5 Creative Reasons NOT to write a listicle

1. Everyone is doing it (me included!)

Originality lies at the core of the creative effort. Everyone is doing it, hence, it’s not original. Since “listicles” are a “thing”, you feel like it’s totally OK to write it. Yet, this is when the professional creative will find the opportunity to deconstruct it. Creative rule #1 – Try to Be Creative. If you’re not going for originality, you’re breaking the first rule.

Everyone is trying to write original content, of course. But since we live in the hay-day of the listicle, their creativity is stuck to that formula – which is totally OK. And OK is not what creativity is about. If we think a little broader, we’ll realize we can brake the “rules” of the listicle to our advantage. Everyone already knows what a listicle looks like. It’s time we do it different. I’m having a go at it right now.

2. It leads you to conform

This builds upon what I mentioned about breaking the rules. When we hear “listicle” we know what it is: a little intro (see why I broke this rule in the next item), 5 to 100 bullets with another paragraph underneath. A conclusion (if you’re lucky enough). A clear set of rules. And if you make all the effort to abide by those roles, you’ll be breaking a rule of creativity: rule #2 – Do Not Conform. A professional creative looks at a set of well accepted rules as an opportunity to disrupt and stand out.

3. No one will read your intro

That’s why I didn’t write one. How many listicles have you read this week? 10? How many of the intros? -1?
Which is a shame. To me, the intro is usually very interesting. Because that’s where the writer, if he/she’s good, will frame the problem eloquently. And framing a problem well is a catalyst for creativity.

4. You’d have to come up with something arbitrary to get to a nice round number

Like this item. Although there’s an upside to this: creativity requires us to push past the obvious and explore the unknown. If you’re tasked with coming up with a couple of solutions to a given problem, come up with more than 2. Come up with 10. 20. 30. 50, for goodness sake! Genius always arrives fashionably late.

Genius always arrives fashionably late.
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5.  Storytelling gets lost.

I’m reading a book – a hard cover book – that’s pretty much a collection of listicles. To its credit, at least, it’s a physical book. I read it in a different setting, with a greater attention span. Still, I’m not sure about it. The scattering of information into “snackable” sizes makes the whole very disconnected.
Storytelling, even though it’s the buzzword of the decade, is actually scientifically proven to help us keep information and get emotionally involved with what we’re reading – which is always the writer’s intent (did I get that right, instruction manual copywriters?). It get’s lost in a listicle. Even if it’s weaved in, most people just fly past it. We’ve been designing our writing for fast reading, but end up creating content that will come in through one year and go out the other.

Conclusion (lucky you!)

Raise your hand if the image above makes you want to barf. The listicle “thing” is going too far. Here’s the problem: it’s not about great content anymore. It’s about SEO, clicksbaits and appealing to our lizard brain. Who hasn’t had that experience of clicking through cluttered websites and going “I just want to know what the 10 secrets to perfect abs are!!!” That’s a hit below the waist.
If you have something to say, and you want to say it eloquently, be creative. Maybe it doesn’t need to be (yet another) listicle.