact-checking when writing, color inspiration when designing, or something new and awesome), the internet is also full of addicting distractions that I find incredibly hard to resist. I’m like everyone else: solid content is impossible to resist, whether it’s educational or just plain awesome.
Lately, I’ve found myself on two big (and entirely separate) addictions: Mad Men and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.” These two things alone occupy all my free time and essentially put me in a position to not do anything except consume the creative brilliance of others.
Take Mad Men, for example. I’m always late to the party, and this series is no exception. I just started watching Mad Med earlier this month, when I realized I’ve streamed all I can of my favorite TV show and House of Cards is something Sam and I only watch together.
Sam and I are still in two different cities, so I figured I should watch something I wanted while I have this opportunity. Marketing and advertising are my career, and learning more about the history of my profession in Mad Men (while indulging in the beautiful costume/set design and intricate storylines) has really provided perspective. Not only does it provide a fresh look at what I want to do in my own career path, and the societal progress that allows me to achieve my goals, but it illustrates how boundaries can be pushed in this malleable industry.
Even so, I’m still an outsider from the realm of the show itself. I am merely consuming, not actively participating. It’s uncharacteristic for someone like me—someone who struggles watching anything for more than two hours, let alone sitting still for two hours—to actively decide that I’m going to spend my evening watching a TV show. Most of my evenings involve going out with friends, or exercising, or reading, or volunteering…activities to better my body, mind, and soul.
Watching a TV show rarely feels like I am contributing to my knowledge, but it’s different. Mad Men is complex, demanding, and so arresting in terms of its cinematic qualities that I find myself studying what makes it so captivating. It doesn’t feel like I’m learning, but I am. Though I’m still pushing through season 1 and it’ll be a long time until I finish the series, I’m relieved it’s the kind of thing I can take my time with and enjoy over the next few months (or, more realistically, the next year or two).
“Hamilton” is entirely different beast. I’m not going to pretend like I’m some mega musical theater buff or anything. Even though “Singin’ In The Rain” is my second favorite movie of all time and I sang chorus in a few high school musicals, they aren’t something my life revolves around. It’s an embarrassment, but I don’t think I can name a major original musical written in the last five or ten years.
I came across “Hamilton” during a fluke Google search about America’s Founding Fathers back in August, when writing questions for trivia at a local bar. Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s masterpiece opened on Broadway that same month, and, curious about the hype, I started listening to it on Spotify. It wasn’t long before I starting listening to the soundtrack over and over, and researching the facts surrounding Hamilton’s life. Mostly I just shook my head in awe as another one of Miranda’s brilliantly wordsmithed lyrics unfolded its intricacies, revealing layer upon layer of historical accuracy and modern societal relevance.
Suffice to say, a few months later, I’m a diehard fan. If I’m listening to the album at work, I have to make sure no one’s around when I start tearing up at the end. I sing the songs in the shower. I take the stupid Buzzfeed quizzes. I’ve researched ticket prices and considered traveling all the way to NYC specifically to see the show. If it were anything less amazing than “Hamilton,” it would be pathetic.
On top of that, I’ve started
awkwardly stalking learning more about Lin-Manuel Miranda, and I’m so inspired by his dedication to his craft. I can’t say anything about Miranda or “Hamilton” that hasn’t been said by nearly every reviewer, critic, and musical groupie out there; both are living legends and national treasures, and their hype is real and well deserved. If you think you’re above the fandom, you’re not. Go listen to it and join us already.
I can say, though, that Miranda’s accomplishments make me want more out of my own life. What will my legacy be? How can I leave my mark on the world? I’d love to finish my novel someday, and I want to leave a healthy planet for future generations, and I want to continue inspiring others. All these thoughts are floating around in my mind as I follow the lives of both Alexander Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Therein lies The Creative’s Dilemma. I’m still trying to balance the time I spend taking in the creative genius around me and how much time I dedicate to my own ambitions. It’s hard to convince myself to write when I want to read. It’s hard to paint when I want to study other visual media. I believe inspiration is everywhere and it’s necessary to continue inspiring people, but at a certain point I need to get down to work and capture my own visions and words.
In my heart, I feel that 2016 is going to be a year in which I create, write, and dream more than ever before. I don’t want to lose sight of it by slacking off or wasting time. I’m trying to craft this problem into a useful New Year’s Resolution, but I haven’t quite pinned it down yet. Luckily I’ve still got a few days, and hopefully I can get something hashed out by then. If you have any advice on how you manage creating and consuming, I’d love to hear them!
There’s a million things I haven’t done—just you wait, just you wait…