The cover of a Stern and Price Mad Libs book.
it’s this easy, kids!

Step One: Choose your title. I have collected all that remains of titles from the internet. Simply choose one and fill in the blanks. It’s kind of like Madlibs. Insert a number, insert a noun. Tip – no one likes even numbers. The best numbers are 7, 9, 11, 13. Only idiots would write an article about “four things.”

Here are your optionst:

  • ______ Things you Must Do/Know Before You Are _____
  • ______ Things People from __________ Know About
  • ______ Things NEVER to say to a ___________
  • ______ Times __________ Restored our Faith in Humanity
  • ______ Times __________ Made Us Lose our Faith in Humanity
  • ______ Things that only People from __________ Will Understand
  • ______ Images/Smells/Toys/Gadgets/TV shows that Make You Remember childhood/teens/being single/being in a relationship/best friends/sisters/brothers/sons/daughters
  • ______ Things that PROVE __________ Are the Best

Step Two: Compile list. Be sarcastic. Be witty. Use a few swear words, so we know you’re cool. Link to other things you’ve written. Reference pop culture AND invoke some nostalgia. Make ’em laugh, but be sure to hit ’em in the feels.

in da feels!
in da feels!

Step Three: Make it sparkle. Add images. Add GIFs. Play with bold and italics and acronyms. Lolz, this is so fun.

Step Four: Get social. Tweet, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest the heck out of that thing.

Step Five: Sit back and watch the internet explode.

Here, I will show you an example. I will even time myself, to see how long it takes to produce such quality content.

First, I shall brainstorm my list of ideas.

Numbers: 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 21

Nouns: Kindergarten, Puppies, Elephants, Pinecones, Traffic Lights, Tooth Fairy, Trailer Parks.

My possible titles:

  • 3 Things you Must Do/Know Before You Are in Kindergarten
  • 5 Things People from Trailer Parks Know About
  • 7 Things NEVER to say to a Pinecone
  • 9 Times the Tooth Fairy Restored our Faith in Humanity
  • 11 Times Puppies Made Us Lose our Faith in Humanity
  • 13 Things that only Elephants will Understand
  • 21 Things that PROVE Traffic Lights Are the Best

I’ll go with title number one:

3 Things you Must Know Before You Are in Kindergarten

This kid is doing it right. Aim for this.
This kid is doing it right. Aim for this.

1. How to use a toilet. You do NOT want to mess this up, bro. There are no diapers post super-liberal preschools. You are almost five. Time to potty. You see that cool bathroom pass hanging up on the wall? Do you think kids in diapers get to use that? Because they DONT.

So do what it takes – put some Cheerios in the toilet bowl so you have cool things to aim at, get some quality literature to keep you occupied for number two (grab Mom’s iPad, she won’t mind… (read rest of the article here.))

  • Total Time: 46 minutes.
  • Cups of coffee consumed: 2.
  • Times I gagged watching booger video: 4.
  • Number of Steps it actually takes to write viral post: 5
  • Number of Steps I told you it would take: 7

See?! It’s too easy! Let’s all kill quality writing together. To be honest, though….I kinda want to write an article about things to never say to a pinecone.

I saw something on twitter the other day…the guy was saying that he’s pretty sure we’ve tweeted all that there is to tweet, so maybe it’s time we start shutting this twitter thing down. I don’t know if you’re on twitter, but I kinda agree, and in terms of what’s out there to read these days in the twitterverse and beyond, I’d have to agree more.

to do listI’m getting tired of seeing lists of things. I think we have made all the lists there are to list. But sometimes I get scared that if I write something long and, God forbid, meaningful, people won’t have the attention span to read the whole thing. And I measure my self-esteem by how many blog hits I get, which I rationalize is a better number to judge my value in than the number on the scale. So I put things in bullet-point form, like it’s somehow shorter. It’s a visual trick, really. The word count remains the same.

Why all the lists? Do we not trust readers to pay attention long enough? Do we not trust ourselves as writers to effectively capture their attention? Do people need to know how many points – 3, 5, 7, 9 – they have to read to get through an article, before they commit to clicking on it?

It’s like in college, when you would buy a used textbook, and the person had already high-lighted things…you would have to ask yourself if you would still read what was not highlighted for you.

It might come back to the basics: Why are we writing what we’re writing? And who do we want to read it? And what do we want them to feel?

Do I want my stuff to go viral? Well…only if it magically led to a book deal and a movie deal and I got to cast all my celebrity crushes and control the making of the soundtrack by appointing all my favorite bands, alive or dead. That would be worth it. BUT, whenever stuff I write for HuffPo gets a lot of attention, I get a lot of angry people telling me I’m stupid and I have to live in sweatpants for a week to get over it, so….I sad elephantdon’t know. Haters gon hate.

I’d love to hear anyone’s ideas about this list phenomenon…have we gone too far with the lists? Are there any lists left? And what do only elephants understand?!