The older I get, the more tween I become. Case in point, my favorite things in the world are glitter, lip gloss, and slumber parties. I wish I were kidding. It’s funny because when I was an actual tween, I was a terrible snob. My anti-pop stand was in direct retaliation against the fluffy boy band, Abercrombie & Fitch-clad suburban world that surrounded me. But then I grew up. And life got way too serious. I needed to escape from the sad reality of bills, soul-sucking office jobs, and more bills.
Enter Taylor Swift.
I actually bought her fourth album, Red, at Target because it included six exclusive tracks. Yes, Taylor Swift made me buy my first CD in probably five years. And I absolutely do not regret it. After listening to Red an obscene amount of times, I have come to the following conclusions that will help us all grow as writers:
1. Haters Gonna Hate: Because T. Swift is literally everywhere, everyone is going to have an opinion about her. Lots of tweens—and would-be tweens like me—love her. Even more people, adults and critics specifically, hate her. Full disclosure: I, a full on Taylor Swift champion, sincerely dislike all of Red’s ballads. Short story: no matter how popular, how beloved, or how acclaimed you become as a writer, there will always be someone (or lots of someones) who will hate you, your writing, or both. Deal with it. How? Pull a Taylor: write about your pain and have it rock so hard that you just can’t care.
2. Collaborate: Red’s three catchiest songs—“We Are Never Getting Back Together,” “22,” and “Trouble”—rollick with pop punk sass that would make Avril Lavigne jealous. The secret? Max Martin, the Swedish pop music savant behind “Quit Playing Games With My Heart” and “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” The man has churned out hits for Avril (no surprise), Kelly Clarkson, Justin Bieber, Pink, Katy Perry, and virtually every other pop king or queen around. Taylor wanted to grow beyond her pop country roots so she consciously collaborated with a master in her field. Writers, we must do the same: Read ravenously and insatiably. Read, for heaven’s sake, literary magazines. Send writers you admire (particularly from literary magazines) a brief email. Connect with other writers and artists. The worst that can happen is that your effort will be ignored. So what?
3. Take Risks: Get this, Taylor’s only 22. I don’t know about you, but when I was 22, I was working a full-time unpaid internship and three part-time jobs, all while studying for the GRE so I could apply to grad school. In short, I was miserable, poor, and directionless. Admittedly, Taylor has no vocal range. Yes, she has played it safe in many ways, including having the same predictable curly hair and porcelain makeup for every public event. But she is also insanely ambitious, disciplined, and equipped with business savvy.
Taylor brought her game face to Red and it shows. She cut herself some bangs, straightened her famous locks, and traded in her sweet dresses for glam daisy dukes and tons of sparkles. Girlfriend looks smokin’. Sometimes I get stuck in a writing rut and just churn out the same sad violin essays. But Taylor inspires me to get wild. So poke fun at stuff—especially yourself. Add some glitter. Go all out on something that you’ve been afraid to write. Risk wins. If not today, then eventually. Because risk, paired with discipline, will make your writing stronger, hungrier, better.
*A billion bonus points to whoever can identify the following Taylor reference from recent pop culture: “I just wanted to listen to Taylor Swift alone!“
[NOTE]: Read Amy Lee Scott’s “3 Unimpeachable Truths Friday Night Lights Taught Me About Writing” here.
Amy Lee Scott received an MFA from the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. There, among other things, she learned how to pop corn the right way–in a heavy pot over medium heat. Her essays have recently come out in Bellingham Review and The Gettysburg Review. She and her husband live in Dearborn, Michigan where she is working on a collection of essays about loss, memory and adoption. Her writing and mounting obsession with roadside oddities can be found at: http://clubnarwhal.blogspot.com/.