Without losing any sleep over it.
Start with a listicle. It is the best way to begin.
Yes. They are one of the simplest ways to start writing especially when you are getting embarking upon your writing journey.
Let’s be honest. As much as we hate to admit it, we do love listicles.
Listicles are criticized for being low-brow, badly written and uninformative. As soon as we see a listicle we degrade the writer several notches below our span of attention.
Publicly we berate the writer. “Another bullshit laundry list writer is spamming the internet.”
And yet privately we devour his contents with glee. We attain instant nirvana (gratification to be precise).
Why is this so?
Why are Listicles still insanely popular?
The answer lies in our minds.
We as human beings are wired psychologically to accept and devour content in listicle form.
And whether we like it or not, we will continue to do so.
Here is why.
Our Brains Love Specificity
You go shopping. You prepare a shopping list.
You go to give laundry. You prepare a laundry list.
You plan for a vacation. You prepare a things-to-be-taken list.
And so on…. the lists are endless.
The list post, as Copyblogger explains it “makes a very specific promise of what’s in store for the reader.”
And the brain loves that.
Why? Psychologists surmise that it’s a result of cognitive functional specialization. It’s the idea that different areas in the brain are specialized for different functions. Because our brains are organized in function-specific ways, our cognitive and neuropsychological preference for ordered lists is simply one of the results of this organization.
And that is the very reason that we love making lists for everything. It is an inherent desire which we try to fulfill whenever we make or read a list.
And as a result, we click faster, dwell longer, and anticipate being satisfied with what we read.
Our Attention spans have become Notoriously Small.
War and Peace is one of the earliest known works of Leo Tolstoy and is considered to be Leo Tolstoy’s finest work. It describes in great detail the French invasion of Russia through the eyes of five aristocrats and is one of the longest novels ever crafted.
The problem is there is too much detail. The book makes a cumbersome reading.
And I can challenge with absolute certainty that the majority of the readers (from our internet generation) would not have the patience or the tenacity to complete this gigantic book in one sitting.
And the reason is our dwindling attention span.
Research shows that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to roughly 8 seconds today. (For perspective, goldfish are believed to have an attention span of 9 seconds.) In other words, we find it difficult to focus on anything — something that the rise of the internet and mobile devices has made worse.
Combined with dwindling attention spans is a rise in the popularity of snack-sized content. Short 15–20-second videos and compact memes have trained people to be impatient content consumers. Listicles, to some degree, help marketers overcome this problem.
Listicles distill information in a very digestible way. They help us to decide what to read online.
The internet is a tsunami of incoming stuff and our brains naturally gravitate towards the listicle as it tries to find a sorting mechanism to wade through the deluge. We find what we want. We either read it or move on. Simple as that!
Readers have become Curators.
In 2011, psychologists Claude Messner and Michaela Wanke spent time studying a concept known as the “paradox of choice.” This is the phenomenon that more options make people feel worse.
They concluded that we feel better when the amount of conscious work we have to do in order to process something is reduced.
“The faster we decide on something, whether it’s what we’re going to eat or what we’re going to read, the happier we become,” The New Yorker’s Maria Konnikova explains.
Unfortunately, the internet is anything but simple. Millions of words of content are published daily and there’s no possible way for people to read everything on a topic. Listicles solve this problem by curating ideas into comprehensive resources.
“Within the context of a Web page or Facebook stream, with their many choices, a list is the easy pick, in part because it promises a definite ending: we think we know what we’re in for, and the certainty is both alluring and reassuring,” Konnikova notes.
I think you get the point. The best list posters in the world make super specific list posts. So if you want to create a great listicle, GET REALLY SPECIFIC.
Bringing it All together.
The internet is a place for all things listed. It is a big bad place where anyone can get lost eternally.
And adding to the confusion, there is no front page of the Internet; but lists, at their best, give us focused, annotated tables of contents. They’re lane-markers in the deep end.
Sure, listicles have been a bit overused perhaps. But they still work.
And they are still one of the best methods available for accomplishing anything meaningful, and an effective technique for organizing your thoughts and message.
And they feed on our natural curiosity which all of us possess as human beings. Listicles are here to stay and that is OK.
As Allen Smith has rightly said.
The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists.