More than once, I have joked that I wanted to be the Taylor Swift of writing. Meaning that I wanted to become a hot-shot novelist in my teens (and ideally continue to put out hits for the rest of my life). Obviously my teens have come and gone and that didn’t happen. But it’s all good. Maybe I can be the Katy Perry of writing instead?
Recently I watched both Taylor and Katy’s biopic/concert movies, and I came to some realizations:
- They work really hard. Yes, they’re doing what they love, and the’ve managed to become rich and famous from it. But that doesn’t take anything away from all the heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears they put into their music. And in addition to the singing and songwriting, they spend a lot of time designing their concerts, rehearsing and performing and marketing their work, connecting with fans, and making decisions that impact the dozens (if not hundreds) of people in their employ. They are in fact young businesswomen. It’s impressive, humbling, and inspiring.
- They have achieved a lot of success at very young ages, but it didn’t happen overnight. Both struggled to be taken seriously, to be allowed to express themselves in the way that they wanted. At one point, Taylor walked away from a good opportunity with a major record label because she believed that she could do better. She ended up taking a chance on a startup, and together they skyrocketed to the top. (Guts!) Katy spent years bouncing between record labels, all of whom knew she was talented but weren’t sure how to market her and thus were reluctant to invest. Despite the frustrations, she always went back to the music, writing songs and playing gigs until finally someone decided to back her all the way — and even handed her the reins. (Perseverance!)
- I think part of what appeals to people (certainly to me) about their music is how much of themselves they put into it. Their personal experiences, their emotions, their style. Taylor is infamous for writing about her famous ex-boyfriends, and Katy makes no secret that many of her recent hits are about her the ups and downs of her relationship with Russell Brand. Some people think that’s tacky; I think it’s brave and endearing. I can relate to their excitement, their doubts, their hopes, their heartaches. And it makes their songs stand out from some of the more generic stuff.
- As much as I might joke about wanting to be the Taylor or Katy of writing — and as many similarities as there may be between our dreams (artistry, storytelling, entertaining the masses, etc.) — one key difference is that being a pop star usually requires a youthful appeal. They probably have a limited window of opportunity for mainstream success, whereas writers are not judged by the marketability of their faces/bodies, but by the
qualitymarketability of their stories.
- At one point, Katy’s sister talks about how people were trying to get Katy to be the next Britney, or the next Avril, or whoever, and how she never wanted to be the next anybody. She wanted to be the first Katy. Good point. I don’t want to be the next JK Rowling, the next Stephenie Meyer, or the next Suzanne Collins. I want to be the first Kristan.