13 Reasons We Don’t Like Listicles 

Disclaimer : For this listicle, talking of the reasons for not liking them, I am playing the devil’s advocate. 

I do like Listicles very much (I have been writing them for my blog every Friday for the past five months and would continue to do so for a very long time, unless I step up on the evolutionary ladder). 

I also understand that there are plenty of people out there who really do not like these lists masquerading as articles and here I am empathizing with them. 

1. We read for a voice. And sadly a listicle does not have enough text or material or explanation to develop the writer’s voice. 

2. We read to be informed and to understand. We look for biases and arguments that confirm our views or contradict us. But a listicle is just a bunch of facts thrown at us. There is no building up of an argument nor are there any supporting facts. The listicle can be one dimensional. 

3. We don’t like to be told that we have the attention span of a goldfish. And that is exactly what the pithy statements and the numbered list insinuates. 

4. We don’t find the arguments in ascending or descending order. They are just there. As they come to the writer’s mind, they get written down and published. There seems to be no method to the madness of presenting the bite sized information. 

5. We don’t like it quick and easy. We like it slow stewed. We don’t just want bite sized nuggets of the conclusions; we need a premise, then supporting facts,  then counter arguments and then the conclusion. 

By extension,  we are not into fast food. We want a five course meal. 

6. We don’t get enough to read. The word count in the Listicles is low and sometimes, God forbid, there are pictures and gifs,  instead of real words. 

7. We feel that they are put together sloppily. The writer may be busy or just trying to generate content or putting out a filler but that is none of our concern. A writer’s duty is to write well and from the soul.

8. We don’t think they have a logical glue that holds things together. They don’t convince. They just present a bunch of things, which may not even be related to each other much. 

9. We clutch our head when they are ridiculous and the head-clutching can be quite often. 

Seventeen Signs Your Grandmother Might Secretly be a Loan Shark

Thirteen Surprising Reasons to Sleep with a Pumpkin under Your Pillow

One Reason that a count of Two can be a listicle

These could make some people hyperventilate. 

10. We cannot seem to find any high brow language. Heck, some even use emojis! 

11. We feel that they sound like grocery lists. The items on the list could even be unrelated. In an actual supermarket, they can be found in completely different aisles. 

12. We consider them to be a lower form of prose and keep wondering if the listicle generators are proper writers.

13. We think that they sound lazy and even shallow. The material is so short that they finish before we can make up our minds over anything. We want our brains to be challenged because hey, we depend only on reading for everything in our lives. 

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

4 Narratives with a Strong Setting

The Open Window by Henri Matisse

The Setting in a narrative or a fictional piece of work can refer to a period in time or a geographic place. Along with style, plot, characters, it is considered an important component of storytelling. 
Setting is not just the place or the background; it is the mood that dictates the story. 

There are many books and pieces of fiction where the setting is overwhelming, so much so that it decides how the story would move along. 

Here are a few of my favorites. 

1. Riders to the Sea by J. M. Synge 

In this classic play, it is the sea that forms the backdrop to this tragedy. It is the sea that shapes the life of the protagonists and it is the sea that is the witness to the tribulations of the inhabitants of the Aran islands. 

The sea is all pervading and it never leaves the subconscious of the characters or the readers. 

2. The Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

In this short story, it is the Arctic that is a strong contender for a character. Revenge unfolds against the “vast cool sweeps of ice and rock and sea and sky”. And as the central character Verna says that the landscape is uncluttered, which makes the story progress linearly towards a cold blooded murder. 

3. Matisse stories by A. S. Byatt 

In this collection of stories, three tales are masterfully written and inspired in some way by a painting of Henri Matisse. The stories are evocative and capture a relationship between seeing and feeling. 

Just like the paintings, the writing is vibrant and nearly explodes with color. 

4. Making a Mango Whistle by Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay 

It is the countryside in this delightful adaptation of the famous ‘Pather Panchali’ for children that shapes the world that the children, Durga and Apu live in. 

The forest around the tiny village is where the children grow up, exploring and experiencing. The monsoon swoops down suddenly and the forest transforms from being magical to something fearful. All through the book, the children embrace nature even more than the people around them. 

Dear Reader, please share the books and short stories that you like where the Setting is bold and influences the narrative strongly. 

