Ever wake up in the morning, check the phone, and greet the day thinking “oh good, now I have a nemesis”?
Recently, I’ve develop something of a morbid fascination with the gaping spiritual abyss of what I call “Nontent”: Listicles, articles, and blog posts so shamelessly devoid of passion, effort, or Hydrogen atoms that they have to literally tell you that they contain Content to prevent you from confusing them with a black hole.
And much like black holes, Nontent has an irresistible gravitational pull on some subjects: writing, business, SEO, psychology, pretty much anything orbiting the nebulous concept of “success.” If you’ve ever tried to seriously study these or related subjects online without a structured curriculum, about 80% of your time will be spent opening and then closing tabs for blog posts telling you that believing in yourself is the greatest investment strategy of all.
We may have access to information-gathering tools that would’ve seemed miraculous just a few decades ago, but at least if our ancestors avoided the plague long enough to learn how to read, they could rest easy knowing none of their books would begin with “Step 1: Learn how to read”.
For most of my life, I’ve managed to successfully avoid Writer Groups despite being a writer myself, and I’m proud of that achievement. I love writers, but I cannot stand Writers: Self-aggrandizing phonies who loudly and self-consciously refer to themselves as Writers, but do nothing but complain about their lack of motivation while Googling pictures of inkwells. They have nothing to say, not even about the subject of writing itself, and their grammar sucks, but gosh darnit are they motivated to write!!!! About writing!!! Starting Monday!
So when I woke up one morning to find this on Chrome’s Suggested Readings page, I knew it wasn’t Google trolling me. It was God.
I couldn’t resist. You win this round, God.
So yes, while I am going to read what is very clearly going to be the worst-written thing on the Internet just for fun, I’m not a total idiot. I’ve watched enough Youtube videos on spelunking mishaps to know to use the Buddy System. Which means you’re coming with me, Reader.
Come on! It’ll be fun!*
Next post but before we get started on diving in, shall we, be sure to smash my Like buttons by checking out this bitterly sarcastic parody of this exact thing I wrote last year satirizing people who talk like this, because the opening paragraphs line up almost word-for-word if you replace a sweaty Jack Lemmon with a search engine optimized Ghidorah.
Hope you like comma splices. And leaving out the Oxford comma. In the same sentence.
Hey Posse! What’s up, it’s Alex comin’ at ya this week with an article written just for all of you self-identified writers, wordsmiths, and phrase slayers out there.
Leave me a comment below to let me know you’re here!
And if you’re new to the crew… welcome!
I put out a new copywriting and marketing tutorial every week over on my YouTube Channel… so if you want to learn more about the hottest conversion trends that are working TODAY, remember to hit subscribe.
Now let’s dive in, shall we?
The first thing you’ll notice when you’re done screaming into your pillow is Alex manages to get about 1.5 sentences in before accidental belittling her readers on multiple fronts, first by inventing the term phrase-slayers, a combination of words so insistently lame they sound like part of a witch’s curse to prevent you from ever getting laid again, then passive-aggressively demoting them to “self-identified” writers/word-smiths/phrase-slayers.
One of the best things about writing is its accessibility. You don’t need any credentials or expensive tools to write. You don’t even have to be good at it. If you write, you are a writer. “Self-identifying as” a phrase-slaying ink slinger or a clause-crunchin’ consonant cowboy is just going out of your way to clarify your inability to clear a very low hurdle.
Sure… we like, follow, subscribe, and study the work of other writers and creatives that we look up to. But when it comes to real-life, face-to-face interaction with our writing peers… we usually have little to none.
[But] No matter which genre your writing belongs to… copy, content, affiliate marketing, novelist, poet or journalist… there are just some things that we writers, ALL share in common.
And isn’t that kind of… refreshing to know?
You know Alex is going to be a great antagonist by the way she cuts the crap and jumps straight to giving her “We’re not so different, you and I” speech instead of waiting until the end of the second act like most movie villains.
Luckily, like most first-generation Terminators, she’s bad at hiding it. Purely out of reflex, Alex says all Us Writers “like, follow, and subscribe” writers from all our favorite literary genres — content writing, copy writing, affiliate marketing, testimonials, and data analytics — then clumsily tries to burnish her (painfully obvious) credentials as both a fellow pencil-pushin’ vowel voyager and also a Homo Sapien by constantly referencing all the Mark Twain books she read in junior high.
