My Introduction to Creative Writing Class Made Me Appreciate Taylor Swift More

I can still remember when I got my first Taylor Swift CD; it was shortly after my birthday in 2008 when my mom and I sat on the couch together and she helped me order it on Amazon using my birthday money. Honestly, the rest was history. I’ve loved Taylor Swift ever since. I’ve always loved her so much because she’s always been able to write exactly how I feel, and that is mysterious and comforting to me at the same time. She feels like a big sister that I can always go to for anything that I may need, from advice to a good cry to a dance break, and her music has always felt like home for me.

It’s 2019 now; I’ve been a fan of Taylor Swift for 11 years, through elementary school, middle school, high school, and the start of my college career. She’s always been there for me. This past semester, I took an introductory level creative writing course as an elective, and one of the things that my professor stressed was specificity. She said that through the use of specific details, you can show meaning rather than tell it, and often these specific details will create more emotion than painstakingly describing a person, emotion, or scene. As the semester wore on, I began to notice why Taylor Swift was able to move me to tears or laughter, to highs and lows alike; she gets so extremely specific in the things that she shares, and these details connect the audience to her. They feel like a part of her life.

One song in particular comes to mind to exemplify this, and that’s “All Too Well,” which appears on her fourth album, Red. “All Too Well” is a fan favorite because of how simply stunning it is. This song moves me to tears almost every time I hear it, and after taking this class I just couldn’t ignore the visceral reaction I was having listening to her experiences. She sings about the lost love’s mother showing her a photo album, a fall day in upstate New York, the scarf that she left behind, the kitchen lit up by the refrigerator light, and his plaid shirts, among other things. All of these are things that I have absolutely no experience with, but she utilizes some brilliant figurative language in the bridge of the song to bridge the gap between herself and the listeners. Her intense nostalgia combined with the deep sadness that these specific memories create is such a powerful thing to experience, and it’s even more powerful when you feel like you’re a part of these memories with her.

While these specific details create emotion and meaning, because this is a song and not just a poem, the music and production also plays a role in creating meaning. The production is very minimalistic through the beginning of the song. Toward the middle of the song, though, it picks up and as it reaches the bridge of the song, it becomes increasingly more dramatic. It feels like we, as listeners, are moving through the stages of grief with her, and the music becomes heavier in the stages that would be anger and depression, before moving into a quiet acceptance. This careful and strategic manipulation of production to create meaning is supplemental to the lyrics and helps cement the emotions that create the visceral reaction in listeners.

I think that many people write Taylor Swift off as just another pop star, or just as that girl who writes about her ex-boyfriends without thinking about the fact that, not only is she clearly very talented and successful, but she’s also using her platform to make young girls feel like they’re understood and that they aren’t alone in how they’re feeling. That was all I needed when I was growing up, and I have to say that it makes me very happy that it seems as though she’s going to continue to create this safe space not only for me, but also for other young girls growing up for many years to come.