Write what you do not know

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Write what you know is one of the most often repeated cliches when it comes to content creation. There’s good reason for it – by sharing the knowledge and experience you have, you can contribute more than, say, idle speculation or uninformed opinion (though there’s plenty of both online). Writing what you know is a great place to start.

New England Warrior Camp 2010

There will come a time, however, when you find that you’re going in circles. There will come a time when you find that you’re not creating anything new, but saying the same things over and over again. If you’re a blogger and you find that you’re having to Google whether you’ve covered a topic already, then you’re at that point. If you’re saying the same thing over and over again on Twitter, then you’re at that point.

Once you’ve reached the re-runs stage of your content creation, you have to be brave enough, bold enough, and aware enough to shatter the “write what you know” truism. It served you very well up to this point, but in order to grow, you have to transcend it and start to write what you don’t know.

How do you write what you don’t know? Research. Investigate. Explore. Adventure. Find a direction and set sail for it, taking along all of your audience on the quest to new lands. A good number of them will go along with you because frankly, if you’ve only written what you know and you’re into re-runs (or worse, re-runs of re-runs rehashed), they’re looking for a new adventure too.

I’ll give you a personal example. Right now I’m investigating and learning about Like Gating on Facebook – content that displays differently depending whether you’ve Liked a page or not. I’ve got the very basic version down (it’s a PHP include at its core) but now I’m exploring to see what other data is available along with the basic method. By no means am I an expert in the topic or even a competent practitioner. I’m just starting out in this research, but what I’m finding will definitely be worth sharing as soon as I’m able to adequately explain it to myself.

The process of exploring, of writing about what I don’t know and learning what I don’t know, is reinvigorating. It’s opening up new ideas, new ways of looking at something, challenging old beliefs, challenging old cliches, and I love it. As Stephen K. Hayes says, it’s far more enriching to explore new ideas than it is to defend old answers.

What are you exploring now? If you’re stuck in a rut, if you’re stuck looking for things to share, what could you be exploring?

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5 responses to “Write what you do not know”

  1. I’ve found that if I want to learn about a given topic, the easiest way is to put myself in a position where I need to write about it. If I’ve got an article scheduled, I’ve got to go out and get the research done to the point that I know the topic well enough to write my piece. Works every time.

  2. I think you offer some great insight here. Being content with your content is so mediocre! Creating content is about exploring and engaging others in order to test your own knowledge and expand your own horizons.

    Thanks for the post,


  3. Thanks for that encouragement. I’ve struggled with this not because I don’t WANT to write on new things, but because I value credibility and don’t want to attack a topic without REALLY knowing my stuff first. But you’ve reminded me that blogging is, at it’s heart, a place to experiment…. hmmm. Now the excitement is building again – time to do a little exploring!

  4. That’s good advice, no matter what you write about!

  5. Thanks for the insightful piece.

    I have a model for learning – ‘consume, produce, engage’ and it serves me well. I have found that I could go on consuming but only when I start to produce (blog, articles etc), I truly understand the subject.Recently I started to blog on ‘Problem solving’ in my blog. I started with ‘what I know’ but as I researched my understanding of the topic has grown multi-fold and I share that in the blog. Its a fun way to learn.

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