When I was in college, I was told “write what you know” so many times that I’m pretty sure it’s permanently etched into my brain (I was a writing major, by the way). It’s an important bit of advice: if you write what you know, you can bring the writing to life with the detail that only comes from someone who has lived the subject.
When it comes to writing content on the web, “write what you know” is a great maxim to observe, but I think we can build on that to serve two purposes. By writing about what we’re currently learning, we can reinforce our own understanding of the material while also adding very useful content to our blog.
Benefits of Writing What You’re Learning
One of the biggest benefit of writing what you’re trying to learn is that it’s a powerful way of reinforcing your research. By taking what you’re learning, boiling it down, and writing it in a different voice, you’re making it that much easier to remember.
By writing about things for other people to read, you essentially force yourself to cover all the bases. Sure, you can write about just the parts of it that apply to you, but that’s a bit self-serving. Rather, by writing something that’s approachable to anyone else who’s interested in learning, you not only help out your readers, but you broaden your own understanding of the topic.
Instead of just focusing on what you know, as you get more comfortable with writing as part of your learning process, you’ll start branching out more and embracing a more diverse set of topics. This will help you become a better learner, and improve the quality of information on your blog.
One caveat here: while having more content on your blog is great, make sure that it supports the overall theme of you blog. Some things just won’t be appropriate to cover because they fall too far outside of the general subject area of your readership.
Finally, writing about topics you’re learning is a great way to give back to the community. When you’re trying to teach yourself something, odds are you going to be reading a lot of other blogs and tutorial websites walking your through the process. By taking what you learn and reinvesting it back into the community, you’re making it that much easier for others to pick up the same skills.
Implementing This On Your Blog
So now you know the whys of writing while you learn, let’s talk about how you do it.
One thing I like to do when I’m learning something new is to outline as I go. I usually use Google Docs, or simply start a new blog draft. As I go along, I simply add little notes into the document. These notes can be anything from core concepts, useful tips and tricks, or links to really great resources.
You have to find the right balance here. Your notes need to be thorough enough to give a solid overview of the topic, but not so detailed as to become an article draft unto themselves. I struggled with this quite a bit in the beginning, but fell into a good flow soon enough.
The next step is to thoroughly review all your notes, and start organizing them so that they flow together into something that resembles an article. This is the point when you should start to notice areas that need to be fleshed out, or areas that youv’e neglected completely.
That leads us to the next step: additional research to fill in the blanks. Depending on how you learn and what audience you’re writing for, this can be very easy, or very in depth.
Next, you start writing. And then review. And then write some more. Rinse and repeat until you’re happy with your article. When you review, keep in mind that your article should be concise and flow in a natural order. Be judicious and edit it until it reads like something you could learn from instead of simply a summation of what you’ve picked up so far.
The next step is an important one: after you’re done with the piece, give it a break. Let it sit and try not to think about your article or the topic for at least a day. Then, review it again with a fresh set of eyes. If all looks good, publish. If you find things that need to be addressed, get back into the writing/editing iteration cycle.
This is my process when I want to take something I’m learning and turn it into an article or tutorial. I’ve found a lot of success with both content creation and helping my to reinforce what I’m trying to teach myself.
If you have questions, feedback, or other ways to approach this, please let me know in the comments below.