“Write what you know.” Every aspiring writer has heard it.
It’ s supposed to be a little lifesaver for when one finds him or herself swimming in a sea of writer’s block. It is not, however, supposed to be a call to action to write, definitively, about one’s opinions and thoughts on a subject as if they are fact.
Unfortunately though, that very thing is happening so much that it’s become a new genre of non-fiction, one that is taking over website after website, racking up page views and growing stronger by the day.
The listicle has somehow now devolved even further from its shorthanded but respected origins, far past being a co-opted tool of “confessional media” as Forbes so aptly described it once, to become a vehicle for endless, unprovable, pointless manifestos.
And while taking aim at sites like Thought Catalog and Elite Daily is like picketing Fox News with a tie-dye peace sign (laughably futile), it’s still possible to chip away, one lazy “millennial writer” at a time, and hope that one day they realize that passing off a few anecdotes as life lessons and calling it the “21 Secret Struggles Of Being A Girly Girl” doesn’t make you a real writer. And yes I will be tweeting this article directly at Chelsea Fagan, the “girly girl” who I charge to defend her work (without using her view count as a defense).
Because it’s making us all look bad.
Take for instance, Brooke Marie Bridges. According to her Twitter profile, she writes “to express her form of the human condition,” which is laudable. But it doesn’t qualify her, at 22 years old, to claim to know the “5 Things You Need To Do For Your Relationship To Last,” even if she happens to be engaged to someone she has been dating since she was 18. And when she lists, “I Love You – During a fight,” as one of the “10 Things You Shouldn’t Say To Women” because of course “you obviously don’t care what she has to say, or think her feelings are bogus… which is why you are trying to say I love you and get the fight over with. We will know you don’t mean it, and the fight will continue, probably with more intensity,” she’s basically thrown all real credibility out the window. At least Esquire had the decency to hire a 98-year old woman who has three marriages under her belt (plus a very hilarious affair that’s worth reading about) when they put together their advice column about love and sex.
And all this drivel makes me much less inclined to read her actually poignant thoughts in an article on racism in America she wrote (also in list form…) on her individual website.
It’s apathy inducing.
But then I read things like self-proclaimed “experienced writer” Laura Argintar’s “Why Every Damaged Girl Is The Result of A Bad Boyfriend” and that apathy turns to rage.
She has the intestinal fortitude to write, “When you hear yet another story of a girl going through her boyfriend’s cell phone or purposely flirting in front of his face leading to a public argument, you have to take a step back and realize that these impulsive behaviors are the result of a damaged relationship,” and put her name on it. Though she does go so far as to back up her offensively simple claim with anecdotal evidence about her friends, like the one “whose ex cheated on her with her neighbor,” so now she “sleeps at a guy’s place for the first three months into a relationship.”
Now we all know this article and the endless like it aren’t meant to be at all factual pieces of non-fiction, even if their titles click-baitingly suggest it, but then what exactly are they? What is this thing dominating millions of computer screens everyday?
It’s not journalism, that’s for sure.
But it’s not even creative writing.
These are walking shadows of thoughts written by poor writers that strut and fret for a few precious minutes on computer screens, only to be immediately forgotten.
These are cautionary tales, told by idiots, full of sound and fury.