I Don’t Want To Be a Clickbait Slut

Heather M. Edwards
Dec 6, 2018 · 4 min read
All rights © Artem Bali

Don’t get me wrong. I want you to read my writing. But we’re all unique snowflakes, right? And we all have a lot to say. So if the clap-bait headline formula works, maybe it’s time to consider it. It’s just that my background isn’t in marketing or branding. And my heart’s not in it either.

The market for writing about writing is insatiable, especially monetizing your site or making money as a blogger. But not only is it getting bloated, it’s getting even harder to find great tutorials than it is to find great writing about anything but writing itself. There are plenty of exceptions, of course. This one by maria milojković actually provides some quantifiable steps. And this detailed trial-and-error story by short story writer N. A. Turner is also a valuable read.

Any great writers you recommend that are looking to tell their stories to the world? Maybe I need to change my filters. I was that kid with a flashlight under the blankets so I could stay up past bedtime reading. And I’ve grown into an adult with that disease the Japanese call Tsundoku, the practice of buying more books than you read. That is to say, I love words and language and books more than I love literalist titles.

Am I being a book snob? A literature snob? Maybe? I love a good listicle. I have no disdain for those posts and have written a few myself. But they’re about actual things — music, white privilege, communication. too many of the ever-increasing How-To titles turn out to be empty calories after I’ve already clicked on them.

As long as your post isn’t How to Write a Great How-to Piece it is likely an effective sorting technique for the oversaturated web. But “How To Be a Blogger Who Blogs About Blogging” is spiraling down into a self-referentialism that sooner or later loses meaning altogether. We need them, to be certain, but how many is enough? On the other hand, “How to Blog About Baking”, especially if it’s written by someone like The Minimalist Baker Dana Shultz is likely replete with valuable content. That would be a niche instructional instead of instructions about instructions.

More coffee and writing, © Pereanu Sebastian (l); © rawpixel.com (r)

With few exceptions I am loathe to label posts How to Get Rich Quicker Than the Other Get-Rich-Quick How-Tos or How To Exceed Your Dreams by Yesterday. But even though they all use the same stock-ish images about writing (see examples above) they are informative … and they do help readers navigate seas of options …

“As a writer, you fight a war against indifference. You have to force people to care enough to click through to your story.” Quincy Larson wrote a great article about writing. And then he shared an unexpectedly succinct truth about writers’ relationship with readers:

“You have to convince them to take a chance on you.”

Thank you, Mr. Larson. I’ve been convinced. Clickbait titles might not be second-nature to me but it seems it’s a skill worth learning. Especially if you want readers to read your writing. Otherwise you’re just a rockstar manqué, singing into your hairbrush in front of the mirror.


Fun side note for fellow Unsplash users: I typed “slut” into the search bar to see what would come up. Only two photos did. And only one of them makes sense.

Heather M. Edwards

Written by

instagram.com/heather_m_edwards unsplash.com/@heathermedwards

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