1. Because someone started writing them and then everyone else started writing them and so now everyone writes them.
2. Because they are evergreen fill for writers’ sites that may pay you 50 bucks a pop for something you can churn out, which you can put towards your exorbitant rent until you say fuck it and instead buy a bottle of bourbon to help you forget about the shit you copywrote for Lockheed Martin.
3. Because they are evergreen fill for writers’ personal sites. Their knowledgeable, authoritative, evergreen tone conveys to potential new clients that the writer is the kind of helpful professional who helps their colleagues without giving anything much personal of their own weaknesses away and thereby negating the professional, bland face they must present in order to be the sort of person who is versatile enough to write about a beauty product, or a green product, or a bomb product, or a tech product.
4. Because if we started writing What If? articles instead, we would begin questioning things in a political fashion, and we can’t afford to do that as writers because so much of what we write now for pay is compromised by corporations and/or by products we must sell, and few of us talk about that because we’re still pretending that it’s fine to write native content because we have just as much freedom as we did before when less of what we read contained writing that wasn’t just trying to get you to buy shit, because the ads once knew their fucking place. So we don’t question the What If?, we’ll just stick to the How To to hone the part we can control – our own game – while we keep trying to get like everyone else to the place we can write what we love.
5. Because we are all so totally fraught with anxiety and the complete futility of the you, a tiny drowned wave, competing in the vast impersonal sea of the internet, where so, so many people are now writers because the job they really want to do has dried up, combined with all the seasoned journos booted out of newsrooms, so that there are more writers than ever before competing for less of the valuable writing dollars that aren’t writing for Lockheed Martin, that you despair daily and must reorient yourself so you don’t waste another day where the brainfog won’t stop the writing but your fear will, and so you read a 7 Ways article except it’s so flatteningly like so many others, so imitation vanilla essence, that you feel even more adrift.
6. Because you just want seven fucking simple answers about how to pitch after writing a bunch of essays that are rife with so much negative capability that you are unable to distil them down to a comprehensive definitive two-para pitch, and so then you throw in the towel after three bourbons and try in vain to find a How to Copywrite About Products Devoid of Their Social or Environmental Effects. Which, of course, you don’t find. So you sulk for half the day and say you’re never writing again.
7. Because luckily you’re also a fiction writer, and you realise at 2pm that you can overcome the depressing crush of one more nonfiction rejection by escaping into the latest short story you’re writing. And here the How To articles are the best sort because there is sufficient mystery in the writing of fiction that the How To must necessarily have bits of What For? slipped in and these days, paradoxically, where there are so many questions you take mad solace in the mystery, in the void, in the space that has no words that makes the words better and the hubris smaller and which sometimes delivers answers out of its black ocean. Because though there are so many things that are uncertain, and so many questions that need answers, the ones that come from knowledgeable people are so certain, so honed down into a tiny laserlile fragment that they feel dead. They do not help at all. You are tired of How Tos. You are very, very thirsty for What Fors.