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What Are You Taking For Granted That Might Be Useful to Others?

Posted By Darren Rowse 27th of February 2010 Writing Content 0 Comments

I recently was chatting with a new blogger and they made the comment that after 3 weeks of blogging that they’d run out of things to write about. They had written 10 posts so far but felt that they’d nothing else to share of value on the topic.

What surprised me about their comments was that the blogger was actually a seasoned pro in their niche. They were new to blogging about their topic but they’d been working in their industry for 25 years and were seen as an expert in their field…. yet they didn’t feel like they had anything to say about the topic!

I dug a little deeper and it turned out that the reason for their issue was not that they didn’t have much to write about – but that they were taking for granted the level of knowledge that they actually had. Much of what they’d learned over the years was now so basic to them that they didn’t realise how valuable it was for someone at a lower level of expertise.

To use an old cliche – they were the type of person who has forgotten what most of us will ever know about their topic.

He said to me at one point – ‘I just want every post I write to be something that cuts new ground – something that says something great that no one has ever thought before.’

I’ve felt this way myself over the years (and still do). For me it often came about in those nervous moments before I’d go on stage to present about blogging. Doubts would creep in….”what do I know?”…. “my presentation is too basic”….. “what if people are too advanced for this?”….

The reality is though that 99% of people in the audiences I spoke to had a such basic understanding of my topic that what I often thought was basic was often a stretch for them.

Often in the Q&A times at the end of such presentations I’d realise to myself just how much I actually did know about my topic and how often in the search for my next profound post that unlocked the secrets to the universe that I was actually over looking a treasure trove of more basic but just as helpful topics.

I’m not suggesting that every post you write needs to rehash the basics of your topic – however I guess this is simple a challenge for those of us who sometimes struggle to feel we’ve got anything helpful and worthwhile to say to realize that we might be over thinking things and could probably serve our readers better by examining what we do know and sharing that.

Sidenote: I was having a discussion that touched on this today at Third Tribe when Valeria Maltoni commented – ‘I also take what I know for granted a lot.

I responded to her with:

I think most of us have stuff in our head that we think is too basic to share with others however it’s real GOLD when we do share it because it’s often things that others are thinking about asking but are too scared – or its something that they need to know but don’t really know that they need it.

How does one get to those Basic but Golden things?

A few ides for posts come to mind:

  • Describe an experience that you’ve had
  • Share a problem that you overcame and how you did it
  • Give an example of where you learned an important lesson
  • Tell the story of how you taught someone something
  • Remember what it was like to be a beginner in your topic and outline the things you wish you’d known
  • Share the answers to some questions that you or someone else once had
About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Really an interesting thought Darren. As I look at my life thus far (I’m only 20 years old), I didn’t feel that I’ve done anything that is that unique.

    Now that I look at it…
    -I’ve helped in the clean-up in New Orleans
    -I’ve served the homeless in Dayton, Ohio
    -I’ve been able to see my parents fight through a tough job economy

    It’s really amazing to look at what we could possibly be missing just because we aren’t thinking about it…

  2. I cover a lot of topics in The Casual Observer, but I write about baseball a LOT, because it’s flat-out awesome. I’ll occassionally write an article that educates a novice on some of the finer points of the game. An example of this is baseball’s free agent compensation system, which many baseball fans don’t fully understand.

    Even when I write articles that are more advanced, I’ll often used parenthetical explanations of things that might not be obvious to everyone.

  3. Sometimes it’s better to simplify things. Sometimes it’s a good idea to go back to the basics. After all, even seasoned veterans in your niche can learn things if you present them in a different light.

    Another bonus to going back to the basics is you widen your audience. If your blog only caters to those who are well educated in your niche you really shut out a lot of traffic. However, if you open up and go “back to the basics” then you can tap into a whole new traffic funnel that you may not have had before.

  4. This is SO right on the money! People ask me how I am able to come up with my ideas. It comes from being able to remember to take a new learning experience and put it into a readers old experience. That is part of knowing your audience that you speak about so often.

    Most of us want to learn, but we need to be able to put it into terms that we have experience with. Often that is just everyday life.

    YOU, Darren, do that extremely well! You put it into terms that everyone can relate to!

  5. Good points!

    I find one of the challenges in writing is speaking to readers at different levels…there will always be some more advanced than others. I know every article won’t appeal to everyone, but I try to include those that are more advanced in the basic posts by asking them to share their expertise in the comments.

  6. oohhh – this is exactly me!
    Whenever I have to speak about China, I assume people will know and I set up a starting point that needs two hours to reach for all – I either lose people and have to go back, or someone stops me and we jump in a questions & answers sort of presentation…
    My blogging suffers from the same problem; I have difficulties to write about the basics, but it is exactly what the Doctor ordered.