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

7 Musings on the Muse

I often feel that writing is something that takes me on a journey. I begin walking along the path, looking at the flowers, loving the scenery, the deep blue hills in the distance and the narrow winding path that goes up and down, taking me to places of it’s own accord. 

It is a lovely experience but the places I go to depend on the path. 

There are days when I wish I had more control over the process of writing and I had more courage to take the off shoots in the writing path. I wish I knew if I wanted to continue from there or to get back to where I was before. 

In other words, I want to be creative when I want to and not wait for inspiration to strike me. 

1. Finding My Muse 

    The first thing, of course, is that I cannot wait for my muse to find me. I just go and find her myself. I often wonder as to what she looks like. What must be her physical characteristics and what must be her benevolent qualities? And just because I do not know what she looks like, I should not despair in not knowing where to look for her. 

    Let us go down that path again. The writing path, the one with many delights. Which bush, which tree does she hide behind? Are there signs so that I may find her? I do not know, so I decide to take out my lute and lure her to me. 

    That might have sounded a little far fetched but in daily life this is what I need, bringing my muse to me. I must know what brings her to me and know what she likes so that she may stay. 

    2. When does the Muse Come 

    The question I have asked myself many times, when does the Muse come? Or more apt to ask, when would I call her? 

    For this, I needed to know when I write during the day and when I write best in a flow. 

    Sometimes, I feel that the time to write is hard to come by. I feel that I am always busy. So when do I find the time to write? I don’t. I make the time to write. 

    I have been writing on my blog for a couple of years now. Some days I do great, and some months I manage to churn out post after post. At times, on my less productive days and when things got busier and my schedule more crowded, I would struggle to write a 600-700 word blog post in five days. For professional writing or for doing the writing that pays, there are commitments and there are deadlines. I cannot just wait for time to be given to me. 

    To make sure that I wrote consistently, I started by identifying the time slots in the day when I could write. To my surprise, I found five such slots during my day. For two slots I could write endlessly or as much as I desired to and for the other three, I could write under a time constraint. That was like finding jewels. 
    The next few days, I focussed enough on those slots to start writing. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to write regularly and to notch up a good word count each day. Once I knew that I had those time slots, I guarded them zealously. I started each day envisioning the writing I would be doing in those slots. 

    In a few days I knew which times were best for me to write. I might have short time slots available for eg. During a commute, waiting for the school bus, waiting for the children outside their gym, the gap between two snack times when the children are lazy enough not to pester me or the short tv time that the children are allowed during the day. So I did have plenty of slots available but it was only by using all of them on a regular basis that I could find which ones worked best for me. 

    I understood that I liked the longer slots better when I could write more and I could get into a flow. The shorter slots were good to put in a few points to boost up the word count when that was required but I really loved the more relaxed time to write. I did not like to think that I had a few minutes left and I must write the next couple of hundred words in that. So both kinds of times were good but they served a different purpose and it helped to know which did what. 

    I also knew which time saw me at my productive best. I have always considered myself to be a morning person but somehow I wrote better in the nights. It had something to do with the infinite stretching of the night, well at least a few hours more than I would have gotten in the mornings. 

    3. How to make the Muse Stay 

    I made sure that I was focussed on my writing and there were minimum distractions. 

    It helped when the Internet was turned off. It also helped when I did not sit down to write after I had scanned my newsfeed, my messages and my mail. Doing all this just before my writing session was very distracting. 

    It helped to have the phone off the hook of course. I don’t like to listen to music when I write and I like to drink lots of water and sometimes I get up to pace about. 

    4. What keeps the Muse happy

    After a long time and some trial and error, I have realised that what makes me happy makes the muse happy too. She is intrinsically tied to me. She comes to me when I am relaxed, joyful, in the moment or when I have a deep need to express anything that has touched me deeply. 

    Looking at my writing and the times that I have been prolific gives me an idea of when my muse is happy and staying. The days I feel a deep satisfaction at having written well or expressed something completely are the days when I find my flow and my voice urges me and I can write on and on. These are the days when ideas come to me in dozens and I feel invincible where writing is concerned. 

    In writing, there are certain things that I can naturally express well. Some can write a memoir piece really well, musing and going down the memory lane. For others, informing and disseminating information comes easy. Some people are very rational and some write poetically. So, I write what I really want to write about. I write about the things I feel passionately for. I write so that it is expressed most beautifully and if it does not come out the way I would have liked to, I keep at it still. Because bad writing leads to good writing. The days I find my voice well are the days I write what I love to talk about. 