This is going to be a thing. Alex can’t possibly be Skynet because she’s read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BY JANE AUSTEN, just like the rest of you great soft jelly things. I mean Us Human Writers, obviously.
The only reason I’m going to assume Alex is sentient, organic life from here on in is no machine would ever have such inexcusably shitty grammar. It’s not bad by Us Writers standards. It’s just bad. On top of your garden-variety missing/unnecessary commas, she’s constantly…putting ellipses every few…words…totally at random…like a Boomer…or Christopher…Walken…
(I honestly considered replacing them with commas in future quotations, both because it would be easier on your eyes and because I know Alex wouldn’t give a shit, but then I remembered where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see.)
But more importantly, “these things, we writers, ALL share in common” also signals to the reader that she’s about to just rattle off a bunch of Lonely Writer Girl tropes swiped from Molly Shannon in “The Breakfast Club,” Molly Ringwald in “Pretty in Pink, ”and AM’s Talk Field from I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.
Well if you find yourself saying “F YEAH” to any of these 6 habits… it’s pretty clear that you are, in fact, a writer at heart.
And you belong RIGHT here, inside the Copy Posse!
Hahahahahahahahahahahaha sure, I’d love to be inside you, Copy Posse. Let’s rustle up some noun clauses at the National Grammar Rodeo in Canada. I’ll get on Orbitz and book my flight now. Frantically tries to solve the Lament Configuration so Pinhead will take me away from the Copy Posse
#1 We read a lot
You’ve probably heard this one before… the best writers read, A LOT.
We also love a good novel, a captivating fantasy, a clever poem, and even a cheeky Cosmo magazine — which, if I’m being honest, is definitely my guilty pleasure
So what’s the deal? Why do writers like to read so much?
Well, there are a number of benefits associated with reading…
People who read more tend to have lower levels of stress, think more critically and have a sharper memory. We’re more likely to vote, exercise, be more cultural, AND… studies show that reading actually expands our vocab.
Okay, first off, bullshit. Prove to me that reading makes you better at reading. Show me the evidence that doing things makes you better at doing things.
Second, one major recurring trope of the Nontent literary subgenre is leaning hard on vague Wellness Advice for filler. Get up early and go for a jog, because according to the Cosmo magazines us adverb-avengin’ grammar gremlins are constantly reading, Science shows us that a tight bod will have you slaying more than phrases, winky emoj!
But this is Alex “Technically A Person” Cattoni we’re talking about here, Splitter Of Infinitives, Apex Predator Of Nontent. She’s not just going to tell you to go eat more pomegranates because something something antioxidants over the course of a 25-part slideshow. She’s going to tell you that pomegranates contain 100% of your RDA of pomegranates, then cite sources for this fact instead of her claim one second later that pomegranates are linked to Voting And Culture.
Whether you’re digging into Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, or scanning through an academic journal, you’re probably going to come across and a word or two that you’ve never seen before.
Another painfully obvious sign someone is a writer is (at heart) is they’re so busy learning vocab words from Cosmo/scientific journals/War And Peace By Leo Tolstoy they don’t have time to proofread..
#2 We’re always taking notes
If you’re a writer, you probably need to hear this. You DON’T need to buy another notebook. Use the blank ones you have on your bookshelf first!
Proving you’ve got the heart of a serious Writer by buying lots of notebooks you never use is like saying you can tell someone’s a serious bodybuilder by all the expensive exercise equipment gathering dust in their basement.
It’s RARE that we think of winning taglines, phrases, or plots when we’re actually sitting down at our computers and working… that would be too easy, am I right??
Most of the time these genius ideas come to us during pretty inconvenient moments… like when we’re showering or sitting on an airplane.
Goddammit Alex. All you had to do was make a two-item list of situations in which a person wants to write something down but can’t, and half your entries were “while seated quietly for several hours, in front of a flat surface, looking for a way to pass the time.”
This isn’t hard. Watch:
TOP TWO TIMES YOU WANT TO WRITE DOWN A GOOD IDEA BUT CAN’T
- While trying to convince your wife she needs to shoot your twin brother instead of you because unlike him, you remember what happened in Manitoba.
- When you’re Alex Cattoni.
#3 We’re too hard on ourselves.