    As Paul Roekle justly says: “If your blog only caters to those who are well educated in your niche you really shut out a lot of traffic.”
    This is precisely what I have been doing.

    I am grateful for “having my nose put into it”!

  7. One thing each of us has is valuable contacts in our field or niche. This resource is easy to overlook but for those wishing to learn more about our specific area, these contacts can prove invaluable. I’ve been involved with social entrepreneurs for years both in my work in the community and through the connections I make through my blog. For those who are interested in expanding their influence and giving back to the community, those contacts may be just the resource they need to get started.

  8. Darren,
    Thanks for validating how I have been feeling. I have decided that although I am new to the blogging experience, I do know things that beginners would like to know and I am not so old hat that I can’t remember. I am blogging about experiences I have had in blogging and how I overcame and to offer solutions to people who may be facing the same problem.

  9. With a topic in the blog, when I don’t know how to write, I always ask some related questions: WHAT, HOW, WHY, WHEN, WHO? around the topic…

    So that we have many things and many ideas to write.

    Is it right?

  10. I have these same thoughts when I teach the computer classes I teach. Sometimes I feel like I need to dig down deep and come up with something that even Bill Gates would find informative. In reality, the people that come to a computer basics class will be satisfied with learning copy and paste.

  11. I agree completely!

    Some of my most popular posts have been ones that I almost didn’t write. Things like firestarters from egg cartons and old Christmas tree branches, using mason jars to store things in the freezer and taking pictures using a tripod and the timer function to get pictures in less than perfect lighting situations. They’re so basic and I’m almost embarrassed to write them. I assume everyone will be thinking, Um, no duh.

    But they have been really well received and have got me thinking exactly this question. What do I know that is totally obvious to me, but not to others? And the answer to that question is sometimes surprisingly hard to find. I have the most success if I pay attention to every single thing that I do, and every thing that I think. Then I ask myself, does everyone do this?

  12. Yohan Perera says: 02/27/2010 at 1:32 am

    I just scanned through the post, and started thinking. The blogger you are referring to here is targeting only the expert readers. What is his attitude towards the beginners and intermediate level readers???

  13. Add me to the list. I hate repeating myself, but may need to say something again. After all, not everyone has read every word I’ve written over the years! Also, restating may clarify something. I needed this post, thanks.

  14. I think this is indeed a very interesting subject.

    Some time ago I read a blogpost on that same subject from Rajesh Setty called ‘Why some smart people are reluctant to share’ and it really got me thinking.


    I think that the awareness that we all have something unique to share is essential here. Because of the very personal experiences combined with skills in each of us.

    And it seems that blogs are a perfect medium for that.

  15. Great post! This is so spot on as I think I have to write cutting edge stuff when most people are simply looking to understand the basics. Thanks for sharing this.

  16. This is exactly the way I come up with content too. In order to come up with my daily email/blog post and with writing at least 10-20 articles a week, you have to open up your mind and dump everything on the table.

    Some of the things will be elementary for certain people, but EVERYONE starts at zero at some point, so will your readers. This way you will appeal to people at many different stages in their development. If you only speak to the upper echelon in your writing, you won’t attract newbie customers, and they can be your biggest asset, because they are the ones that stick with you for the long haul.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  17. richard says: 02/27/2010 at 2:10 am


    This is one of those posts that I am going to print out and hang on the wall in front of me. The person you chatted to could have been me! Today I had a meeting with somebody on why their website is not being found in google for the word ‘ABC’. And then it turns out that ‘ABC’ is not used on any one of her pages. Hmmmm … I really thought that by now this would be common sense to Everybody, but apparently not! ;)


  18. I like to use this guide, listen to my clients and the questions they are asking me. This is a great gauge of where the “mainstream” is on any given topic. By answering their most popular or frequent questions I can usually hit the right note with now technical or “cutting edge” the answer may be.


  19. I’ve said it on comments here before… The average person reads at an 8th grade level.

    In my book that means they only comprehend at an 8th grade level too. Which circles back around to this post: what’s obvious to us is not necessarily what’s obvious to our readers.

    As long as we keep that in the back of our mind while we’re writing we’ll be less likely to “skip the obvious.”

  20. @BrianJUY I was told in college speech courses to talk as if the audience was Junior High students, and I write accordingly (most of the time). Had one of those online things “analyze” my site (like they did for Dr. Helen Smith, gave her a “genius” level). It scored me at Jr. High level. At first, I was bothered. Ten seconds later, I realized that I was reaching my goal of writing so that more people could understand it.

    Heck of a long-winded agreement, huh?

  21. I can totally relate to this post. I am new to blogging and find myself stuck trying to come up with new things to write about, especially since my blog is about a personal journey. Thank you for the tips!