    This is not to say that I stick to one thing and never diversify into other ways of writing. It is only to say that I try to make everything my own before writing, in my mind so that the joy of ownership flows into the words. 

    5. How would the Muse stay comfortable 

    Which brings me to the next thing that is related to making the matter my own. It is deciding what I am going to write about when I sit down. I create an outline in my mind or on paper, if that helps better. Knowing what I am going to write about, what would be the structure of the piece, how the ideas are going to flow and how I want to tie up the diverse ideas or arguments as they arise. It is good to have an idea of how I would want to end it. Even then, sometimes new and unexpected things arise in the mind as I write and often I stumble upon a gem of an idea which closes the piece I am writing in an unexpected way. 

    So, I have an outline ready and also trust my instincts as I write. 

    6. Woo your Muse 

    The Muse is like a fountain of creativity and I can feed that creativity through writing. I also feed the muse in other ways by keeping the creative spark alive. That I usually do by indulging myself in other creative pursuits. 

    My favourite creative pursuit is to read. It is to fill my mind with impressions, thoughts, an amalgam of influences that come together to make my writing original. My inspiration comes from a cross section of arts and of raw passion that I encounter in the outpouring of the thoughts of the masters. 

    7. Passion and the Muse 

    I feel it is completely fine to lay bare my soul and write to take weight off my mind. It is completely fine to make writing a kind of a crutch on which to lean on, when going on seems impossible in life. I make it the place where I dump it all, the desires and the insecurities and the deepest fears. It is completely fine to dress these emotions a bit or a lot and to let them masquerade as characters with plenty of foibles. The thoughts are out there and they have taken wings. 

    Also, some days, I write for my own self. i don’t think of who I am writing for, who the target audience is going to be and how others are going to receive what I put out. I write so that it is my soul that is doing the talking. 

    Lastly, I have realized that it may take time for the writing to mature. Our perceptions change and our philosophies too and there is always something around the bend of our mind that surprises or charms our writing selves. 

    Disclaimer : The Muse is referred to as ‘she’. That is just an artistic view of her. For many others, eg, the writer, Stephen King, the Muse is ‘he’. 

    What are the ways you find your Muse and make her stay? Let us talk. 

    This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

    10 Memorable Opening Lines from the Classics 

    1. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” 

    The opening line to Daphne du Maurier’s most famous novel, Rebecca is one of the great opening lines in English fiction. In one stroke, du Maurier establishes the voice, the locale, and the dream-like atmosphere of the story.

    – The Strand Magazine 

    Nothing can beat the dreaminess of the beginning of the book Rebecca. It talks of Manderley, the iconic English countryside property that the writer moves to after marrying the reclusive De Winter. 

    Manderley turns out to be mesmerizing and mysterious, just as the eponymous wife, the first Mrs. de Winter. 

    2. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

    In the political fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, the opening gives the feeling of something amiss through the word ‘thirteen’. And sure enough, it brings us to the manipulation of language under the totalitarian regime of Big Brother. 

    3.” All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy starts with a generalization and presents a philosophical view along with the telling if the tale. The family, or families of course are central to his story even though they are all unhappy, of course in their unique ways. 

    4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 

    “It was a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

    This sets the tone for this delightful Victorian novel. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is of many things. It is about the society at that time but at its bare bones, the story is told through the Bennett family and is about husband finding for at least three of the five Bennett girls. 

    5. “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

    In One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the opening lines present fire and ice. The first line itself creates the surreal environment that is book presents inuch greater detail while describing the lives of seven generations of the Buendias, the younger ones doomed to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors. 

    6. “I was born in the city of Bombay…once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. The time matters, too.”

    In Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, the time matters. The stroke of midnight, at which the protagonist is born is portentous of his life, as his fortunes are tied to that of his country and parallels are drawn always between his life and the trajectory of the counyry’s growth. 

    7. “Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.”

    The opening lines of The Luck of the Bodkins by PG Wodehouse sound intriguing. For the uninitiated, the pride seems contrived. The furtive look on Minty Bodkins face characterizes much of his actions through the book. Mortally afraid of his muscular fiancée, Gertrude, Monty begs and cajoles her all through the book till the end when he finally finds courage. 

    It is a laugh riot all the way, just like Wodehouse. 

    8. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

    —A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. 

