KR BlogBlog

Write Day and Night Like You’re Running Out of Time

In one of my blog posts, I referenced a dream in which I was attending a residency in a stately mansion on a hill. That dream became reality recently when I packed up and drove out of Ohio, across a slice of Pennsylvania, and on through most of New York to reach Saratoga Springs, where I’d be in residence at Yaddo.

Saratoga Springs is about an eight-hour drive from my home in Cleveland. I left before dawn after a night of thin sleep, relying on coffee and upbeat music to stay alert. During the latter part of the trip, I listened to the Hamilton cast album, which has become something of a tradition for me: in 2016, I also listened to Hamilton while driving across New York state for a residency (that time, my destination was the Omi International Arts Center). Hamilton apparently helps me endure the final hours of a long drive.

Or maybe it’s more than that. In so many ways, Alexander Hamilton’s story is about writing. Hamilton writes his way out of the West Indies, writes his way into George Washington’s confidence, writes a framework for a new nation. When it comes to the act of writing, he is relentless. It would be impossible to not identify with that, especially as I’m heading to an institution where I’m provided the time and space to write.

There’s about a 20-second span of “Non-Stop” that I’m particularly drawn to. It’s a climactic moment when the full cast invokes Hamilton’s voracious writing habit, and it plays like background music to my own work ethic and aspirations. (You can find it around the 4:40 mark.)

Hamilton is asked, “How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive?” while I contemplate the sense of urgency that drives every working artist. Hamilton is asked, “How do you write like you need it to survive?” as I move toward a place that will shelter and feed me for weeks to support my writing. And Hamilton is asked, “How do you write every second you’re alive?” as I think of the enormity of this gift, how astounding it is that artist colonies exist in the first place, and how the best way to honor this experience is to make full use of it.

The only way I know to do that is to simply write.  Maybe I won’t write every second I’m alive, but I’ll write enough to pay back the trust that has been placed in me, to acknowledge and respect all that I’ve so generously been offered.

I’ll write as if I only have this place: the snow in the pines, the meals taken in the mansion, the path between lakes named after our dead benefactors.

I’ll forgo delay and doubt and instead just write today, in the now.

As if tomorrow won’t arrive.