  22. @BrianJUY – That statistic is always so hard to remember. It’s an awesome reminder that we really do have the potential to share great info, even if we think it is routinely basic.

    This is an excellent, well-written post Darren. I admit that I am guilty of this too. I’m always struggling for new information about singing, but when I think back to when I first started, I didn’t have half a clue about anything. Sometimes it is good to remember where you’ve come from in order to steer where you are going.

    Forever Singing

  23. Hi Darren,

    I usually rewrite the same idea but from a different angle, or with a new style. Tell the same story but from someone elses perspective. This is true for story telling and the same for blogging.

    Thanks for the tips

    Bee a Blogger | REAL-TIME Blogging Report

  24. Spot on and something I need to keep at the front of my mind. When you get so far into a topic that the basic stuff is simply second nature, you completely forget how hard you worked to attain those very basic skills.

    They still are relevant to beginners, you’ve just completely forgotten about them because you’re at an entirely different stage of the game.

  25. Darren, I can’t describe how much I love this post. It goes to show that whatever knowledge we have, it really should be shared or else we’d be facing consequences, such as forgetting facts or attaining bad character such as being selfish. Don’t you think?

  26. Interesting blog. Speakers , as you said, go through the same thing. When IO speak I leave out about 20% of my talk and no one but me knows the difference. Self-consciousness can hurt. In speaking and writing I find it’s good to lean on basic storytelling technique.

  27. I can certainly relate to this post. I often thought what can I say that hasen’t already been said. Until my readers would comment with “great idea” or “love your incite” or “thanks for informing us.” Those few words encourgaed me that not only was someone listening they valued what I was saying. I now believe there is an audience for everyone, finding your voice is just as important as the information you are delivering.

  28. Very good points. I find this same thing out when I check the Google searches that come to my site. Just seeing what people type in are a good eye opener. It really does show you that this basic info is what a lot of people are really looking for.

  29. Actually, blogging about what I consider basic and old hat is the only thing that keeps one of my blogs afloat. I have been in the field for thirty years (to a lesser or greater extent)—Western Mystery Tradition—that is not much that I can talk about on the cutting edge (or where I consider the cutting edge) that my average reader would understand. Fortunately, I deal with Neophytes on a regular basis to remind me of what they are learning, and exactly where they are. In fact, many of my posts are direct result of interacting with these beginners.

  30. I totally agree with this post. One example I always here you say is that you teach people “how to hold a camera” at digital photography school. Now that sounds very basic.

    I’ve been playing tennis for over thirty years and have often thought about writing on the subject. My first thoughts are about strategy and how to setup a point, but I’m sure most beginners are thinking about how to hold a tennis racket and what grip should they be using.

  31. Excellent point! I think a lot of bloggers fall into that category.

    My suggestion for this guy is to open some sort of forum or Q/A section on his site. This would give readers a chance to ask about things that they want to know and give him ideas for posts in the process. If he’s got that much experience, might as well leverage it!

  32. I have had these thoughts in the past as well. What has helped me personally is to go to Yahoo Answers and answer some of the questions based on my topic ( Weight loss and fitness ).
    If I am short of ideas, a question asked on Yahoo Answers or a fitness forum often gives me an idea of what to write for my next post.
    Not to mention that my answer when posted, also generates traffic to my site.
    We often have “familiarity blindness” with certain things we deal with on a daily basis. So talking to a complete beginner can remind us how much we already know!
    Great post Darren!

  33. Hi guys

    the funny thing is when i first started blogging i forgot some of the ideas i came up with as posts because i didnt write them down. Now i write them all down and never run out of content.

    As long as you know your niche or have the content available to you then you shouldnt run out!

    kind regards


  34. I never thought of the things I knew in this perspective.

    Though, I guess this doesn’t apply to the SEO niche because I found many people are very well read when it comes to SEO or Internet Marketing.

  35. Well said Darren!
    Every time I sit down to write, I do ask myself the question: What more can be said that hasn’t been said? How do I frame it from my point of view?
    I meditate on it for a moment and then a snippet of an idea comes, then another, until a topic takes hold.
    Sometimes nothing comes and that’s when I look through my papers, talk to family and friends, and look again at events around me. I admire prolific writers as I know each piece is like giving birth to new life; albeit life via the written word.
    I don’t take any of it for granted – yours, mine, the next guy’s. Thanks for the reminder.

  36. Great insights once again!

    What you wrote about, well, I feel this way a lot. I also often find myself asking the question: “what I’m about to write about has probably already been written on a hundred times before and by probably more knowledgeable folks so what more can I add…?”

    The blogosphere can be an intimidating place when you read all the clever stuff that is floating about.

  37. Hey Darren,
    When it comes down to it, it seems that the person you were talking to was simply suffering from writer’s block. I mean, we all face these situations at some point or another when it comes to blogging.