    The opening of the book establishes the nature of the time it was set in. The comparisons and the contrasts are endless and that is how much of the book moves, in confusion and conflict. 

    9. “She will be here today.” 

    In The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach, the first line echoes the anticipation and the hope for his search for a soulmate. 

    10. “It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.”

    Joseph Heller in Catch-22 is satirist. The book is absurd and the opening shows just how twisted things can get during the war. 

    5 ways to Greater Creativity 

    As writers, we string together words and put our hearts and souls into them so that we may find catharsis and resonance. 

    We have the ideas. We have the words. We know what we want to write but do we sit down and write? Are there not times when we hit the block, or times we just don’t find the time or times when what we want to say does not come out right or times when we feel too lazy and that makes us go out of practice or we encounter a boredom so deep that we question our abilities or worse still our desire to write. 

    There are ways to stoke our creativity so that we can continue to be the creators, bringing forth beauty and even feel drunk on the joy of creation. How to reach that stage? How to create or write (because I am addressing writers here) so that we are consistent and content with the process? 

    How to put the words to paper? 

    1. Don’t let go 

    Don’t let go of your passion, of what nurtures you. Don’t be satisfied and rest on your laurels. Don’t be stress free all the time. Writing is meant to bring joy but if you stick at the easy, you won’t challenge yourself ever. When there is no challenge, boredom sets in and that feeling of wanting to write dissolves fast. 

    If writing is important to you, then keep at it, even on the days it feels like a chore. Step away for sometime and you might have stepped too far. 

    2. Stay open

    We rush through our days. Time is short and the lists are long. There is always a sense of urgency. We like being busy. It makes us feel that we are productive. And yet these are the very days that are a blur when we look back. We don’t remember them for the joy of creation. In being busy and in living with a purpose of accomplishing more and more, we might forget the real meaning and the purpose of our lives. These busy days are the ones when we are closed. 

    So, stay open. It is not possible to clear our calendars. But it is possible to carve out a state of mind where creative thinking can flourish. This state is when we are not ticking off things on a list. It is when we are content to ‘be’. At its best, the open state is when we are in communion with our deeper selves and we are open to new thoughts, perceptions and ideas. 

    3. Time and Space 

    To be in a open frame of mind, carve out some time for yourself. It could be early mornings or late nights or the lazy noons when things are not so rushed and can slow down and watch your thoughts. Make space for your thoughts. And in a literal sense, have a physical space where you can be in peace and harmony. 

    It could be a walk path that works for you, early in the mornings. But these are the places and this is the time when you find your thoughts expanding through the perceived barriers of your deadlines. Cherish these times. These would help later with the flow of words. 
    4. Have fun with mistakes 

    It is needed that there are no worries about mistakes and there is no room for doubts when you write. Sure, there are second thoughts but do not be hemmed in by expectations or your perceived limitations. 

    Take courage in your hands and experiment. Prepare to fail. There, at the other end of the spectrum lies real magic. 

    5. Stick around till it is done 

    Don’t give in fast. You owe it to yourself. The idea is to challenge yourself every now and then so that the going does not stay easy and lead to boredom. Step out of your comfort zone and grow. 

    Thanks to Rose for the discussion on writing and for suggesting the subject of this listicle. 

    Is there a particular listicle that you have always wanted to read but could never find it? Let us talk of them

    This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

    5 Ways to Bid Adieu

    Bidding farewell is always hard, unless you are longing to move on from your present circumstances. Usually, the pull of ‘status quo’ is too strong and all we wish is to stay where we are, with people we are used to and with our routines that we have stuck to.
    It has happened to me often that I have had to bid adieu to places. For all of my childhood and much of my adulthood, I have hopped from one place to another and in the process had a rich life of new experiences, different cultures and mind expanding circumstances. I am ready to move on, to adapt, to see the new, to view the different all because of the valuable experiences that change brings.

     
    Due to a quirk of fate, the past few years saw me moving less and less. Although, I was always ready to leave, one foot in the door, always looking at what lay beyond, I had started putting down roots. But life is nothing but a movement and there is a time when we have to move on.
    Even though it is painful to go from places that we invest so much in, it is also important to say goodbyes completely so that we can look back after a few years and remember only the good.
    In the process of moving on, here are the things I wish we can do for peace. 

