Lessons for Writers from TTPD

Lessons for Writers from TTPD

Greetings Fantasy Nerds! As you know we are both Taylor Swift fans, and this week we will be discussing The Tortured Poets Department album and how it ties to anyone who aspires to be a writer. We can apply many takeaways from this album to writing, and we are diving deep into our thoughts on this. Honestly, I think we both could write a fifty-page essay on this album, but the bottom line is we both agree this album is a masterpiece.

What stood out to us with this album were the dark almost unhinged lyrics paired with catchy beats. These are the intrusive thoughts that we cringe from and never say aloud, let alone write down and put into a song. Lines like “Your wife waters flowers, I wanna kill her”, or “I might just die, it would make no difference”. She does this so well in the song “But Daddy I Love Him”. For me, “I’m having his baby, no I’m not, but you should see your faces”, is the moment your brain catches onto and goes what? The whole chorus is also attention-grabbing lyrically and comes off like a heated rant. Then the tune behind it keeps it stuck in your head. Taylor has slipped in some intrusive thoughts into songs before but not to the scale she does in TTPD. It’s like she is done being subtle.

What makes it work here is that she’s not just picking arbitrary lines for shock value. These are things that most fans will recognize as related to something she’s gone through, and therefore find genuine and relatable. They go with the songs and the story being told. We all have unexpressed emotions and sometimes as writers, you need to let the intrusive thoughts win.

It’s almost like she just wrote out her craziest thoughts when writing the album and said, To hell with it, I’m not editing these out. The fans want all of me and they will get it. Let’s see if they regret it.

We do not regret it.

There is some speculation out there that Talyor Swift is saying with this album that her fans are the villains. That wasn’t our takeaway here. It seems to us that it’s larger than that. We don’t get the impression that Taylor does not want fans analyzing her songs and relationships. In fact, she seems to enjoy leaving easter eggs. We think there are two aspects being misconstrued in her lyrics. The first one is that she seems to be telling “fans” that it is not okay to try to control what she does or harass her and those she chooses to be with. She is setting some boundaries here and laying out what it means to be a fan. That doesn’t mean she isn’t having fun leaving hints and making puzzles for her fans. If you listen to her interviews she often talks about playing into this. We believe she loves her fans but is calling out some toxic behaviors of a select few.

The second issue that we think is causing misperceptions is the theme of fame and its impact on her relationships. This has been something she has written about since her earliest albums, but continues to affect her life. It seems to have largely contributed to the end of at least one of her most recent relationships. But we don’t think she is bitter towards her fans because the men in her life couldn’t handle everything that comes with dating someone as big as Taylor Swift. And we don’t think she would choose differently. Any artist can’t help but create.

That is where “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” comes in. Taylor is at her lowest, but her music motivates her to keep going. The song is acknowledging something that we all do at times, putting on a happy face when we are down but things have to keep moving. We took it as an anthem for all the women out there who keep forging ahead even when they feel like crumbling.

Another song that we found heart-wrenching yet relatable was “The Prophecy”. The line that stood out most was, “let it once be me”. I think we have all experienced uncertainty about the future and doubted whether we would ever get something we wanted desperately. It could be wondering if we will end up alone forever, whether we’ll ever become a parent, or if we are good enough to accomplish our dreams. And there is such vivid imagery in the line, “But I howl like a wolf at the moon”. It allows you to picture the physical reaction to that pain we all recognize in our souls.

Songs like these are the reason Taylor Swift has so many devoted fans. She pours her heart out in a relatable way. It is comforting to know that even Taylor Swift feels depressed or manic at times. It leaves the listener feeling less alone with mental struggles.

Diving into those mental struggles, this album’s title quite literally points to a large theme, tortured poets. We think not only were her mental struggles at play here but also the inspiration of women poets/artists who dealt with their own mental struggles. The type of raw, deep emotions that are prevalent in poetry. Taylor seemingly derived some amount of inspiration from these poets or artists, for example “Clara Bow” is the title of a song and the asylum/prison themes throughout the album and in the Fortnight music video.

Clara Bow was the first “It” girl, she was famous in her day and struggled with her mental health. She at one point attempted suicide, was admitted into a mental institution, and endured electro-shock therapy. We can see direct inspiration from this! Sylvia Plath is a renowned poet who struggled with mental health, she did end up taking her own life and is widely known for advancing confessional poetry, and her final works were quite dark, we see this theme echo throughout TTPD. Lastly, we can look at Emily Dickinson, she was a poet who was surrounded by death and grief in her life, and her works were also quite dark.

A quote from Clara Bow; “All the time the flapper is laughing and dancing, there’s a feeling of tragedy underneath, she’s unhappy and disillusioned, and that’s what people sense.” We see themes of this also in ICDIWABH, putting on that smile and pushing through the pain.

We’ve concluded this album is not about anyone in specific, while there may be easter eggs of who it’s relating to, the Taylor Swift classic we know and love, we believe she is writing through her pain and loss from past relationships. For example “My muse acquired like bruises…” She’s writing from a place of pain, betrayal, sadness, and heartache pulling from her real experiences, how her mental health was not in a good place, and the aftermath of this. She’s raw about the choices she made, and the emotions she felt, and she took her agony and turned it into this album. It’s for her a way to write these feelings out and then let them go. We believe her goal was not explicitly to point to anyone specific, but to use writing as an outlet. As writers we should look to this as inspiration, to use writing as an outlet for emotions, because that’s when you create your best work.

The album ends with The Manuscript, which is a choice that we think encapsulates the whole theme of the album. It is a look back on the music she created from the heartbreak she endured. Taylor shares these stories with her fans and chooses to leave the sadness in the past. The beautiful thing about art is that it can give our pain meaning and purpose, and allows us to connect with others.

What did you think of the album? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks so much for reading!

-Clever & WTF

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