    Initially, during my early days of blogging, I found myself suffering from the same problem that your friend is having. One thing that I continued to tell myself was that if I wrote to simple, I’d come up as a lunatic and not have any knowledge about what I was talking about.

    It’s important, especially when starting out as a blogger, to take those baby steps and dum your posts down to the extreme. Then, overtime you can gradually ad more to the conversation, getting more sophisticated throughout the months and years.

    Once you’ve ran out of ideas and topics, maybe it’s time to approach them at a different angle. I found that going through a variety of different scenarios based around one particular topic proved to be very helpful. And if that doesn’t work, there’s nothing wrong with going off on a side chain and talking about something difference for once.

    When it comes down to it, there really is no excuse when it comes to writers block. It’s either you’re being too lazy to think about anything new or you’re just not educated enough to know what you’re talking about. I myself would probably take the lazy side when it comes down to it.

  38. In blogging you can just never take anything for granted, you will have to be update every time and if you miss out on something then its a serious no no.

  39. Yep, yep, yep! I can completely relate to this one. Sometimes we believe that everyone knows what it is we know, and going back to basics is a great place to start. This is a really good way to look at it.

  40. I love blogs that starts with the basics or at least incorporate them into the posts so I at least understand what they will be talking about. I think we often feel this way because we don’t want to appear as idiots who undermine their reader’s intelligence. As a reader, I appreciate the basic foundation before being bombarded with advanced gibberish.

  41. This article reminds me of my school days. I recall when I wrote essays in our English subject, whenever I wrote something that I thought was a masterpiece gave me disappointment when it came back getting a low grade from it.

    But whenever I wrote something very simple getting ideas from whatever I could think of, that essay would come back with an exceptional high grade.

    We really have to focus on our readers, what’s best for us might be nothing to them and what’s simple to us might be the most useful information that they will get.

    Nice article, thanks.

  42. When teaching newbies how to market online, I definitely take for granted that I have to keep everything very basic because they might not know the things that i know.

  43. I always enjoy reading tips for better content writing and these were great. Not being the best conversationalist, you might expect me not to be prolific when it comes to content writing, but I simply never run out of ideas. I could go on for days about the intricacies of blog writing, website content, etc. Maybe it’s my background in advertising where I had to come up with new ways to sell banking services, home builders, skiwear, etc., over and over and over.

    As our audiences shrink, and they must due to the increasing number of blogs out there, we have to remain excited, relevant, ever open to new ideas, and always writing.

    Knock on wood, I haven’t dealt with writer’s block yet, after all these years of writing. Blog writing being somewhat new to me (1 year), maybe I eventually will. But, for now, my problem is forcing myself to sit down and work on the paying stuff vs. posting yet another slant to a subject on my blog.

  44. Okay, I t is key to update with frequency, but as humans, we seem to lose inteest in even the things we’re interested in, so if we write about them and tire of it, then what are the numbers like for the reader?

  45. I used to have the same problem when I tried to write about taxes. When you are an expert in the field you tend to forget that most people are not experts and what is basic to you is new to them.

  46. Now I am in the same position too. I have just started this blog of mine, where I thought I would post various different emoticons and smilies for facebook chat lovers.

    But after only two posts, I think I am stuck. I think I have covered all of the different emoticons. What should I write about now?

    May be I am taking all the different keyword tools and material on the interent, for granted.

    Nice Post!

    Best regards,
    Raja Habib

  47. Now, I often choose these niches that can help me earn more money or bring more traffic for my blog. Of course, high-quality concents are always useful and helpful if we want to gain more visitors and readers.

  48. Hi Darren!
    This post is so right on target! What I’ve discovered both in my personal life and in the blogosphere is that there is room for everyone. Because every individual has a unique voice, unique knowledge base. You attract those who respond to that voice, that knowledge. I’m a perfect example of that. When I started learning and studying about the blogs, I was absolutely overwhelmed at the sheer volume of sources available. But I’ve found a few (obviously you are one) that feel more comfortable to me than others. Do I think there is something wrong with those that I didn’t choose to sign up with? Absolutely not; their readership following shows that many people are comfortable with them. The best voice we take is the one truly unique to ourselves.

  49. This is such a great reminder! We do take for granted the things that swirl around in tour minds and in our experiences. My goal this year, to learn to be a better communicator and not assuming I have in any way exhausted even the simplest of messages.

  50. Darren, This headline really grabbed by attention. I’m very familiar with this matter, not so much from blogging as from prior experience as a technical writer working with engineers.

    The technical term for this thinking is “the curse of knowledge,” and it is discussed in that wonderful book called Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. People with the curse of knowledge often say things like “Everyone knows that…” about things that only people with decades of experience in a very specialized area know anything about.

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