The Taylor Swift Method of Pandemic Productivity

Creativity is a continuum

Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards at the Grand Ole Opry on September 16, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: ACMA2020/Getty Images for ACM

Taylor Swift’s pandemic productivity — two albums, folklore and evermore; two cinematic videos for the songs “cardigan” and “willow”; a “concert film” — is enough to make us mere mortals feel inadequate. I mean, doesn’t even non-pandemic-era T. Swift make us all feel inadequate?

Yes, as many have pointed out, she makes music for a living, has a lot of support and resources, isn’t dealing with children or online schooling, and, right, is Taylor Swift. That said, I do think we can all take a little something from her high-octane Doing Stuff During Covid energy. “Being productive” is never only about some definitive end product; it’s about the “being” more than anything. Don’t get hung up on what you want to produce. It’s about how you want to be.

It helps to mentally disconnect from the end result. That’s true in writing, in sports, in investing, in everything. The point is to play, to make, to be. And the funny thing is, adopting that attitude will make your end product better.

Several writers and critics have pointed out that these pandemic albums of Swift’s feel remarkably unconstrained. Raisa Bruner writes for Time, “The free-flowing collection that is Evermore sounds like she made it for herself and didn’t stop to second-guess it.” NPR’s Lyndsey McKenna notes, “The folklore-evermore era has been one marked by a spirit of artistic freedom.” And Brandon Taylor writes for The Cut that evermore “extends and deepens all the themes of folklore — love gone sour, self-actualization gone wrong, friendships gone… Evermore has a wisdom that’s almost eerily personal.”

Even if we’re not quite as closely observed as Swift, many of us find it hard to feel free enough to fully engage with our creative sides. We get into our heads. We worry that whatever we make won’t be good enough, or that we won’t be able to handle any criticism that comes.

But right now it’s a little easier to imagine we’re creating in a vacuum, or in a misty Swiftian forest, because so many of us really are experiencing some level of isolation. That’s depressing and lonely in many ways, but you know what else? It can also set you free.

As Swift told me (okay, fine, tweeted): “I have no idea what will come next. I have no idea about a lot of things these days and so I’ve clung to the one thing that keeps me connected to you all. That thing always has and always will be music.” For once, we can all relate: None of us has any idea about a lot of things, even with good news about the vaccine on the horizon.

But what makes you feel connected? What work or project or passion will make you feel right? Make it a priority, engage with it again, and with any luck, it will help you to feel a little more free.

Topic Lead for Writing @ Medium // Editor of Human Parts // Novels: Unseen City; The Mermaid of Brooklyn; How Far Is The Ocean From Here

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