1. Finding the perfect GIF
Oh, you think this is easy? It’s about as easy as making a mixtape…that everyone will hear…and you’re Rob Gordon from “High Fidelity.” The worst is when you have something in mind (say, a specific movie scene) and the Internet is just not coming through for you—and you have to sift through all kinds of bullshit in the process. Also bad: finding a GIF for something like “heartburn” (hey, sometimes it’s part of the job!).
2. Having to justify the listicle to others
Don’t think I don’t notice the scorn when I mention my article titles. I do not hate what I write, and stop blaming me for “the destruction of reading in America.” Listicles are no worse than “50 Shades of Grey” or Bethenny Frankel having a book on the NYT Bestsellers list. It is not my personal fault that our brains “crave effortlessly acquired data” and that the information in listicle form is more easily retained. Longform is thriving and there is room for both styles, which are better suited for different topics. If stupid humor in moderate doses makes people laugh, I don’t see the harm.
3. Having to justify the listicle to myself
I know they’re OK as a medium, but am I really the one who should be writing this? Does writing a listicle make me look like an idiot millennial? I have “Meiji Period” and “Depressive Realism” open in Wikipedia right now, for chrissakes! Mary Gaitskill never wrote a listicle, and while I am certainly no Mary Gaitskill, should I try to be? (Though another idol, Dave Barry, certainly has written them.)
4. So many numbers
Could I use letters? Or Roman numerals? Just this once!
5. Do I have enough?
Don’t get me wrong—the number of items I include in a listicle is totally arbitrary based on the number of things I can think of. But have I thought of everything I should include? Is my list the right combination of funny and poignant? Are other people going to “get” why I included #7, or am I just padding the number? Inevitably, I will think of the best item for the list approximately five minutes after it goes live.
6. The comments section
I know we are not supposed to read it but we do. We are people too, with hopes and dreams and fears who only maybe need the therapy you have so kindly suggested based on your thorough and informed analysis of our character. Bad listicle comments generally point to your article as the reason they hate a website (which, why are you reading a website if you hate it) or seem concerned that you are not doing something better and more worthy with your life. I have developed a thicker skin now, but at first it upset me and I couldn’t argue with them about it (it still stings when someone suggests I have Asberger’s). Luckily, there are usually plenty of, “LOL @friend so true!” to balance it out (We love those! I leave more comments now that I understand how validated they make you feel).
As copy editor/perfectionist, listicles form a special circle of hell as far as consistency and formatting. I write drafts in Google Doc, but when I copy over to WordPress the numbers don’t carry over—so I have to rewrite the numbers and make sure I don’t skip any. I also have to make everything a “heading” so it is the appropriate size, that everything is centered correctly, spaced correctly, GIFs are the right size, etc. You might think it doesn’t make a difference, but there are many OCD people like myself out in the world who will call you out on it—and once you notice, anything else looks unprofessional. Compare the professionalism that is this listicle to this pre-Haley LD listicle (Why are the titles so small? Why aren’t the numbers bolded?).
8. The conundrum
I write other things too. In fact, I have spent a lot of time crafting prose about a subject that’s emotional to me. I worked on both “You Make Me Feel” and “10 Things I Don’t Give A Shit About Now That I’m 29” for three months. The former got about 100 views, the latter about 100,000. I will never exclusively write one over the other, but there are very real benefits to having more exposure.
A listicle can be as well done as any other kind of article: you can laugh, you can relate, you can think, you can learn. There’s no reason that adding subheadings with numbers should make the article any less valid. So please, instead of telling a writer they are wasting their talent, give them a hug and send along GIF suggestions. They’ll need them.