    One
    , say goodbye to the people that have mattered. Deep and close relationships are the bedrock of a stable and fulfilling life. Even though the world is networked as never before and talking to someone is as easy as the push of the ‘call’ button on the phone, yet to cease sharing the most insignificant details of your life with someone and let the frequent belly laughs subside because you no longer go through the same days can feel bad. So, acknowledge that this is going to happen and that your relationship is going to change. Say thank you to all those who have shared your world. And pledge to stay in touch and have a deeper relationship that defies distance.

    Two
    , say goodbye to the places as well. It may seem weird but we are as attached to the places we visit frequently. So, say goodbye to the parks you frequent, the restaurants you loved eating in, the theatres and the art galleries you have lingered in and the bends in the road that give you the first glimpse of your favourite landmark.

    Three
    , take memories with you. Of course, you have been making memories all along. Now, just gather them in your camera, in your scrapbook and as souvenirs. For you and your new friends.

    Four
    , plan to come back. Never say never. Life, with its unexpected twists and surprises may just bring you back. It has happened to me and with very pleasant results.

    Five
    , stay Grateful. Say good bye and at the same time, stay grateful for the wonderful memories and the learning. You were meant to be here and you were meant to move on. It is all a part of the Universe’s grandiose plan for you.
    I just wish that this time I am ready to let go with grace and love. 

    Dear Reader, tell me of the times that you have had to say goodbye to the things that mattered. Tell me how you managed. Tell me how to be accepting and graceful. 

    This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 


    3 Lazy Ways to be Happier

    I like to be ‘lazy happy’, just as I like to be ‘lazy busy’. The keyword here is ‘lazy’ in both kinds of mental states. It is an attempt to be things we are meant to be, without trying too hard. 

    Spiritual guru, Deepak Chopra, in his book, ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success’ emphasizes on spontaneity and an effortless sense of well being. He maintains that success does not come through working hard but by relaxing into who we are and by understanding the principles that govern the entire existence. When we are in harmony with the Natural Law, abundance springs forth easily. 

    Looking for Happiness can be easier than working on our behaviour, attitudes and motivations. Most self help literature suggests that to bring about a change in our circumstances, we must drive the change. And yet plenty of recent research suggests that there are ways we can manifest success and happiness in our lives without trying too hard. 

    Here are three effortless ways to feel happier and to be more successful. 

    1. Like Other People 

    Success and Happiness are influenced largely by others, the ones we interact with on a daily basis – in our homes and at our workplaces. Happiness is a state of mind and positive interactions can accelerate the feeling of positivity and bring in trust in relationships. We don’t want to be happy alone. We want the world to celebrate with us. We want to walk in tandem with the people we care for. 

    The simplest and the easiest way to improve these relationships is to like people more. Once you train yourself to consistently like and to appreciate people for what they are now, you bring in a positive bias when dealing with them. 

    Also, when you assume positive intent from people, it leads to greater cooperation. It would mean that you are more open to feedback from people and every criticism would be construed positively. 

    When you like people and are liked in return, it also improves your sphere of influence. 

    2. Accumulate micro moments of positivity 

    Turning most of your emotions into positive ones and finding pleasure in the little things ensures a greater feeling of well being than even large positive occurances. 

    Why wait for a promotion or a vacation or acquiring a new house to feel good and fortunate? Seize the chance to feel good every little while by the small things. Engage in small talk or say a hello to the people you meet everyday. Take a path through the beautiful park on the way to work. Feed the birds in your lunch break. Savour a simple meal. Celebrate your kids ‘ good performance at school. Be generous. Help someone. 

    Each day brings in new possibilities which you can turn into joyful encounters. These little moments of positivity accumulate and have a far reaching impact on a feeling of well being. 

    3. Share the Joy 

    People are the greatest influencers when it comes to life. Surround yourself with people who are happy, positive and who bring a lot of energy and commitment to whatever they do. Their attributes rub off on you. Your network and the people you spend the most time with indicates what you would become. So, get the good people and let them do the job of transforming you. 

    Add wonderous joy to your life by sharing positive emotions and experiences with your friends. It is considered to be one of the best ways to foster a sense of connectedness. Watching a movie or a game together, going for a walk, sharing a meal or even sharing a bit of good news is considered to be a great mood booster. 

    Savour the good moments in your life and share them with happy, exuberant people. 

    And that’s it. You are happier! 

    Try the lazy way to greater happiness and share your thoughts in the comments below. 

    This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend.