Miranda asks himself "What doesn't exist in the world that should?" and then he goes and makes it happen

By Andrea Wurzburger
November 26, 2019 03:26 PM
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In case you haven’t been paying attention, Lin-Manuel Miranda has had a very busy decade. And he isn’t putting the brakes on anytime soon. In addition to the million projects marinating on his Twitter bio, he’s adding Small Business Owner to his ever-growing résumé, as he revealed last week during the American Express Toast to 10 Event, which celebrates the company’s 10th year of Small Business Saturday (coming up Saturday, Nov. 30).

Craig Barritt/Getty

The soon-to-be 40-year-old is partly responsible for saving the New York City theatre district staple, the Drama Book Shop, from closing its doors. Miranda — who still lives where he grew up in the city’s Washington Heights neighborhood — spent hours in the store when he was in high school. The space holds memories of his more formative years, not to mention that he wrote parts of In the Heights in the basement and performed early iterations of Freestyle Love Supreme in its 60-person theatre.

The store, which was founded in 1917, was facing closure as rent prices in Midtown Manhattan rose, so, in an It’s a Wonderful Life-esque twist, Miranda, Hamilton director Thomas Kail, lead producer Jeffrey Seller and James L. Nederlander (president of the Nederlander Organization) swooped in and saved the business.

“We all just wanted the Drama Book Shop to keep existing,” Miranda says plainly. “It was one of those serendipitous moments where the right people to take it on all came together, organically, independently of each other — we have a landlord in Times Square, we have two artists and we have an incredibly savvy and smart producer — we all jumped in and we bought it together. We’ll open in March, one block south at 268 West 39th Street.”

Miranda says that, in the end, being a small business owner isn’t so different from being an artist. The common denominator? “The artistic impulse, and the impulse to start your own business come from the same place. What doesn’t exist in the world that should? No one else is doing it. ‘Oh, I guess we have to do it,’ ”  Miranda explains.

He uses his hit musical as an example: “When I got to the second chapter of Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton, I went on Google and was like, ‘All right, who has written a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton? This idea’s just laying there!’ Then I realized no one had. I said, ‘I better get writing quick because it’s a good idea.’ Even though no one thought it was a good idea until it was done.” 

Andrew Lipovsky/NBC

Miranda is no stranger to seeing a need and then filling it. When PEOPLE sat down with him after his fireside chat, he talked about his influence on Twitter. The social media platform can often be described as a place filled with negativity, but Miranda managed to carve out his own special nook of niceness. Miranda shares sweet videos of his sons, Francisco, nearly 2, and Sebastian, 5, he replies to his fans and — perhaps most notably — he tweets encouragements to his followers for when they wake up and go to sleep. They’re aptly called “g’mornings and g’nights,” and were so popular that they were turned into a book. But Miranda says the shift to making his Twitter feed into the space it has become was “gradual.”

Miranda explains, “I think I had the same Twitter evolution as everyone else, which was started by just kind of talking to people and seeing who’s on here, making friends, snarkily watching something on TV and then going, ‘Oh s—! People can read what I wrote,’ apologizing for whatever mean thing I said, and then realizing pretty much every day you make the decision: I could pile on here or I could just put out what I want to see.”

He continues, “I sort of made a gradual shift on Twitter of just [asking], what is missing from the Twitter feed? What do I feel like I need to hear right now? The g’mornings, g’nights are nothing more than what do I wish someone would f—— say to me right now. It’s no more thinking than that. I really try not to overthink them because I’ve been doing them for many years, but I just try to think, ‘What do I most need to hear?’ I mean variably the more personal I take that advice, the more it resonates with other people and I get a message, and they’re like, are you in my house? You know, but again, it’s just putting in what you think is missing.”

American Express is celebrating its 10th year of Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30, urging card members and shoppers to support their local small businesses while holiday shopping.