We all know them, and most writers experiment with them at one time or another, a bit like how we all experiment with sexuality, or bad hair styles. The format is simple: the listicle is a cross between a list and an article, with an introduction that is so unnecessary that most people tend to skip it, leaving the writer to wonder why he or she spent any time on it in the first place. The introduction is the article part of the list. It meanders through God-knows-what . . . I’ve never read a listicle intro, because I always go straight to the list. Let’s face it, that’s why we’re all here . . . to read some self-help crap spewed out by somebody who is so desperate for attention that they will stoop so low as to write out a full nine-hundred-word list slash article just to disguise the fact that the only thing that matters is the click-bait title. So without further ado . . . the list. (Christ, I hate myself)
- A listicle is like the prostitute of words: it is the one thing we resort to when all else has failed. That novel? Half-finished and going nowhere. Your short stories? In the trash at various magazines. Your one-act play that looked like it was going to be put on by the local am-dram group? They went with Arthur Miller, again. Yep, they chose to pay royalties to a dead guy than to use your stuff for free.
- A listicle is a complete waste of time. It’s a waste of the reader’s time, because the reader already knows everthing on the list, and the list simply confirms that the reader has made excellent life choices, and it’s a waste of the writer’s time, because rather than spend valuable time learning his or her craft, the writer has chosen to go for the instant gratification of likes/claps/two cents per word.
- That’s basically it. I’ve got nothing else. Let’s see . . . a listicle is like the herpes of . . . no, that doesn’t work . . . it’s like the syphilis of . . . what? What STD is a listicle like? On to point four.
- Yeah, I’m really struggling here. I feel like everything that needs to be said was said in point one. Maybe the bit about confirming the readers’ opinions of themselves in point two. I still can’t think of a suitable STD to compare it to. How many more points to go? Oh God, another six! Okay, let’s move on. This really is like prostitution: nobody wants anything to do with it, and everybody feels a little dirty afterward.
- What has my life come to? Why the hell am I doing this? I hope my mom doesn’t see this.
- But maybe, just maybe, it’ll lead to something good. After all, Kevin Costner did a porno before making it in Hollywood. But then again, what about all the other actors and actresses who never made it? And all the writers who spent their whole lives writing and it came to nothing? Is that my fate, too? No, this listicle is going to get me noticed. That’s what listicles do, goddammit! Nobody can resist clicking on them and reading through each of the easily digestible points.
- Another three points and I can start daytime drinking. I’ll watch Friends. It’s been ages since I’ve watched season one. They’re so young and cute! And with such funny nineties hairstyles! Ah, the nineties. Remember MC Hammer and his parachute pants? Or Vanilla Ice with his baseline that was totally different to Queen?
- There are three things you need in order to do serious daytime drinking: one, your own place where you can close the blinds and sit in your underwear; two, a larder or fridge full of alcohol and snacks; and three, a television, or screen of some sort where you can binge watch TV shows. If you’ve got all those things, you can forget about the rest of the day, and just pretend that tomorrow doesn’t exist.
- Nine. We’re up to number nine now. Okay, think, think! Something motivational . . . uplifting . . . nope. I’ve already started drinking. Friends isn’t as funny as I remember it. And they’re all so white, which I hadn’t noticed before. Huh, I guess television really is becoming more diverse, and comedy is getting more sophisticated. Maybe it’s time to switch it off. But what to do instead?
- I’m really drunk, and I’ve been stalking my exes online. I even looked up the dude I once messed around with at a party. That was a crazy party! But it allowed me to realize that I wasn’t gay. He was, though, and he seemed quite disappointed with my performance, like I was some kind of amateur. He also made some snarky comment about my hairstyle. Well, I’m a published writer, now, Richard! Self-publishing is a fully recognized form of publishing, and many people move on to the big five after self-publishing. I’m going to be the Kevin Costner of self-publishing, so don’t pity me, Richard . . . because I already pity myself.
I think a listicle is supposed to have some kind of conclusion, but I’ve never read all the way to the end of one before. Let’s see . . . life’s great . . . you can do it . . . don’t give up. Okay, we’re done. Please leave the money on the counter on your way out. And please don’t tell my mom about this.
This article originally appeared on Medium.com.
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