Here’s some of the things that I am personally taking away from listening to this iconic–and polarizing–album.

You left your typewriter at my apartment
Straight from the tortured poets department
I think some things I never say
Like, “Who uses typewriters anyway?”

Taylor Swift, “Tortured Poets Department”

The power of vulnerability

The intimacy of these songs slams you over the head. It really is tortured, and it’s not always pretty. But for many, many listeners, the visceral emotion of it is powerful. And relatable.

“I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” is a surprising example of this. I’ve heard of lots of people resonating with these lyrics:

‘Cause I’m a real tough kid, I can handle my shit
They said, “Babe, you gotta fake it ’til you make it” and I did
Lights, camera, bitch smile, even when you wanna die
He said he’d love me all his life

– Taylor Swift, “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”

With vulnerability comes criticism and backlash.

Swift is both hated and adored. Literally her entire life has been spent in the public eye, with both her art and her private life being criticized, especially as she writes about her private life and blurs the lines.

Some of that criticism is valid. Some of it is unfair, misogynistic even. When thinking about what we can take away from this as creators, we can see how inevitable it is. How her popularity almost causes the criticism in equal measures.

But are they in the ring? Watch this video, if the reference isn’t ringing a bell.

Two tactics for repairing your brain if you’ve accidentally seared it with criticism while unprepared.

  • Think about your why. Why do you create art? What do you hope it will change in the world? Okay, remember that. Is it important to you? Enough to be criticized for it?
  • Go find your favorite book, or even just a great recent book you read. Read the one-star reviews. You’ll see, it helps. Sometimes the reviews are unfair. Sometimes what people didn’t like is actually what you liked about it.

Striking a balance between something new and what folks are there for

It’s always a balance in new work to create something that both feels a little fresh but also feels like “you.” Something that gives readers/listeners what they’re there for, but also feels exciting and creative. And not stale. I think this is totally a balance I still struggle with as an author. Especially since I have hopped around genres a bit.

“But Daddy I Love Him” is a great example of a song that feels like a daughter of “Love Story” or “Mine,” but with an older, less-frags-given attitude. “Who’s Afraid Of Little Old Me?” calls back to many songs on Reputation.

You wouldn’t last an hour in the asylum where they raised me.
You caged me and then you called me crazy.
I am what I am cause you trained me.

– Taylor Swift, “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?”

Homophones. They matter.

A fortnight is an entirely different thing than the video game Fortnite. I like both the single and the game, but some internet news publications may need to brush up on the difference.

And for a fortnight there, we were forever

– Taylor Swift, “Fortnight”

No matter the format, we love drama.

Such drama, so spicy. What is it like to be a pop star? Break ups and shakes ups. Interest and intensity. It’s fun to listen to, and for some of us, it’s also fun to go back to our boring life that has none of the stress of all those things.

And for others, it’s really nice to know we’re not alone in relationships being neither simple nor easy.

That’s why we read books, too, is for that excitement, adventure, wonder, joy, relaxation, fear, or so many other feelings that we aren’t necessarily experiencing in ordinary life.

So if you’re feeling bored with your book you’re writing, maybe it’s time for a rocky relationship. It doesn’t have to derail everything. It could even be over in a fortnight.

In totally unrelated news, I now am in the market for a typewriter.

What did you learn from the album? Did you listen? If you’re a reader, what do you think authors could take away?

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