Blogging: write what you don’t know

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questionI was talking with a friend today, who said something very interesting about blogging. So interesting, in fact, that I hadn’t realized it was my own route to blogging. We get caught up in the idea that to blog means we have to be an expert; a person with great knowledge to share with the world.

When I started my own blog in 2007 I was stumped for what to write about. Every time I put finger to keyboard I felt like an idiot. You won’t find my earlier posts online anymore. I deleted them. They were that embarrassing.

I paint and I’m a Brit gal living in Canada. I tried to turn these things into blog posts but they fell flat on their silly, little faces.

Then something happened. I got promoted.

I was working as the publicist for the National Screen Institute – Canada (NSI) but my passions were headed in a different direction. We’d been talking about redeveloping NSI’s website and I was desperate to be involved. No one was more surprised than me, when I pushed to the front of the queue to write the RFP we sent out to folks interested in building the site. I had slowly, organically become fascinated with the internet and my employer was good enough to see that and put my skills to use as their website manager. Suddenly my blogging took on new meaning. Instead of trying to be this super-smart person, I changed tack. I blogged about what I was learning and the experience of developing a website. What was a wire frame? How do you test website usability? How do you deal with multiple feedback? What’s a podcast? Can I do one? What do I need? My philosophy was: if I’m going through this, so are others and maybe my posts will help them.

Apparently this was the key to my blogging.

I wrote anonymously at first. I didn’t know where my blog was headed. I just needed a space online to diarize my experiences. Process my thoughts. That ‘space’ is what I now call ‘Diary of a Web Gal.’ Once the National Screen Institute website got launched, I carried on with my blog. But I found I had less incentive to write. I needed a kick up the ass; a motivator. If you are one of those frustrated folks, desperate to get your blog rolling then you might find a blogging challenge helpful.

In 2009 I took the 31 Day Better Blog Challenge run by Darren Rowse of ProBlogger. Daily tasks included buddying with someone and critiquing each others blog; writing an opinion piece; writing a list post, creating a blog schedule, developing an elevator pitch for your blog and so on. The link above lists all the challenges involved. Rowse set up an online forum just for folks involved in the challenge. We were able to bounce ideas off each other and network. In fact, I’m still in touch with many of the bloggers I met there. It saved my blog. I began attracting thousands of people to Diary of a Web Gal. If it sounds too good to be true, I promise you it isn’t. When it comes to blogging you’ll only get out of it what you put in.

Rowse no longer runs the challenge for free on his website but has written a book about it. I highly recommend getting the book and doing the work. It’s reasonably priced too – currently around $20. (The challenge isn’t designed for people who have yet to set up a blog. Rowse recommends buying this book for that.)

There is also Project52 – run by Anton Peck. This challenge is underway right now. The aim of which is to commit to writing something on your blog once a week for one year. I’ve been loosely using this since the start of January 2010. If you Google ‘blog challenge’ you’ll see lots of people use this method as a way of writing frequently on their blog. Frequent posting is vital to a blog. Search engines favour sites that update their content often. Many of us roll our eyes and groan when we visit a blog that hasn’t been updated since 2008. It just looks bad.

The moral of this story is that you don’t have to be an expert to start a blog. Write about something you’re learning. Even if it means writing about learning to blog!

If you lose motivation – remember you’re not alone, and there are mechanisms designed to get the ball rolling. Sign yourself up for a blog challenge. It might just be the making of you.

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One thought on “Blogging: write what you don’t know

  1. Rob Jones

    This really resonates with me, Liz.
    I work for a building materials company, and sustainable building practices have been in the forefront of discussion for our industry for a long while. It makes sense for our company to have a green building materials blog. The big challenge is that the person who started it left the company, and I took over.
    I am not an expert in the field. But, I used this as my hook to link to articles, post, images, whatever, in order to ‘curate’ content, and (ideally) initiated discussion. My lack of expertise actually allowed me to sit outside of the issues a bit. It allowed me to start asking questions in my posts that (perhaps) others are asking, too.
    Also, there are a few things I do know something about – living simply, the nature of cultural attitudes and how they effect commerce, and the importance of community. All of this fed right into the blog, kind of playing in and out of the curation model, to the point where even though the material is in reaction to a lot of other content out there having to do with green building, the voice is still mine. And now, it’s actually one of my favourite blogs to write.
    Anyway, thanks for the post. I think this approach to blogging is certainly viable. It certain works for me!

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