AKA — imposter syndrome. That dreaded gut-wrenching feeling that you have no frickin’ clue what you’re doing, but everyone else looks at you like you’re an ‘expert’ and have it all figured out…
Which leaves you feeling like a straight-up phony-baloney that will soon be exposed for a fake and a fraud.
Which is terrifying and complete FICTION, just like that novel on your bedside table.
I’m not even gonna touch this one.
#4 We Can Be Seclusive
Have you ever noticed that when a writer is in creative flow… you don’t notice them at all?
That’s because we writers, do our best work in private seclusion. We work best huddled away, with our headphones on and our fingers typing a million words a minute…
Writers are notorious for zoning out for hours, days, weeks, or sometimes even MONTHS on end. Hey, when the creative juice is flowing, we don’t dare to stop it… sometimes not even to eat! Haha.
This can come across as reclusive, and even anti-social at times. And actually, some of the most successful writers of all time were famous for their hermit-like natures…
I mean, Emily Dickinson didn’t leave her family property for the last TWO DECADES of her life… talk about extreme…
And Harper Lee, the author of the American classic To Kill a Mockingbird, was once asked to address the Alabama Academy of Honor… which she denied by saying “Well, it’s better to be silent than to be a fool”… Well-played Harper, well played.
This is one her stronger entries, given that she takes the time to research two different authors we all read in ninth grade by typing their names into brainyquotes.com, and hey, credit where it’s due: Today, Alex taught me that Harper Lee was kind of an asshole.
What did the Alabama Academy Of Honor do to deserve that, Harper? Besides being from Alabama?
(Also, am I the only one a little unsettled by the nervous little laugh following the part about how all us ‘graph-gobblin’ gerund-jerks read fashion magazines and starve ourselves? Is there something else we should be talking about, Alex?)
#5 We Think Too Much
If writers had a superpower, it would definitely be our tenacious ability to analyze anything and everything to pieces…
Sometimes it might actually be more fitting to call this writer’s trait a curse!
Our only curse is you, Alex.
Understanding the diverse motivations that drive people to do what they do, takes great attention to detail, which means that we writers are always taped in, tuned in, observing, and relating.
Again, nobody say I’m being unfair to Alex, because it takes some serious balls to insert a comma splice, following a noun clause bragging about your attention to details.
#6 We Love Emojis
There’s an emoji to express your every emotion, to rep your favorite food, and even to give your friends a virtual fist-bump. Lol, or should I say — 😂
Despite nailing the trifecta of the human experience — Emotion, Food Reppin’, and Even Virtual Fist Bumpin’ —Alex’s monk-like devotion to sucking at written communication in all it forms is so relentless her commitment extends to not being able to use emojis properly.
Alex: If you’re gonna go out of your way to write like a Boomer for some reason, you never use the Tearful Laughter emoji in isolation. You have to put 15 of them in a row, followed by another 11 rotated at a slightly different angle. And it’s not “lol,” it’s “lmao.”
And we writers LOVE them.
Oh god, I’ve been saying Us Writers the whole time! I’m gonna look so unprofessional!
We use emojis when we’re texting friends, sending emails, and even when we’re writing copy.
Because emojis bring the depth and flavor of our written words to a whole new level — when used the right way, of course!
Studies indicate that emojis are a form of communication that is just as real as words…
What does that even mean?
Answer me, Alex. What the fuck does that even mean? “Studies indicate emojis are as real as words”? This is the sort of fever dream shit Trump would’ve ominously Tweeted in the middle of the night to warn America it had a rough day ahead.
Emojis basically act as virtual representations of the body language and facial expressions that we would display if we were having the conversation face-to-face… They can provide warmth, dimension, and relatability to an otherwise lack-luster message.
And let’s be honest… sometimes even writers can’t find the perfect adjective, or complex adverb, to effectively communicate what’s on our heart.
THAT’S YOUR FUCKING JOB
And then, much like the Trump administration itself, the horror ends anticlimactically, without apology or closure. Having hit her minimum word count, Alex returns to the Copy Posse Dimension to read Animal Farm By George Orwell and unsuccessfully think of complex adverbs.
I’m not going to put more thought into my conclusion than Alex did, because there’s nothing left to say. But for those of you who are still Agnostics and need evidence to really tip the scales on the existence of God, here’s a glowing Forbes writeup about how she’s both a genius millionaire entrepreneur AND an inspirational role model for little girls everywhere.
Where’s the “gaze long into the abyss” emoji when you need it?